|Costs and Financing of Teacher Education in Lesotho (CIE, 2000, 62 p.)|
This analysis raises a number of issues relevant to costs and efficiency in planning the future of teacher education in Lesotho. The authors are aware that many of these are matters of current discussion. This research seeks to contribute to the debate on the ways forward.
This study has indicated how the teacher education system in Lesotho has developed. It has drawn attention to the evolution of initial training from a complex multi-stage process to one which provides a single pathway for school graduates into primary teaching and an upgrading route for those with PTC wishing to reach Diploma level. The output of new primary teachers has fluctuated but seems set to be consolidated at about 250 per year. NTTC has expanded its residential capacity and will shortly have facilities sufficient for more than 1,000 student teachers.
These changes have taken place against a background of educational development policy which has favoured the development of participation and quality improvement at primary level, but which has proved difficult to implement successfully. Progress has been slow on several fronts and hoped for reductions in repetition, dropout and class size have not been achieved to date. Macro-economic conditions have not been favourable to real growth in the education budget. Poverty, and hence the ability to pay school fees and those levied by the NTTC for tuition, has probably been increasing, not least as a result of retrenchment in South Africa.
New policy related to the Education Sector Development Plan identifies a range of targets for the MOE which will increase participation and retention, reduce class size and pupil-teacher ratios, improve the transition rate into secondary and ensure that all teachers are trained. These targets are ambitious. The analysis suggests that in order to reach them the output of the training system will have to increase.
We have selected eight issues for further comment in drawing this study together.
· First, it is clear that there is a need to continuously monitor enrolment growth and teacher supply and demand. The existing data is patchy and sometimes conflicting on key parameters that will affect teacher demand and supply. The key uncertainties have been identified. These include the extent of migration of families and pupils to South Africa, the characteristics of the demographic transition that may be taking place to lower birth rates, the prevalence of HIV amongst different groups including teachers, the rate of take-up of teaching posts and attrition in-service of qualified teachers, the effects of fee-free primary schooling, and the impact of policy to reduce repetition and dropout. All of these need careful periodic assessment to chart their impact on teacher demand.
· Second, it appears that teacher supply is inadequate to meet projected demand. The situation at primary level is serious if targets are to be met. Output would need to exceed 1,000 new teachers a year (implying an enrolment on three year courses in excess of 3,000). This can be compared with the current output of less than 200 per year and the projected output of 250.
The supply of secondary trained teachers is much closer to projected demand. Relatively small increases in output would meet projected demand created by the planned expansion. It is anomalous that more secondary teachers are currently trained than primary.
· Third, the costs of expanding the existing training system are unsustainable. Meeting the lower levels of projected demand for both primary and secondary teachers could consume nearly 15% of the MOE recurrent budget at current cost levels. This excludes the cost of training the unqualified.
· Fourth, if planned targets are to be met then new teachers will need to be trained at lower costs and upgrading will have to be achieved efficiently. The capacity of primary initial teacher education will need to be expanded significantly. Demand appears to exceed the likely capacity of NTTC for full-time residential courses if this is bounded by a maximum of 1,000-1,200 full-time equivalent students.
· Fifth, it is possible that increases in internal efficiency could result in an NTTC output of perhaps double the existing level of less than 200 primary and 100 secondary teachers through timetable and course rationalisation, and more efficient deployment of staff and facilities. This alone would not generate enough additional capacity to meet plan targets. It would reap economies of scale on fixed costs and lower the cost per trained teacher. Greater increases in output might require additional staffing.
· Sixth, consideration should be given to reductions in the length of full-time tuition during training to the extent that these are consistent with maintaining quality. Reductions in course length could produce pro-rata reductions in costs. Increased periods of teaching practice may also produce savings (and professional benefits especially for those without teaching experience). The latter depends on how teaching practice is organised, whether it is remunerated, and how it is supported.
· Seventh, mixed-mode part-distance supported initial teacher training may be considered as an option to extend the reach of NTTC and to reduce the costs of training per qualified teacher. Currently it is used for in-service upgrading of unqualified teachers and this is likely to continue under a new pattern of course organisation. It is difficult to see how likely demand can be met without exploring ways of increasing the capacity of NTTC to support initial training. It should however be remembered that mixed-mode delivery may or may not result in cost savings which can be translated into greater output. This depends on the methods adopted and the quality of the programmes.
· Eighth, it is proposed that NTTC becomes semi-autonomous. This could be beneficial if it results in greater internal efficiency. The current historic funding system does not apparently provide incentives to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Formula funding based on an appropriate algorithm of admissions, output and successful employment might be advantageous. It would seem inevitable that most of the recurrent costs will continue to attract government subsidy directly, or through subsidies to students. Teachers salaries are unlikely to move to levels where private rates of return would generate sufficient applicants for full cost recovery.