Developing national teachers standards: reflections on the Zambian experience

Qualified, trained and motivated teachers are needed to guarantee that SDG4 - to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all will be achieved. Before the SDG Agenda was launched in 2015, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) recognized the critical role of teacher education in 1997, highlighting the importance of cooperation and mutual assistance in curriculum design and development to ensure high quality and relevant teacher education and to move the teacher education systems toward comparability, harmonization and eventual standardization.

The CapED Programme in Zambia, launched in 2017, provided a platform for the Zambian Government to fine tune and revise their draft National Teachers Standards, which was funded by DFID. This review ensured broad-based consultations and also helped build synergies with regional efforts to finalize the SADC Regional Framework for Teachers’ Professional Standards and Competencies. 

The 2017 review of the Teachers Standards’ draft coincided with the SADC framework development process. In the same year, SADC Ministers for Education and Training, Science, Technology and Innovation approved the constitution of a task team to develop the Regional Teachers’ Framework. The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa, in partnership with the SADC Secretariat worked with senior officials responsible for teachers’ issues to draft the Regional Framework.

Three meetings were organized for this purpose. The first was held in Zambia to facilitate Zambian stakeholders’ participation so that they could understand the importance of developing national Teacher Standards and its connection with the Regional Framework. In the succeeding SADC and UNESCO-organized regional workshops held in Johannesburg, key members of the Zambian technical committee for the development of their national standards were invited not only to learn about the developments and how this could be aligned to their work, but also to present the status of the finalization of the National Teachers Standards. The participation of the technical task team, through the support of CapED, enhanced the members’ understanding of the importance of having synergies between the national and regional processes. This also motivated them to fast-track their revision process, while ensuring broad based consultation.

In June 2018, the SADC Ministers of Education and Training Science, Technology and Innovation approved the SADC Regional Framework for Teachers’ Professional Standards and Competencies as a SADC reference document. This has been used by the Zambian technical committee to benchmark their existing draft. The draft, which is now known as “Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession” was reviewed by the Cabinet and was launched in on 19th December 2019..