|Counting the Cost of Teacher Education: Cost and Quality Issues (CIE, 1999, 37 p.)|
There are many good reasons to be concerned about the costs of teacher training in developing countries. The most important appear to revolve around the following observations and issues.
First, teacher training can be surprisingly expensive. Orthodox, pre-career full-time residential training in some countries has costs per student which can average several times the costs of conventional higher education. This may arise as a result of many factors including the length of training, the small size of training institutions, low pupil-teacher ratios, inefficient working practices, and historic budgeting largely unrelated to enrolments. If teacher training is comparatively expensive, and if demand for newly trained teachers is high (as a result of enrolment expansion), simple expansion of existing modes of training may be unrealistic. Even if this is not true, high costs per student need justification. The pressures created by austerity in those countries suffering from recession add to the needs to reconsider patterns of educational investment during economic downswings (Lewin 1987).
Second, in many developing countries there are concerns about the quality of new teachers and the need to qualify the untrained. Where criticisms are valid, and the content and pedagogy of training need to change to increase the probability of newly trained teachers possessing appropriate competencies, innovations need to be planned which are costed against sustainable budgets which can claim to provide value for public funds.
Third, and closely related, where the quality of the intake to initial teacher training is low and expansion is anticipated, it may be necessary to re-profile not only content and pedagogy, but also the organisation and modes of delivery of training to cope with trainees who have different characteristics and weaker basic skills than those who entered training in the past.
Fourth, many training systems have their origins in colonial practice. What may once have been rational may no longer meet new needs and resource constraints. Systems based on conventional training colleges may have been unduly influenced by colonial administrations and exogenous influence and advice provided by those who have sponsored their development. In many countries the training college sector has received sustained support from private and public donors of one kind or another based on a variety of mixed motives. As needs are increasingly identified at a national level, qualified teachers become more mobile, and much of the costs of expansion are borne publicly, it is timely to review practice and resource allocation.
Fifth, studies of the comparative costs and benefits of different methods of training teachers are not readily available in most developing countries. Decisions on modes of training are therefore often made on grounds which are largely independent of these kinds of considerations. It is not that cost and cost-effectiveness data should or could be the main basis for policy. It is simply that without considered judgement of what is known of costs and benefits it is unlikely that the best use will be made of public investment.
To avoid the misunderstandings that are sometimes associated with economic analysis of educational development issues, a number of observations are relevant.
First, it should be clear from the outset that the training of teachers is both desirable and necessary. It is obvious that an appropriate level of mastery of content and concepts is a pre-requisite to the ability to share competencies with learners whether in language, mathematics, science or history. It is also self-evident that intuition and experience are not in themselves efficient ways of acquiring skills of effective teaching which are the common property of those who have trodden the pathway successfully before. It would be perverse to argue that it is advantageous to be unaware of established theories of cognition, common errors of reasoning amongst children of different ages, or tried and tested methods of learning to read. Such things can be understood and translated into learning and teaching strategies through systematic learning and organised experience more efficiently than in other ways.
Second, though training teachers is in principle attractive this does not mean that all methods are equally effective. Nor does it mean that what may have been satisfactory in the past will be so in the future. Belief in the efficacy of a method is probably a necessary condition for its successful realisation; it is not sufficient. Assertion and advocacy need to be buttressed by evidence that desired competencies are actually achieved by trainees who are able to deploy these in real leaning and teaching environments. In a rational world it ought to be possible, at least at the level of judgement backed by systematic data, to separate out the more and the less costly and effective approaches to training, given defined goals, in order to assist choices that have to be made where resources are constrained.
Third, there are obvious pitfalls in believing that an initial qualification to teach represents an end point in the acquisition of competence and guarantees its manifestation in practice. Certifying all teachers so that none are formally untrained is a desirable goal but is insufficient to guarantee improved teaching quality in schools. Initial qualifications are literally what they present themselves as - confirmation of the minimum levels of competence which justify a public "licence to teach". They can hardly be based on competencies possessed by average and above average members of the profession established in mid-career. This is why the belief that initial training is sufficient to certify teachers for the whole of their working lifetimes has been overtaken by widespread recognition of the importance of continuing professional development spread over a career. The underlying point is that investment in the development of a teacher's competencies can and should be seen as a continuous process that follows initial qualification with support which consolidates newly acquired skills, encourages reflection and self-criticism, and provides opportunities to move to higher levels of competence. Models of investment in training which are heavily front-loaded (i.e. all the investment is pre-career), as is the case with conventional pre-service training, begin to seem less and less attractive.
Fourth, making connections between costs and resources, and policy on training teachers, is uncomfortable and often unfamiliar to many of those involved in the training process. This may be because training institutions distance faculty from decisions on the allocation of resources, because trainers may be predisposed to think in terms of what is desirable rather more than what is feasible and sustainable in terms of resources, and because cadres of trainers may well have sectional interests that value the self-interest of their profession over the interests of those who are trained. None of this detracts from the fact that training is resource-constrained and, where it is a public activity, it should be accountable for the resources it consumes, which might otherwise be allocated to different purposes that might have more effect on learning and teaching outcomes for school pupils.