From 11 to 15 February, sector education officers facilitated professional learning communities (PLC) of head teachers in 17 districts with VVOB’s support. The aim was to identify high priority issues and discuss a way forward.
Lecturers from the College of Education of the University of Rwanda (URCE) as well as other local universities facilitated the first session in more than 200 sectors. Primary school leaders from six districts and secondary school leaders from 14 districts met the education officers to identify major education issues they face. At the same time, they ranked these issues in priority order, and together, they made a plan on how they will develop strategies and approaches to address them, one at a time.
In secondary schools the PLCs are supported by the Mastercard Foundation’s Leaders in Teaching Initiative. Leaders in Teaching is an initiative that transforms teaching and learning in secondary education across Africa so young people have the skills and competencies they need to succeed in work and life
Identifying common challenges
The common issues which schools are facing include students’ absenteeism, school dropout, limited parental and community involvement, and inadequate school feeding programme in 9 & 12 years basic education schools. They also identified overcrowded classrooms, students who walk long distances to school, low learning outcomes, and inadequate infrastructure among others.
During the discussions, participants argued that certain issues such as inadequate infrastructure (classrooms, laboratories…) are beyond the capacity of the sector and schools. So, they believe these issues can only be advocated for to higher government institutions.
Regarding the ones they believe can be dealt with at sector and school level, participants in every session selected at least one key issue which they will address over the course of this year. During the next session they will meet to discuss and analyse the issue in-depth according to each school’s/head teacher’s experience. Once they have reached a common understanding about the issue, they will set strategies and elaborate a detailed plan which they will implement together.
Education issues have been there for a long time. One could therefore wonder: how will PLCs help address these issues? A PLC is a platform for school leaders to support and learn from one another—an opportunity to build knowledge and improve h’ practices head teachers’ performance.
The facilitation of these PLC sessions follows a 20-credit continuous professional development (CPD) certificate course in Educational Mentorship and Coaching delivered to sector education officers (SEOs) by the URCE with VVOB support. The course aims to equip education officers with skills they need to coach school leaders. Similarly, head teachers receive a CPD diploma course in effective school leadership also offered by the URCE with VVOB support.
A professional learning community session is facilitated by a trained sector education officer and is organised in an action-oriented cycle. First, they identify priority issues, then set strategies and develop an implementation plan to solve those issues. Once they have tried out their strategies they meet for review, reflection and dissemination of best practices. VVOB’s experience has shown that professional learning communities are effective instrument that bridge the gap between the theory of a CPD training and putting that theory into practice.
To make monitoring and evaluation of PLCs easier, VVOB also distributed tablets to all sector education officers in 17 districts. The tablets handed over during the first PLC session will be used for timely reporting on the implementation of PLC priority plans.