AFRICA: Teaching and learning guide planned

A project to produce a teaching and learning guide to help improve higher education quality in Africa was approved at a regional UNESCO conference held in Mali this month. The guide will aim to build the pedagogical and managerial skills of African academics.

The Guide to Effective Teaching and Learning in Higher Education will have a special focus on the eight member states of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, known as UEMOA from its French name Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine, which comprises Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

The project was approved by the 160 participants from 28 countries at the UNESCO Bamako cluster office regional conference, "Leveraging Best Practices to Accelerate Quality Improvement in Teaching, Learning and Research in Higher Education in Africa", held from 5-8 September.

Conference participants included ministers of higher education and information and communication technology (ICT) in UEMOA member states, heads of universities and quality assurance agencies from the member states and other African countries, experts in ICT, teaching and research in higher education, and students.

A two-year project to be implemented through the establishment of a virtual library network, a virtual institute for higher education, and the development and maintenance of portals for universities, was also approved at the conference.

Managed by the Mali-based UNESCO-Bamako cluster office, the guide is a response to contemporary and emerging challenges in African higher education, especially the Bologna-style Licence-Master-Doctorate, or LMD, system introduced to UEMOA member states in 2007, which aims to bring the various national higher education systems into a common framework.

The guide will be useful for academics and students as well as other stakeholders, including higher education managers and teachers at all levels of education.

Valuable resources will be provided, both on improving teaching and learning practices in general and on teaching specific discipline clusters at higher education level - including the humanities, sciences, engineering, technology, environmental science and the medical sciences.

The guide's 21 modules will also equip lecturers with skills in specific areas. These will include teaching large classes; curriculum development; using new technologies and virtual library and digital resources; open and distance learning methodologies; modern methods of evaluating teaching and learning; tailoring instructional methodologies to students' learning styles; promoting a reading culture among students; and guidance and counselling.

Juma Shabani, Director of the UNESCO-Bamako cluster office, told University World News: "Experts from all over Africa have been commissioned to author the modules. Several examples and case studies will be drawn from the eight UEMOA member states."

Shabani explained that the online review process, which is currently underway, is aimed at improving the guide's content, relevance, spread of examples across Africa, and practicality of use in African higher education systems, and will be followed by intensive face-to-face reviews.

The UNESCO-Bamako cluster website on which the draft modules are published, also calls for reviewers to submit "full-length articles on personal experiences to supplement the perspectives given in the draft modules".

Once finalised, the guide will be produced in both printed and digital formats, initially in English and French, and will be available online for training of higher education teachers in Africa with special focus on UEMOA member states.

Akadiri Yessoufou, a researcher at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, welcomed the development of the African higher education teaching and learning guide.

"It is an ideal tool for promoting and supporting innovative higher educational change in Africa's universities especially in teaching technologies and methodologies, learning trends, scientific research, academic experience and best practices," Yessoufou told University World News.