GIS-supported teacher allocation in Sierra Leone

Key information

Location Sierra Leone
Start date January 2022
End date September 2022
Clients The EdTech Hub

Background

The education workforce is the most important school-level determinant of student learning. In Sierra Leone, this is a particularly acute challenge, with high ratios of pupils to qualified teachers and persistent absences among teaching staff.

Even though teacher salaries constitute the largest recurrent item in the education sector, the government does not have the funds to pay salaries for all teachers. Therefore, teachers not receiving a government salary are hired by households or private institutions, or teach voluntarily with no salary. Thus, the recruitment and allocation of teachers typically involves identifying
schools where non-payroll teachers will be formally hired. Although the country’s Teaching Service Commission (TSC) has created new protocols for teacher deployment, these reforms have not achieved their intended results.

In this context, the TSC began collaborating with the EdTech Hub and research partners Fab Inc and the Education Commission, exploring new options—including an innovative teacher preference matching model—to harness geospatial data to strengthen workforce allocation. These options included:

  • redistributing teachers within chiefdoms from schools with ‘surplus’ teachers to schools in need;
  • developing a preference-matching model to pair schools in need with the most suitable teachers; and
  • providing direct incentives to those working in remote schools.

The Hub and its research partners then supported the TSC by producing evidence to identify the most feasible and cost-effective approach to geographic information system (GIS)-supported teacher allocation to implement at scale. This mixed-methods Hub-Led Research Study (HLR 3) focused on the impact of these approaches, seeking to understand whether improving teacher allocation using GIS data can increase job uptake, decrease teacher absenteeism, and improve teacher retention.

Contribution

Open Development Education (OpenDevEd) staff were part of the Hub’s research team, undertaking extensive field research in Bombali district in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, and Kenema district in the Eastern Province. Six schools were randomly selected from these districts—which exhibited the highest variation in pupil : payroll teacher ratios—on the basis of urban / rural status, number of non-payroll teachers, and teacher gender mix.

At each of the selected schools, we aimed to conduct semi-structured interviews and a focus group discussion with the school leader, two payroll teachers, and two non-payroll teachers. Notably, teachers in some of these schools were absent on the day of our visit. As such, we carried out a total of 54 interviews and 11 focus group discussions.

Results

The data collected by the field researchers was analysed and developed into a number of reports and recommendations to the TSC and education management stakeholders at the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education. Headline findings included the following:

  • Monetary incentives appeared to have a strong impact on teacher preferences, though other factors such as accommodation, transport, school conditions, student well-being, and the availability of other income sources mediated the attractiveness of a salaried position or a higher wage.
  • When considering where to work, sample teachers most frequently prioritised school conditions, both physical—access to basic facilities and infrastructure—and the school’s working conditions, particularly relationships with other staff, parents, and the community.
  • Teachers identified the availability of opportunities for training and professional support as an important factor when choosing a school, associating it with rapid career progression.
  • The proximity between a school and a teacher’s household strongly correlated with reported levels of location satisfaction, with some teachers prioritising being close to their families over monetary incentives.
  • Strong relationships with the community were associated with higher levels of teacher retention, with accommodating community environments incentivising teachers to relocate to schools in more remote locations.

Resources

The outputs produced under the HLR3 study can be found in our Evidence Library:

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