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close this bookMulti-Grade Teaching - A review of research and practice - Education research paper No. 12 (DFID, 1994, 63 p.)
close this folderChapter 2 - Lessons from developing countries
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentZambia: Teacher education and support for multi-grade schools
View the documentPeru: Indigenous schools
View the documentSri Lanka: Approaching multi-grade via multi-level teaching
View the documentThe impact system of mass primary education
View the documentConclusion

The impact system of mass primary education

During the early 1970s the Regional Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology (INNOTECH), based in Quezon City in the Philippines, devised a radical approach to rural education. Known originally as the "no more schools" concept, it proposed to replace schools, textbooks, teachers and grades with learning centres, self-instructional materials, peer, tutor and community support and instructors responsible for the management of learning among groups as large as 150-200 students. Over time the concept became better known as Instructional Management by Parents, Community and Teachers (IMPACT). The innovation began in the Philippines and Indonesia, spreading subsequently to Malaysia (INSPIRE), Jamaica (PRIMER), Liberia (IEL) and Bangladesh (IMPACT).

The rationale for the "no more schools" concept and the components of a new system for the delivery of education are presented by Cummings (1986). The original rationale was based on the educational conditions facing much of South-east Asia in the early 1970s

one-half of rural children in Southeast Asia do not complete more than 4-5 years of school and, due to a projected rapid population growth rate, this situation is likely to worsen. Shortage of classrooms, considered one of the major causes of the low educational attainments of rural youth, is unlikely to improve because overstrained national education budgets will not be able to fund many new places at existing unit costs. The inflexibility of conventional school schedules, which causes children to miss lessons, fall behind, and eventually dropout, is another reason for low educational attainment. Thus to improve rural education, a new delivery system needs to be devised with a more flexible schedule and lower student costs. Since teachers make up 80-90% of unit costs in conventional schools, such costs can be reduced by increasing the student-teacher ratio and supplementing teacher supervision with assistance from students, parents, and community resources. Self instruction, relying on programmed instructional materials, can be another means to reduce costs and, moreover, enable greater flexibility in scheduling individual learning.

(Cummings 1986: 6)

Although there is no explicit reference to multi-grade teaching in the rationale, many of the schools which were subsequently to participate in the innovative system were multi-grade schools with fewer teachers than grades. The greatest early success of the project was experienced in central Kalimantan and Sabah, island provinces of Indonesia and Malaysia, where one-teacher primary schools were common and where teachers experienced difficulty in using the conventional texts and materials designed with the mono-grade primary school in mind. As we shall see below the components of the delivery system could be adapted to the multi-grade school.

IMPACT System Components and Principles

Although the details of delivery programmes were developed in the field and were to take on a different form in different settings there were some common elements. The original "no more schools" concept envisaged a delivery system based around personnel, instructional materials and instructional organisation


- in place of the conventional teacher, an instructional supervisor able to manage up to 200 primary students

- community members, enlisted on a voluntary basis, to provide instruction in particular life skills

- primary-school graduates, provided modest pay, to give courses in reading and other academic subjects

- parents to take responsibility for motivating their children and monitoring their progress

Instructional material

- the use of modular instructional materials, with many of these materials being self-instructional to allow children to proceed at their own pace

- instructional radio programme sessions to supplement the written material

Instructional organisation

- the primary mode of learning was to be sell: paced, individual instruction under the guidance of tutors and the instructional supervisor. This mode could be supplemented, where appropriate, with group sessions

- a simplification of organisational procedures with no specific age required for entry to the community centre, few set class periods during the day, no prescribed schedule for completing modules, and no individual grades maintained other than a record of completed modules

Over time, and as delivery systems were worked out in detail in different settings, several principles of the IMPACT system began to emerge. These are described by Respati and Mante (1983:9-14), two of those intimately involved in the development of the idea in Indonesia and the Philippines. They are presented in a slightly adopted form below.

The subject of education are children of primary school age

the Impact system is open in character. It does not close off the opportunity to the children to study although they may have dropped out of primary school. All children of primary school age can effectively follow the primary school curriculum from the start until they finish. School dropouts do not stop learning. They can go on studying till they finish and gain the elementary school certificate.

Learning materials are based on the current primary school curriculum

learning materials are based on the approved curriculum of the school system. The fact remains that the students of IMPACT schools are still governed by the requirements of the system such as the successful passing of official examinations

The essence of education is the learning process

Education in the IMPACT system, through the intermediary of modules will encourage children to learn by themselves. There will be a minimum of exhortation. Instead, the process will throw the child right into situations that will require him to learn by himself

Learning can take place anywhere

learning (takes place) anywhere - not only in the classroom. The attitude that dropouts inevitably will cease to learn, or that graduation terminates the learning process is contrary to this principle and, therefore, must be changed. The school building is merely the centre of learning from where guidance, material and resources may be derived. In the countryside where the dropouts and adults may have easy access, learning posts are established.

Multiple Entry and Exit

The principle of multiple entry and exit will help solve the problem of dropouts by meeting them half-way, by literally allowing students to enter when they wish or when it is most proper for them, to leave at the most opportune time and obtain the elementary education certificate.

Progress based on mastery and individual speed

Children will not be forced to proceed at a pace beyond their capacity and readiness. On the other hand they will not be hindered when they are ready and capable. This principle recognises the concept of individual differences quite realistically. The children learn by themselves and pacing is individual. The basis of progress is mastery.

Education is a socialising process and provides leadership training

Children of today are citizens of tomorrow. Group learning is a primary mode of learning. Older ones act as tutors or "programmed teachers" to the younger ones. In peer groups children assist each other.

Education is the responsibility of parents, the community and the government

Teachers are not the only source of education. The acceptance of the responsibility of education by parents, the community and the government is crucial. In the conventional school system, the participation of the community is chiefly financial. In the IMPACT system, community participation is more substantial and technical. Parents are encouraged to monitor their children's progress, to assist them through tutoring in their studies if they are capable.

The teacher as the manager of the learning process

The teacher's duty is to direct and manage the learning process. The teacher will no longer do much direct "teaching". She will be expected to exercise a different role - that of managing all the resources of the school, all the sources of education and ensure that the children is benefited maximally - hence the designation "Instructional Supervisor".

(Respati and Mante 1983: 9-14)

Although these components and rationale Underpinned the early "no more schools" concept, the specific objectives and components of innovations varied from place to place. Cumming's summary (1986:19) suggests that the objective of improving education quality was common to all six projects, whereas that of lowering the unit cost of schooling was common to the Philippines, Liberia and Bangladesh, but not Indonesia, Malaysia or Jamaica. The shift in the teacher's role to instructional supervisor and manager of the students learning through self-instructional modules characterised the programmes in the Philippines, Indonesia, Liberia and Bangladesh but not in Malaysia and Jamaica. In Jamaica and Malaysia greater emphasis was placed on the development of instructional guides and aides. All the countries divided class groups into small groups but they varied in the extent to which they encouraged cross-age and peer tutoring, programmed learning and differential pacing.

In terms of the challenges facing those who work with the multi-grade teacher two features of the IMPACT experience stand out. The first is the quality of materials, which was particularly high in the Malaysian and Liberian cases. Of the Malaysian materials Cummings (1986:85) writes

a teacher with a minimum of preparation could successfully fill virtually every classroom minute with interesting and attractive activities. The teaching guide tells the teacher what to prepare before class; how, in the first few minutes, to recall old material; and how, in the next 20-30 minutes, to present new material. For the remainder of the period, the teacher is able to lead slow learners through a special drill with attractive instructional aids while the other students work on self-instructional worksheets. The instructional kit also provides periodic tests.

The second is the preparedness of the teachers and their support team to innovate in school organisation and classroom management (Cummings 1986: 86).

In the Indonesian experiment, one is especially impressed with several of the innovations affecting classroom management In the lower grades in all the experiments, students tended to proceed at more or less the same pace under the management of their teacher. However, in the upper grades, as the students turned to self-instructional modules two problems emerged: boredom and differential pace, the first innovation developed was peer-group learning, wherein three to six students at the same grade level would form a group to study modules together... modules were revised to assign distinct roles to a peer-group leader... the position of group leader could rotate among the members. While these innovations alleviated boredom, differential pacing remained a problem As the Indonesian project team became more familiar with the principles of mastery of learning, they began to introduce pre- and post-tests for each module and to insist that no group could move on to a new module until all members had achieved 90% on the post test... fast learners manifested a more helpful attitude towards those in difficulty, and the overall cooperative spirit in classrooms was considerably enhanced.