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Adding ZEST to schooling in Africa

Learning outcomes for Zambia are low - more than 80% of children are unable to read and write at the end of their first year of learning and the country has one of the highest pupil-teacher ratios in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Zambian Education School-based Training (ZEST) programme, run by The Open University and World Vision with Scottish Government funds, has been set up to improve quality of teaching and learning experiences for children in primary schools in Zambia’s Central Province. It will create and implement a scalable, sustainable school-based teacher development programme.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, speaking at an event to celebrate the OU’s 50th anniversary, said: “The Open University is also playing an increasingly important role in international development – something that I think is to be enormously welcomed and encouraged.

“The Scottish Government and the OU are currently working together, for example, on a project in Zambia that focuses on developing the skills of thousands of primary school teachers in that country.”

Since the project began in November 2017, 400 teachers from 23 schools in two districts have been reached. Teachers have reported an increase in collaboration and attendance at their Teacher Group Meetings, an improved relationship between teachers across schools and districts and greater participation, attendance and performance of children in lessons.

The project continues to refine the training approach and materials and aims to reach a total of 4,000 teachers, school leaders and ministry officials during the next three years.

The First Minister continued: “I think that’s a great example of the work that The Open University does to promote high quality education across the world.

“And, of course, it demonstrates the commitment to equality and excellence that is so fundamental to the ethos of The Open University.”

ZEST, which was awarded a £1.3m grant from the Scottish Government in 2017, will run until 2022.

  • If you want to learn more about ZEST and the OU’s international development programme you can meet our team at the Pan Commonwealth Forum in September. Register now.

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