|The Malawi Integrated In-Service Teacher Education Project: An Analysis of the Curriculum and Its Delivery in the Colleges (CIE, 2000, 75 p.)|
|Chapter 1: Issues and Context|
Teacher education has been neglected. Often perched uncomfortably between secondary and higher education, teacher training colleges have enjoyed neither the glamour of universities nor the political salience of schools. In ex-colonial countries, teacher training usually began under missionary auspices and was often the last sector to come under government control. Worldwide, the process of teacher education is under-theorised and has been under-researched compared with other sectors of education; it has also been underfunded.
However, teacher preparation and development is a key feature in any education system. Perhaps its very centrality contributes to its near invisibility: it is perforce so closely intertwined with the rest of the system - the secondary schools from which the trainees come, the primary and secondary schools to which they will go, the universities who trained the tutors and may validate the courses, the Ministry of Education that in various ways controls, deploys and remunerates the teachers - that it is very difficult to reform the Teacher Training Institutions (TTIS) except in the context of system-wide changes (South Africa being a case in point). Possibly this is one reason it has at times been ignored by international donors.
All this integration makes it difficult to study the curriculum of teacher education on its own, and equally difficult to make comparisons between countries. The professional preparation of teachers is not only related to the local school curricula but also to a much wider array of historical, political and cultural factors, including the perceived role of the teacher in society, current views of knowledge, and the level of economic development.
Currently teacher education is in transition in a number of countries, though the movements are not all in the same direction, or for the same reasons. However, some common trends can be perceived. One such derives from changing views of learning: the shift from behaviourist to constructivist assumptions and theories has now reached teacher training institutions and is particularly influential in the Americas (Avalos 2000). Related to this, the ideal of professionals who reflect on their own practice and take responsibility for continually developing and improving that practice has become a powerful image in many parts of the anglophone world (Schon 1983, 1987); this links to a new emphasis on life-long learning - but such extended professional education tends to be resource-intensive, and presupposes certain cultural assumptions about personal autonomy and responsibility.
Another trend is towards bringing theory and practice into a more powerful relationship through partnerships, using mentor teachers and school internship to complement the academic studies in university or college. Again this presupposes a certain level of both infrastructure and professional development in the school system which may not exist in less-industrialised countries.
Teacher education is a politically contested area. Central control v. devolution, bureaucratic v. professional strategies for raising standards and quality control - these are areas where government policies may differ widely, and draw on different ideological standpoints; this is an important part of the current discourse.
And the curriculum itself - what is it and how do we define it? Our research is beginning to show how it can exist in different forms, for example:
· on paper, as designed and documented
· in the minds of the tutors who deliver it
· as experienced by the trainees
· as perceived by external observers.
These aspects will form part of the report.