|Primary Teacher Education in Malawi: Insights into Practice and Policy (CIE, 2002, 144 p.)|
|Chapter 4: The Intended Curriculum|
A number of points stand out from this discussion and the more extensive analysis included in various MUSTER background Discussion Papers. In summary these include:
First, the Handbooks for trainees are a central feature of MIITEP: they set out the objectives, contain most of the content, structure the pedagogy and constitute the main teaching/learning resource. Academic assessment is based on the Handbooks. There is a major discrepancy between the progressive philosophy expressed in some of the general aims, and the more traditional approach that is apparent in many of the units. Overall, MIITEP advocates student-centred and participatory learning methods that should produce an innovative, 'progressive' and professional teacher. This contrasts with the tight behavioural objectives, and the closed, didactic nature of much of the learning material.
Second, the place of subject content knowledge in this programme is ambiguous. There is little in the general aims and objectives about teachers having a good understanding of their subject, yet students clearly need upgrading in order to feel confident in the classroom. Analysis shows up important differences between subject areas in this respect. In English students are taught a series of pedagogic skills fitted around the primary English syllabus, while in science they are taught mainly subject content. In maths the two are taught together. There is confusion here.
Third, the aims and general objectives which set out the 'progressive vision' of MIITEP are poorly reflected in the assessment patterns as a whole. The written exams and assignments are closely matched to the content of the Handbooks and set up to test the kinds of lower level skills mentioned in the specific objectives. The exams test mainly recall, since many of the comprehension and application questions can be answered by memorising the examples given in the Handbooks. The emphasis on innovation and on learner-centred attitudes and skills is ignored, in spite of the 20 months school-based training which could have been used to develop and assess these through different kinds of project and portfolio work. The Teaching Practice grades form an almost invisible part of the assessment, being subsumed within the 15% of marks given to coursework. It seems paradoxical that the exams attempt to test pedagogic knowledge and skills, while the school-based assignments test subject content knowledge: the reverse would seem more appropriate.
Fourth, in a wider context other mismatches appear. The course was designed for MSCE holders and has not been adapted to the needs of those with only JCE. In view of the school-based period, when assignments have to be done at a distance, students should have been prepared extensively for self-study and independent learning, but this is not built into any part of the course.
Fifth, the curriculum in shape and content differs little from that formerly taught in the colleges to school-leavers with no teaching experience, yet the MIITEP students have all taught, often for extended periods. The curriculum does not recognise this and often seems to be treating the students as 'empty vessels' into which knowledge must be poured. The course tries to cover nearly as much material as previous programmes, much of it during the 3-month residential block. This seems unrealistic.
Sixth, there appear to be omissions of important issues in the curriculum despite the fact that it is currently overloaded. The most obvious of these include concerted attention to study skills, communication skills (especially in relation to young pupils), basic English (given that many have poor competence in the medium of instruction), gender, and how to manage large classes of 70 or more with few resources (the reality for most newly qualified teachers).
Finally, the change to school-based training remains at the level of rhetoric. Significantly, the colleges have tried to retain an element of the traditional 'teaching practice' within the residential block, even though time is so limited that this gives little opportunity for real skill development. In a school-based course, this aspect should be handled entirely at the school level, yet such a shift of emphasis is not reflected in the curriculum as a whole, especially in the assessment weighting. As we will see there seems little confidence amongst key stakeholders that most schools can support and deliver effective training. If so, a school-based approach needs careful consideration as to how it can meet the needs of trainees.
We now move to consider learning and teaching in the College-based elements of MIITEP.