|The Effectiveness of Teacher Resource Centre Strategy - Education Research Paper No. 34 (DFID, 1999, 257 p.)|
|CHAPTER EIGHT : Findings and Comment|
It would be irresponsible to discuss the impact of TRCs on teaching and learning in schools without commenting on the role of TRCs in teacher absenteeism. Teacher absenteeism is a major problem which we all found in our respective countries. It is consistently commented upon in the literature as well. Like others, our sympathies go to teachers who are so poorly paid that they must focus energy and time on trying to make up the difference between their teacher's salary and what it takes to feed their families. Our concern, nevertheless, is with children and how the absence of their teacher so reduces their time for learning in school. It is particularly a problem in poor countries because classes are not covered when teachers are absent. In this sense, we have to consider time as one of the most precious resources available to children's learning, together with books, pencils and paper and, of course, a teacher.
Going to the TRC takes teachers away from their classes. In some cases, the absence is short and perhaps children's time can be compensated for by gains in their teacher's increased knowledge and skills, motivation and commitment. The APPEP programme, for instance, requires teachers out of post for only 6 days a year. In Nepal, however, in-service courses last a long time, commonly a whole month, and there is no cover for those teachers who attend as participants and those selected heads and senior teachers who attend as trainers. Can their pupils ever be compensated for this loss of time? Even the school-based teacher group meetings in the AIEMS project in Zambia were found to take an inordinate amount of time: '... a teacher group meeting scheduled from 9.30 to 10.30 meant in fact that the teachers did not return to their classes even when the teachers group had finished, and classes were untaught from 9.30 to 12.00 when it was time for lunch.'
Gibbs and Kazilimani report that AIEMS proclaims in one of its brochures that 'One million training hours will ensure four thousand school-based INSET years. ' This is a very unfortunate slogan. It masks the point that one teacher hour out of the classroom means that 40 children are without their teacher; and few teachers ever set work for their pupils to do in their absence. It reminds us how forgetful we are in calculating the cost of in-service education in countries where there is no cover for absent teachers. Do we as trainers, education planners and economists, in our enthusiasm for in-service training, realistically count this cost?
We fully realize that it is very difficult to strike a balance between in-service provision and time away from directing children's learning. Yet, we have to conclude that given the almost complete lack of schools' ability to cover classes when teachers are away from their classes on TRC courses and activities, TRCs contribute significantly to the problem of teacher absenteeism and consequently to a significant loss of time for children's learning.