|The Malawi Integrated In-Service Teacher Education Project: An Analysis of the Curriculum and Its Delivery in the Colleges (CIE, 2000, 75 p.)|
|Chapter 4: Evaluations and Conclusions|
This is difficult to answer precisely because, as shown in Chapter 2, the aims are not altogether clear, and different stakeholders interpret them differently in line with their own agendas. The MIE and donors had in mind a programme that would not only train the unqualified teachers, but would also prepare them to bring new methods into schools. The tutors still thought in terms of previous programmes, and had not materially changed their views about teaching and learning. The trainees hoped to learn useful knowledge and skills, but their main concern was to acquire a qualification.
One clear finding concerns the tension between the traditional and the progressive tendencies, with the former still predominating. At the level of rhetoric, there was certainly an awareness among some tutors of the need for more interactive approaches, at least in relation to practice in the primary classroom. Students cited groupwork and communicative methodology in English as new things they had learnt about at college. On the other hand, it seemed the tutors themselves continued to base their own practice on the assumptions of the behavioural paradigm as described in Chap. 1, with an emphasis on teaching rather than learning, on skills and behaviours, and on recall of knowledge. This was reinforced by some of the materials and by the assessment methods.
Overall, a technical rather than a reflective view of training emerges, along the lines of: we tell the students what to do, we show them, let them practise, and then they will be able to do it. There was no talk of reflective practice, or of preparing the teachers for an extended professional role. They are simply expected to become more efficient deliverers of the curriculum.
This is congruent with the authoritarian stance towards professional knowledge - both in the Handbooks and among the tutors - and a reluctance to listen to the students experiences. Participatory learning usually meant that students would be given some activities to do or allowed to talk about some ideas; they were still, however, expected to arrive at the one right answer. Tutors and students shared this view: one tutor said: Students should teach the way I taught them, and several students commented to the effect that: At school we did it the wrong way; here we are being taught the right methods. There was no discussion of why something that worked well in one context might have to be adapted by the teacher in another.
Changes to such deep-seated assumptions and practices are always difficult to bring about and slow to take root. In this particular case we can point to some practical constraints involving the tutors, the students, the level of resourcing, and external organisational aspects, all of which contributed to the lack of movement.
Firstly, the tutors were unprepared for the change. They still thought in terms of the traditional good teacher rather than acknowledging that the new Malawian dispensation required different cultural and political attitudes. They were mostly under-qualified for their work and their own professional education had not equipped them to take on the role of curriculum developer. They were given effectively no in-service to help them understand the new paradigm of teaching and learning. In addition, their morale was already low for other reasons, and the task of teaching six cohorts in a row, with no leave and an ever-increasing marking load of field-based assignments, was not conducive to experimentation. (A later paper will deal with the tutors perspectives in more detail.)
Secondly, the student were also unprepared, in several ways. The majority were JC holders with poor language skills, struggling to cope with the material. Like MSCE holders they were used to didactic teaching/learning methods in their own schoooling, and would need to be taught how to learn in new ways. Yet the course did not include either study skills nor remedial English; in this sense it was badly matched to the entrants needs.
Thirdly, a new curriculum, especially one requiring new classroom methods, requires a basic level of resourcing in the form of books, equipment, consumables, materials for making visual aids, etc. as a necessary if not sufficient condition for its proper implementation. These were not available in enough quantities.
Underlying all this was the poor organisation by TDU and the MOE. The design of the course required a lot of people and agencies to act in concert. To synchronise the activities of the key players, all supporters and implementers needed to have their inputs - human and financial - ready at the outset. Late deliveries and unkept promises promoted scepticism, and all this militated against the successful implementation of MIITEP.
But perhaps the key problem lies further back, in the dual role that MIITEP was expected to perform. It was designed in the first place to train a large number of teachers in a short time to cope with the influx of primary students; this would involve giving them a basic practical survival course to enable them to function in the schools as they are at present. But at the same time, it aspired to produce innovative teachers ready and able to move the primary schools towards more progressive methods. This seems unrealistic: it is virtually impossible for new young teachers to act as change agents in schools which by their very nature are hierarchical institutions constrained by authority and community expectations. Until and unless the schools themselves are persuaded of the value of such changes, the new teachers will be powerless to effect them.