|Contextualising Teaching and Learning in Rural Primary Schools: Using Agricultural Experience - Volume 1 - Education Research Paper No. 20 (DFID, 1997, 64 p.)|
|3. The state of primary school education in developing countries|
From the discussion above, it becomes apparent that although primary education offers a huge number of benefits, the capacity of many countries to provide access to all eligible young people is severely limited. During a seminar on innovative measures to overcome socio-economic obstacles to primary school attendance (UNESCO, 1992), participants composed a list of the problems surrounding enrolment, retention/completion and achievement in developing countries in the Asia Pacific Region. Analysis of these problems suggests that they could be attributed to many countries and primary schools, although some problems are likely to be more applicable to rural schools than urban schools and vice versa. The problems may be divided into five main groups:
· children have to work to supplement family income;
· children have to help in household work including looking after siblings;
· failure on the part of parents to understand the value of education;
· poor economic condition of the family
· broken families
· illiterate and poorly educated parents
· lack of facilities at home for learning.
· inadequate facilities (furniture, textbooks etc.) in the school to educate the children;
· unqualified teachers
· a low level of competencies amongst trained teachers who are unable to interest students in school work;
· unreliable teachers' attendance due to their own earning activities outside the school, and transport problems;
· overcrowded schools;
· lack of special schools and teachers for handicapped children;
· a curriculum that is unrelated to life skills;
· inaccessibility of schools;
· poorly motivated teachers, resulting in low professionalism and misconduct;
· lack of teachers, especially female teachers, which inhibits the school attendance of girls;
· dissatisfaction and low morale amongst teachers who are forced to work in isolated areas against their will;
· non-existence of suitable educational facilities for overaged children and for those who are employed;
· unattractive school facilities and teaching-learning programmes which repel rather than draw children to school;
· lack of teachers' understanding of parental backgrounds;
· little direction or opportunity for professional development amongst teachers;
· irregular monitoring of teachers' work and performance by more experienced teachers or schools inspectors.
· migration of families;
· lack of motivation to send children to schools;
· prejudice against females attending school;
· lack of adequate up-to-date population statistics due to the non-registration of births, which means that the schooling needs of the community are unknown;
· rivalry between different tribal groups
· few awareness programmes to inform parents about the potential, value and nature of primary schooling.
· organisation of the school in a way
that divorces it from everyday life;
· authoritarian management styles that frighten and intimidate children;
· inadequate training of school administrators in management skills, and poor leadership on the part of head teachers who are not able to adequately supervise staff;
· no adequate management procedures adopted to ensure that once children are enrolled, they continue to come to school;
· an insufficient number of schools and inadequate infrastructures;
· unrealistic policy making;
· "non-functioning schools", where although schools are established they do not actually operate;
· a lack of collegiality and support amongst school staff;
· inadequate handling of community and parental concerns.
· lack of readiness on the part of the
child to cope with entry to school;
· children with disabilities who cannot take full advantage of what the school has to offer;
· school phobia due to a fear of teachers and examinations;
· frequent illness resulting in high levels of absenteeism from school;
· malnutrition of children;
· overaged and underaged students;
· language problems;
· different expectations and emphasis on the part of the home and school regarding what is acceptable language; for instance, parents may believe that the local language should be the medium of instruction, while the school may choose to adopt a different language;
· the gender of children;
· poor academic performance;
· early marriage or pregnancy.
The general effectiveness of schools has also been investigated widely. Lockheed and Levin (1993) have identified three groups of factors which appear to contribute to a primary school performing effectively. The absence of some or all of these factors would result in the performance of a school being ineffective, therefore. According to these writers, the curriculum is frequently poor in scope and sequence. Often, the content lacks relation to situations familiar to the students. Instructional materials are in short supply and availability does not guarantee that they will be used, since textbook quality is often poor and/or too difficult for the age-group at which they are aimed. (Recent research of curricular scope and sequence in mathematics and reading textbooks in fifteen developing countries found that the material in both subjects was too difficult at the earlier grades. In the upper grades, the mathematics curriculum was too difficult, but the reading curriculum was too easy and failed to develop problem solving skills appropriately). Time for learning is inadequate, because of very high pupil teacher ratios, extra-curricular demands such as caring for pupils basic needs, and the pull of home commitments. Teaching practices encourage rote learning rather than understanding; teachers are frequently inadequately trained, if at all.
Lockheed and Levin (1993) note also that community-school relationships are often poor and parental involvement and support is limited, non-existent, or at worst, hostile. School-based professionalism is underdeveloped, in terms of principal leadership, teacher collegiality, commitment and accountability. Flexibility in curricula (e.g. encouraging relevance, level and pace to meet local conditions), in organisation and pedagogical approaches is lacking, as is a commitment to create effective schools. This requires vision by leaders at all levels (government, business, parents, community and students), to raise the educational consciousness of the society and hence increase the movement of more resources to the classroom. Decision making is often centralised; however, effective schools appear to require a high degree of school-level responsibility and authority, with accountability to parents and local community.
An important consequence of these deficiencies, apart from poor school attendance, is that many of the pupils for whom primary schooling is terminal appear to have acquired little in the way of knowledge, skills and attitudes which they are able to draw on and apply in their post-school lives, for their own benefit or for the benefits of their communities and nation. Many of them have low levels of literacy and numeracy, even though these are seen as the chief outcomes expected of primary school education. Equally, children who do progress to secondary school often have difficulty coping with the level of studies expected of them there, particularly where the curriculum demands understanding of concepts, rather than rote-memorisation. This "under-education" serves to compound the poor impression of primary schools amongst pupils and parents, and even prospective employers and providers of credit. In turn, this can accentuate the likelihood of drop-out.
Just as the problems which lead to drop-out are many and complex, so will be the root causes of the under-education of any particular pupil. Indeed, many of the factors which contribute to high drop-out rates will also lead to general under-achievement of pupils. In terms of individual pupils, it is of course difficult to know whether any child has reached his or her full intellectual potential at a particular age, regardless of the situation in which they undergo their schooling.