Improving basic education

Programme description

Title: Basic education programme
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Malawi
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST)
Overall term: 2014 to 2018

Malawi. A College Mathematics lecturer demonstrates how learners can be taught to tell time by actively engaging one of his student teachers in the process. © GIZ


Germany has been supporting the education sector in Malawi since the mid-1990s. Student numbers have increased rapidly since the introduction of free basic education for all in 1994, and continue to rise steadily due to annual population growth of almost three per cent. However, the quality of education has not kept pace with this development, and the number of students having to repeat a year or dropping out of school early remains high. Only around a third of children enrolled at school get as far as Year Eight within the designated time, and only around half of all primary school students go on to obtain a school-leaving certificate. National and regional learning effectiveness studies carried out in the last 10 years also reveal that the level of learning is extremely low. There are not enough qualified teachers, and basic teacher training requires significant improvement. The current curriculum is overloaded, highly theoretical and too strongly geared towards passing examinations. Courses do not prepare trainee teachers well enough for teaching in the classroom. Especially in rural regions, it is not unusual for classes to contain up to 200 students. Children with learning difficulties, in particular, are therefore not given the support that they require.


The conditions are in place for improving the quality of teaching in primary schools.

Malawi. Young children at a demonstration school in a Teacher Training College show their enjoyment of learning when teachers use interesting ways of teaching. Student teachers at the college learn from the experience of seeing teachers teach this way. ©


The programme addresses the priority aims of Malawi’s National Education Sector Plan. It has three areas of activity:

  1. Improving the general environment for teachers in primary schools and teacher training facilities
    The programme is advising MoEST on updating its staffing plan, which is essential if newly recruited teachers are to be dispersed within districts and in schools more effectively. The programme is also helping MoEST to devise a roadmap for implementing the decentralisation process. In order to encourage greater recognition of the teaching profession and greater public discussion about the quality of education, an interactive radio programme has been launched and other measures have been introduced, such as an initiative to promote teaching excellence and training courses for journalists.

  2. Strengthening practice-oriented teacher training
    Development workers are advising on how to improve the quality of training at all public teacher training facilities. The programme is advising on the revision of the curriculum for the two-year basic teacher training course. The aim is to draw up a clear and practice-oriented curriculum that is geared towards the needs of different groups of learners, and to develop supporting teaching and learning materials.

    The programme is also helping its partner to use the primary school education standards (which have been in force since 2015) as a frame of reference in teacher training. Criteria for good training and good teaching are thereby becoming mandatory for the first time.
  3. Developing inclusive approaches to supporting primary school children with learning difficulties
    The programme is working with pilot schools in the urban setting of Lilongwe to put in place tried and tested approaches to supporting children with learning difficulties in an inclusive environment. In collaboration with GOPA Consulting Group, the programme is also helping MoEST’s Department of Special Education to develop a modular ICT-based certificate course that will give selected teachers training in how to support children with learning difficulties.


The basic education programme has played a major role in supporting the nationwide publication of the guidelines on decentralising education functions to district level. It is advising MoEST on implementing its decentralisation roadmap on an ongoing basis.

As part of the advisory services aimed at improving the two-year teacher training course, a structured training programme has been devised and launched for the second year of practical training in schools. This programme includes supporting materials and an in-school mentoring system. Around 12,000 trainee teachers have already successfully completed training that follows the new programme.

Malawi. A female student enthusiastically and confidently   takes part in a 'card collecting and clustering' exercise. © GIZ

A comprehensive inclusion strategy has been developed that will put in place support measures for children with learning difficulties. Designed for use in urban primary schools during Years One to Four, the strategy involves the use of information and communication technology.