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An exploration of teacher motivation: a case study of basic shool teachers in two rural districts in Ghana

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:43 authored by Chisato Tanaka
Retaining motivated teachers is a major concern across countries. Ghana, like other Sub- Sahara African countries, has been trying to address challenges, such as the lack of teachers, particularly in rural areas, and the low levels of motivation among them. On the other hand, teachers in developing countries are not necessarily trained and, even if they are, they may not be competent, effective and efficient (Lockheed and Verspoor 1991). Mere enthusiasm and good intentions may not be enough to improve the quality of education. Nevertheless, motivation is necessary, since without it, teachers – especially those facing difficult circumstances – cannot persevere; and, no matter how skilled, without drive, teachers are unable to perform in the long term. As a consequence, without well-motivated teachers, children are less likely to attain the desired level of education. Moreover, if parents/guardians do not believe that education equips their children with the necessary skills and knowledge for a better life, access to and completion of basic education will not increase and government efforts to achieve EFA and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) may be in vain. Teacher motivation is not a new area of research. Extensive quantitative and qualitative research has been carried out, especially in the UK and the US, but not in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, in the case of Ghana, most of the research is based on surveys and oneshot interviews and tends to describe why teachers have low job satisfaction and motivation. As working and living conditions for most teachers are challenging, studies into 'motivation' have tended to be superficial. More specifically, little research has been carried out into investigating why some teachers are able to stay motivated in conditions that others do not consider to be conducive to effective practice - or how they are able to manage. In addition, what research has been done has been concentrated in the southern part of the country, which is considered to be better off compared to the northern part according to many gauges. This study has aimed to investigate how basic school teachers? perception of teaching as a career is shaped by social and professional environment in rural Ghana. It has also intended to explore local realities with respect to the policy and its implementation for basic education. One-year field research from 2007 to 2008 was conducted by using a mixedmethods approach in two 'deprived'1 districts - one from the north and the other from the south - which are geographically, socio-culturally, and economically different. The methods of data collection involved survey, ethnographic research, interviews, and teacher focus group discussions. This research echoes previous research findings that physical disadvantages - such as the lack of conducive infrastructure, the shortage of teaching and learning materials, and poor salaries - are factors that contribute to a lower commitment to the profession. However, this research also suggests that two other key stakeholders at micro-level - in addition to the teachers themselves - play a role in teacher motivation. These are: colleague teachers, including head teachers; and the communities in which teachers live and work. Support at this level – both material such as the provision of accommodation and food and nonmaterial like morale support – can not only enhance teachers? well-being and self-esteem but also help them to see their current positions as a part of their goals. On the other hand, at macro-level, local authorities - the main implementers of policies and strategies formulated at central level and of teacher management - are particularly influential, as it affects teachers? long-term vision. They tend to discourage teachers in their operation, mainly due to its organisational culture that teachers perceive neither fair nor rational. With the same reason, strategies put in place to motivate teachers do not always produce the expected outcomes. Moreover, teachers are more likely to be subordinates to the authority even in school management and to feel powerless in the system. Too much emphasis on teacher motivation at school level may overlook the important role of the District Education Offices (DEOs), since teachers? lives are much more related to how the DEO manages them than is the case with similar hierarchical relationships in the West.


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