|Teacher Education in Trinidad & Tobago: Costs, Financing and Future Policy (CIE, 2002, 40 p.)|
There is a window of opportunity to reconsider primary teacher training in Trinidad and Tobago. The numbers of teachers needing to be trained are diminishing as pupil numbers in school fall, the quality of teachers in the primary system and levels of achievement in schools remain a matter of concern, and the proposed universalisation of access to secondary schooling mean that it is more important than ever that primary teachers are effective.
The primary teacher education Colleges are national institutions which need to be supported as centres of excellence and which could and should support examples of best practice in primary schooling. They could also play a broader role in training and support for new teachers pre- and post-training to enhance and reinforce effective teaching methods.
The system is small and there are indications that more investment would be beneficial if carefully targeted. The costs of this would be a small proportion of the costs of the primary school system and the Ministry of Educations budget. With falling rolls it could even be achieved at no additional cost to current levels of national expenditure. The priority attached to primary education under recent government policy suggests that such a strategy is overdue.
The development of a policy response to the opportunities that exist should take into account the issues identified in this analysis. In particular it should consider:
· Revisiting the OJT programme and its costs and benefits, and the role of the Colleges and pre- and-post training support to release the potential of the programme; alternatively the OJT could be absorbed directly into the initial training process as part of an initial period of mentored teaching experience.
· Rationalising the teacher education curriculum to allow more time for professional development activity focused on teaching competencies. Changes in the organisation of training could reschedule teaching practice components to recognise prior experience, contain the amount of time allocated to summative rather than formative assessment, and moderate costs arising from the training of smaller numbers.
· Alternate year entry as a viable possibility if coupled with an expanded role for the College staff in primary school development activities. This could include an increased element of part-time release rather than full-time study, and professional development activities supported by the College staff pre- and post-training.
· The opportunity of developing first-level training for early childhood teachers in Colleges
· The possibility of raising entrance criteria to include A level if these can be sustained without severely depleting the pool of applicants
· The implications of the abolition of the Common Entrance examination and other planned developments for teacher supply and demand
· A separate budget line for College financing with elements of programmed budgeting linked to levels of activity and throughput, and appropriate mechanisms to devolve some budgetary responsibility in ways which could provide incentives to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
· Placing College non-salary recurrent funding on a more realistic basis to provide a richer learning environment.
· Improving the pay and status of teacher education college lecturers to attract and retain higher calibre staff