|Primary Teacher Education in Malawi: Insights into Practice and Policy (CIE, 2002, 144 p.)|
|Chapter 4: The Intended Curriculum|
The only broad aim set out in the MIITEP documents themselves is to produce 'an effective teacher'. Implicitly, the purpose of the programme is to improve the quality of teaching and learning in primary schools by enabling unqualified teachers to undergo a training programme. In general, MIITEP broadly continues to reflect the list of 24 'National Objectives for Teacher Education', drawn up for the revised curriculum of 1990 (Hauya 1997: 48). These are phrased mainly in terms of 'to promote/develop/foster in the teacher' certain knowledge, skills and attitudes. Attitudinal objectives seem to predominate - over half the listed objectives focus on characteristics such as 'positive attitudes towards community development, appreciation of Malawian culture and values, the desire for continued professional growth' etc. There is also an emphasis on broad skills to enable the teacher to 'teach the primary school curriculum effectively'. It is interesting to note that only five objectives mention knowledge, the main ones being 'the basic theoretical and practical knowledge about the teaching profession'; ' principles of leadership' and 'an understanding of the machinery of the government'.
The predominant aims seem limited to producing a skilled technician who will deliver the curriculum effectively. Educating a teacher is seen as a matter of fostering appropriate attitudes and values, along with developing specific teaching skills. Giving the teachers a sound knowledge base, in terms of either subject specific or professional understanding, is much less prominent. Nor is there any mention of reflection on practice. In one sense the curriculum is oriented towards preparing new teachers for a 'restricted' professional role.
This view is confirmed by material addressed to students in MIITEP Handbook 5, in a brief section on 'ethics' and 'professionalism'. There is an emphasis on attitudes, moral qualities and skills, rather than on understanding that will inform professional judgement. For example a good teacher is 'co-operative, honest, tolerant, responsible and trustworthy'; they can plan lessons, assess pupils and manage a class. As far as knowledge goes, they must 'know the subject matter well', and 'know the conditions of service and code of conduct expected of a teacher'.
There are some traces of alternative perceptions of the teachers and of their training, most clearly stated in the 'Teacher Trainer's Source Book' published by the TDU. This was produced as a resource for the 'trainers of trainers', that is, for those conducting workshops for the college tutors, Primary Education Advisors (PEAs) and head teachers. The introduction in this Source Book notes that 'teaching and learning need to become much more activity-based and participatory' in Malawian classrooms; it suggests teachers will have to become skilful 'facilitators of learning' in spite of lack of resources, and they should integrate subjects and address equity issues. It suggests that the teacher is expected to 'function as an agent of change in the classroom' (p.2), thus anticipating a more 'extended' professional role.
This trainers' book also has sections on the principles of adult education (p.8), on action research (p.53) and on professionalism (p.58). This seems to indicate a more discursive stance, a more interactive view of learning, and a wider professional role for the teacher. Such an approach could and should recognise the prior teaching experience of the student-teachers and address more specifically the problems found in Malawian classrooms.
By contrast with this material for advisors, much of the material in the student and teacher Handbooks seems to be based on a behaviourist view of learning and on an authoritarian view of professional knowledge as something that can be transmitted to students without any problems. It presumes that this store of knowledge will provide a correct set of methods for teaching, which will enable new teachers to deliver the curriculum more effectively. The philosophy espoused in the advisors' materials seems to change as it is translated into learning material for trainees and become less progressive and more traditional.
The introduction to each of the trainees' Handbooks highlights new approaches and suggest teachers should:
- promote active learning
- use local resources
- educate pupils about population and environmental issues
- be gender sensitive
- teach about democracy and human rights
- value practical activities
- should be sensitive to pupils with special needs
- teach about HIV/AIDS
- use local 'cultural capital' especially in science and technology
All these seem to be drawn from a progressive perspective. But in contrast the specific objectives set out in the individual units seem to be drawn mostly from the 'traditional' approach. The objectives for Foundation Studies, for example, reflect very closely the objectives of the 2-year, 1-year and MASTEP foundations course, showing that there has been no change of approach in this area. The English and Mathematics unit objectives are largely framed in terms of being able to teach specific curriculum topics and skills, while the science units are strongly content-based. The objectives cover mainly knowledge and comprehension, with some application in some subject areas and in the methods; no 'higher level' skills are stressed.