|Teacher Education in Trinidad & Tobago: Costs, Financing and Future Policy (CIE, 2002, 40 p.)|
This analysis of primary teacher education in Trinidad and Tobago draws attention to the main features of the system, provides insights into the way in which teacher education is delivered through the Colleges, illustrates what costs are incurred by different elements and identifies their sources, and projects forward likely demand for new primary teachers under different assumptions.
The picture that emerges is one in which future demand will be low even if pupil-teacher ratios are allowed to drop to 20:1 in primary schools. Most new teachers will be needed to meet additional enrolments at secondary level as participation is universalised at this level.
Overall educational expenditure is unlikely to be stressed if current pupil-teacher ratios and costs per student are maintained in real terms. Falling pupil numbers create the opportunity to improve the amounts spent per child in schools. They also allow the possibility of increased investment in teacher education at primary level so that quality can be improved and Colleges become centres of excellence in practice and support for primary teacher development.
As demand for new primary teachers falls structural changes may need to be considered. These include: revisiting the OJT programme to establish what form it should take with reduced numbers of entrants; considering an extension of the role of the Colleges to play a greater part in the support of untrained teachers during their period in schools, and after taking up their first appointments as new teachers; and evaluating the shape and content of the teacher education curriculum.
In the first case it is curious that primary teacher training College staff apparently play no role in OJT selection and support courses. If these courses are to lead into a formal training period then it is clear that they should be closely articulated with College curricula. It is also unusual that the Colleges have no role in the selection of those OJTs who are considered suitable for training. If the purpose of an OJT period is partly to identify those with most potential to become effective teachers then it would seem reasonable to take into account College views on the suitability of applicants for training course. If demand for training places falls and frees up College lecturers time some of this could be allocated to developing a closer relationship with training for OJTs and devising mentoring strategies to nurture the development of untrained teachers prior to training.
Currently no provision is made for mentoring newly qualified teachers in their first years of employment. The need for support and advice in this critical period is evident. There is therefore scope for the College staff to contribute to systematic support and development programmes during the first years of working as trained teachers. This should enable support of new pedagogic practices and effective teaching to extend beyond the initial training period in a planned manner.
The current teacher education curriculum is heavily loaded with teaching periods and contains substantial investments of time in supervised teaching practice. It seems probable that what is currently planned cannot be delivered in the time available with the constraints that apply. This suggests that the curriculum should be revisited and reprioritised to lighten the teaching input and re-profile trainees learning tasks to focus on those most likely to contribute to the development of competence in key areas of the primary school curriculum e.g. literacy and numeracy. It may be that the approach adopted to teaching practice should be modified in the light of the prior experience of work in schools that all trainees possess. If this prior experience were mentored and supported consistently it might substitute for some of the time currently devoted to teaching practice. It might also be possible to conceive of supported teaching practice as subsequent to a college-based period rather than concurrent, which would simplify timetabling of college-based courses.
At least 20% of timetabled time is allocated to assessment-related activities. This is substantial and may represent an unbalanced profile of work for staff and trainees. It is not clear how much of this assessment has a formative character and how much is summative, though the majority appears to be the latter. There is an opportunity to reconsider whether the balance of time between teaching and assessment is appropriate.
The performance of the Colleges appears compromised by a lack of investment in equipment, furniture and learning materials15. If the salary costs of trainees are excluded, the operating cost per trainee of Colleges appear to be no more than about twice those for secondary students, largely arising from lower staff-student ratios. If they are to be high quality learning institutions, investment in learning resources per trainee will need to be increased. Necessarily, increased investment would also have to be accompanied by effective management and resources to ensure that what was provided resulted in a cumulative improvement in facilities.
15 The main learning materials used by students are lecturers notes and some text books.
More radical options could be considered. The costs of primary teacher training appear high because trainees are paid salaries whilst in full-time training. Secondary training is organised as an in-service activity and therefore does not bear such costs. Some mixture of in-service and full-time training would be cheaper than the existing arrangements. If numbers are smaller, and it is possible to raise entry qualifications as a result to include one or two A levels the need for some content up-grading may be lessened. This could make it possible to focus training more on pedagogical competence etc. and shorten the time of full-time attendance. It should be noted also that the OJT system saves on overall teacher costs whilst they are paid as untrained teachers, but probably increases overall costs per trained teacher since these payments have to be continued during training. If students entered training directly after qualification at CXC and A level costs might be lower, depending on the level of stipend which is set.
If demand does fall to lower levels the option of alternate year entry into the Colleges could be considered. This would increase cost per trained teacher but would provide opportunities to improve quality and increase the time spent with tutors in small groups. If coupled with more support pre-and post-training this might well be an option worth considering if it led to much improved quality of new teachers. The length of training could also be increased from two years to three. However this would increase costs if it were full-time training, and it is not clear what the gains would be in terms of the impact on the skills and competencies of newly qualified teachers. More support for newly qualified teachers working in schools through INSET may be preferable and most cost-effective.
Finally it would seem that current salary scales are anomalous. Most countries do reward College lecturers at levels higher than those of secondary teachers. This reflects expectations that they are more qualified and that College lecturing is linked to career progression. It is important that Colleges are able to attract and hold the best staff available, and turnover is currently an issue as staff move on to better paid posts. Increases in salary scales for the small number of lecturers involved would not have a major impact of the education budget. Its costs should be outweighed by the benefits for future recruitment and motivation.