|The Effectiveness of Teacher Resource Centre Strategy - Education Research Paper No. 34 (DFID, 1999, 257 p.)|
|CHAPTER FOUR : Teachers Centres in Andhra Pradesh, India|
Primary Education in Andhra Pradesh (AP) is provided by both Government and private schools. There are approximately 45 000 government and 3 500 recognised private primary schools in the state. In addition, approximately 5 000 and 2 200 respectively, in the two sectors also have primary classes. The total number of primary teachers in Government schools is approximately 170 000, while total enrolment in primary classes is estimated to be in the range of 7 million children. The state government's annual budget for primary education is approximately seven billion rupees. State literacy levels are estimated to be in the order of 55% for males and 33% for females.
Primary education is the responsibility of the State Government, and it meets the majority of the necessary expenses, but occasionally the Central Government provides support for specific projects. The Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Project (APPEP), funded by the UK Government was one such, that provided support, over 1991-96, for improving teacher competence, and building school infrastructure. From 1996 onward, a new initiative, the District Primary Education Project (DPEP), has been initiated in five districts of Andhra Pradesh. DPEP supports a variety of activities, including support for the activities of Teachers' Centres.
All primary school teachers enjoy the same hierarchical level, and the senior-most teacher in a school is designated as head teacher. The head teacher has no administrative power over other teachers, although he or she keeps records and reports on the attendance of the teachers and decides, in negotiation with them, the time table and class schedule. The AP state Government follows the national norm of providing a primary school within 3 km of every residential locality, and has established schools in most villages in the state. The lowest administrative unit in the state is a Mandel, which might include 20-30 villages. All the primary schools in a Mandel are under the administrative charge of a Mandel Education Officer (MEO). The control of primary education in AP has been entrusted to local elected bodies, known as District (or Mandel) Parishads, and hence the MEO exercises administrative power under the supervision of Mandel Parishad Officers. Within the Education department, all MEOs report to a District Education Officer (DEO). Although a DEO is typically supported by three or four Deputy Education Officers, the latter are responsible for supervising only secondary schools. There is thus no other hierarchical level in between DEO and MEOs. Given that a DEO may have 40-50 MEOs working under him, the effective control over their activities remains with the Mandel Parishad. Each district has a District Institute of Education Technology (DIET) that is responsible for teacher training and providing technical support for all educational activities. The Principal of a DIET is hierarchically at the same level as a DEO.
Andhra Pradesh has a total of 1 100 Mandels in its 23 districts. Five Regional Joint Directors look after education administration in all of 23 districts. At the State level, all activities related to primary education are directed by the Commissioner and Director (School Education), who is supported by four Joint Directors. These officers look after state-wide operations related to Non Formal Education, Vocational Education, Elementary Education, and Administration. There also exist State Project Directors for special state-wide educational programs, such as APPEP and DPEP, and the office of the Additional Commissioner (Examinations).
The State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) is the premier technical and professional body at the state level. SCERT is responsible for designing the syllabus and text books, and supervising teacher training and activities at the DIETs. SCERT is often guided by the advice of its counterpart at the national level called NCERT. There also exist many other colleges and institutions, affiliated to various universities, that offer B. Ed. and M.Ed. education programmes.
Most rural primary schools typically have 2-3 teachers, though up to 5-6 teachers may be in post in some semi-urban or large rural schools. Most schools normally have classes up to standard five, irrespective of the number of teachers or students. In Government schools, the text books are supplied free of cost to all children, but they have to buy notebooks, other school material and school uniform. At present, there is no provision of a midday school meal for students.
1.2 Teacher training under APPEP
All teachers in recognised primary schools are required to have completed a one year certificate course at a DIET. Typically, each DIET runs this pre-service course for 150 students every year. Thirty per cent of the admissions to the DIET are now reserved for women candidates. Admission to the course is through an entrance test. The syllabuses for this course are broadly similar all over India, though each state has some variation. The course design and training materials for the course are developed by the SCERT. The curriculum for current pre-service teacher training program in AP was designed in 1986, but is likely to be revised soon.
The DIET also periodically runs in-service training programmes, mainly for resource teachers, who along with Mandel Education Officers and DIET staff then conduct in-service training for school teachers, at the Mandel level.
APPEP was a major initiative to improve the training of teachers and provide an ongoing mechanism for professional development. Under this program, a 12 day initial training module in six APPEP 'principles' was organised for all Government primary teachers. This programme was meant to train teachers in (i) providing teacher generated learning activities, (ii) promoting learning by doing, discovering and experimenting, (iii) developing individual group and whole class work, (iv) providing for individual differences, (v) using the local environment, and (vi) creating and interesting classroom by displaying children's work and organising it effectively. The initial 12 day training was followed by a 3 day refresher after a gap of around three months. Approximately 150, 000 teachers were covered in the state under this programme from 1991-96. The training was organised on a cascade model. For conducting teacher training, 3-4 resource teachers, called as Mandel Resource Persons (MRPs), were identified in each Mandel. MRPs and Mandel Education Officers were given a 12+ 3 day training course by DIET staff to prepare them for conducting the 12 day training package for teachers. DIET staff were given a training of 12+ 3+ 3 days by the APPEP State Resource Team to prepare them for training the MRPs and MEOs. Most members of State Resource Team were senior teacher trainers in the State and they were also sent to UK for a three month training in APPEP principles. The core 12 day module was identical in all such training programs. This approach was adopted in an attempt to ensure that the basic 12 day training module developed and administered by the State Resource Team to the DIET staff was transmitted to all the teachers with minimal transmission loss. This pattern was different from the typical practice of previous in-service training programmes, where the preparatory training of MRPs or DIET staff had been confined to 3-4 days in order to provide orientation in outline requirements, leaving them some discretion over the actual transaction of content.
Andhra Pradesh has had few resources for supporting the in-service training of teachers. In the last decade, all in-service training has been conducted under some central government programme, for which the focus, as well as the training material, was drafted by NCERT. The views of NCERT are shaped by the general requirements of primary education throughout the country and not as per the specific needs of any particular state. In 1996-97, under a national programme (SOFT), all teachers were given a one week course to train them in the requirements of the so-called 'minimum learning levels' (MLL) stipulated as a part of national curriculum. Some attempt was made by SCERTs to adapt such programs and material to their current needs, but this remains limited in scope as a result of the inevitable time pressure. For example, SOPT was implemented as the first in-service program after APPEP, but the SCERT in AP was able to adapt national guidelines to only a limited extent in order to integrate the six APPEP principles into the SOPT training. The in-service arrangements for APPEP were an exception to the national pattern as this program was limited to Andhra Pradesh and the training was designed by the APPEP directorate.
APPEP supported large scale investment for upgrading the capability of resource people at different levels. This included the training of more than 150 people, mostly DIET staff and the State Resource Team, in UK universities for a 3 month period. It is, however, not very clear to what extent the APPEP approach has been integrated in non-APPEP training programs conducted by DIETs, such as the one year pre-service training of primary teachers.
1.3 Teachers' Centres and their role under APPEP
There is a tradition of Teacher Association Centres in India, initially conceived as forums for professional interaction. In time these became places where teachers mainly met to talk about conditions of service and Government circulars and policies. Teacher Association Centres thus became more like Teacher Union Centres, with trade union aspects dominating their activities.
A major element of the APPEP strategy was to establish Teachers' Centres (TC), that were to act as the forum for professional interaction among teachers. The TC was expected to provide space and opportunity for teachers to exchange experiences, develop materials and to enable the message of their initial APPEP training to be reinforced. 'Teachers' Centres act as platforms where the experiences of the teachers are shared amongst themselves, which helps them to grow professionally' (Gopal Krishnan, Teacher training strategy paper). Approximately 4800 Teachers' Centres were established under the programme, each catering for about 30 teachers. Teachers Centres were established as part of a larger primary school in a cluster of 7-13 schools, the head-teacher of which was designated as the Secretary. At least one teacher in this cluster would be an MRP, selected and trained for conducting the in-service training of teachers, but that person was not necessarily made the secretary. An assistant secretary was also chosen from among the teachers. This person was often an MRP. As such the Secretary or Asst. Secretary were to have no formal power; their role mainly being a facilitator in organizing TC meetings. It was originally conceived that the Mandel Education Officers would be present at most TC meetings, and a member of the DIET staff would attend at least 1-2 meetings at each TC every year. Towards this end, four members of staff at each DIET were specifically appointed for attending TC meetings. It was later recognised that the MEO's attendance at TC meeting was rarely feasible due to other responsibilities, and dedicated DIET staff participation at TC meetings has also been discontinued in the post-APPEP phase.
Under APPEP, approximately 1100 Teachers' Centre buildings were constructed, each comprising a large meeting room, and an adjoining small office room, fronted by a verandah. On days other than TC meetings, this room was used mostly as a staff room or class-room, and occasionally for hosting other meetings such as parent or Village Education Committee meetings. Where new construction did not occur, any one room in the school was used as the Teacher Centre. All the teacher centres were given an initial grant of Rs. 2000 to purchase various items such as lockable cupboard space and some teaching materials. Another Rs. 2000 were given every year to purchase consumables that could be used to make teaching aids. Each school was also given a grant of Rs. 500 per year for purchasing consumables. Teachers were also given a small amount to cover their travel expenses for attendance at meetings.
TC meetings were to be held six times a year. On the day of the meeting, all the teachers' schools remained closed, in order for the teachers to attend as part of their official duties. A standard schedule for the TC meeting was laid out under the program. The meeting was to start with the display of any new teaching aids that had been made by teachers after the previous meeting. Later in the morning, two teachers were to present a model lesson each on topics of their choice. The display of materials and the model lessons were to be commented upon by all teachers and written and oral feedback was to be submitted by each teacher. The afternoon session of each meeting was devoted to group work among the teachers, where they were to prepare sample lesson plans and some relevant teaching resources. For group work, teachers were divided into according to school subjects. Each meeting ended by selecting two teachers who would present model lessons at the next meeting. The selection of teachers was to be by rotation among all the schools and the lesson content chosen to cover all the primary subjects, but each individual session topic was the responsibility of the volunteer who was to teach it. In some meetings, a lecture was given by a teacher on a topic of common (general) interest. Although the school remained closed on the meeting day, students from one or two classes of the TC school were asked to be present in the morning so that the model demonstration lessons could be conducted in real class-like settings. The presentation of the model lesson, preparation of lesson plans and related teaching aids were all expected to demonstrate 'best practice' according to the six APPEP principles and thus continually reinforce the original training.
1.4 Post APPEP developments
The Government of Andhra Pradesh gave a commitment that it would continue to support TC meetings beyond the end of APPEP in the form of annual grant of Rs. 2000 (c£36) towards the purchase of consumables for preparing teaching materials. The DPEP program has also decided to continue all existing TCs, strengthening them and adding more. As a result, not only was each TC to be given an annual grant of Rs. 2000, but each individual teacher was also to be given Rs. 500 per year towards the purchase of teaching material. In addition, each school was given Rs. 2000 annually to improve its facilities. During 1996-2001, DPEP was being implemented in five districts with ODA support, and it was planned that the remaining districts in A.P. would be covered under DPEP with financial support from World Bank and UNDP/UNICEF.
Under DPEP, a further mechanism for teacher support is being established, that of the Mandel Resource Centre at which is to be based two permanent Mandel Resource Persons. These, along with the MEO, will be responsible for conducting Mandel level training and providing class-room support. It is expected that MRPs, unlike the MEO, will be able to attend all TC meetings.