|Lesotho: A Baseline Study of the Teacher Education System (CIE, 2000, 83 p.)|
|Chapter Six: The Quality and Effectiveness of Teacher Education|
This chapter will discuss some of the assumptions made about trainees when they join the teacher training college in terms of their qualifications, motivations, and attitudes. While there are no simple ways to measure the effectiveness of the training, some relevant factors will be discussed.
Several assumptions are made about trainees when they join teacher-training courses. These assumptions are made by the public in general, by the tutors at the college, and even by the students themselves. These include completion of high school at a certain level, language skills, and appropriate motivation.
Applicants to the teacher training institutions are expected to have the basic knowledge that will enable them to grasp what the college/university will give them in terms of lectures and assignments. This is why the teacher training institutions stipulate their entry requirements so that the applicants are aware of the type and calibre of person the college wants to train. The assumption is that the would-be-teachers have the basic knowledge required for each course they want to enrol in; for example, a student intending to register for the Primary Teachers course must have 2 credits and 3 passes at COSC, whereas for the Secondary Teachers Course they ought to have 4 credits. The college and the public also assume that student teachers have a working comprehension of the English language so that they may be able not only to follow courses, but also to be able to do research, and read and understand what is written in books. The expectation is that such knowledge will enable trainees to develop in the children they will teach, latent potentialities that these children have, because they themselves will have been challenged to think on the job and be critical thinkers rather than mere recipients of content taught at the college.
The College assumes that the entrants into the college do fulfill these criteria. The screening process is tight so as to ensure that those who eventually form part of the college have been carefully selected. The college has a pre-entry interview system in place, as it is not enough to assume that high marks obtained in the school leaving examinations alone are good predictors of suitable candidates for teacher education. If this pre-entry interview system were followed up seriously, it would be a very good practice, but as we shall see later, this is not always the case.
6.2.1 Lack of Motivation
Another assumption about trainees is their apparent lack of motivation. Tutors complain that the trainees are not generally motivated because:
(i) They (the trainees) do not seem to exert themselves whole-heartedly in their studies. This is proved by their mediocre performance in tests, assignments and examinations, and late submission of assignments.
(ii) There is apathy concerning the English language - students do not want to speak it, hence generally in the college, English stays in the classroom, it is not used outside the classroom.
(iii) Even in extramural activities, the NTTC is not shining. There are playgrounds but no dedication.
Another factor that might contribute to the low morale is the fact that remuneration for teaching is low and therefore not encouraging to prospective teachers. In other words, there are no incentives for the teaching profession. Teachers unlike their counterparts elsewhere, do not have access to incentives such as car loans. No wonder there is a lack of motivation in the trainees and their trainers. Lefoka and Molises (1998) preliminary findings from the study: "Plunging into Teaching: The Case of Post-Primary School Teachers" clearly indicates that those who are teaching without a professional certificate join for a number of reasons. Some of the reasons they gave centred on lack of jobs in the country, as well as having been socialized into teaching to such an extent that they felt it was easy to teach. Some of these findings might hold even for those who apply for teacher training.
Many trainees end up doing teaching, not so much because they initially wanted to be teachers, but because they had no other job options. This is evidenced by the fact that once the trained teachers get other job openings, some trainees leave and join services such as the police and the military forces. A tracer study would give more insight into this issue.
6.3.1 It is easy to get a teaching job
One significant feature of Lesothos education system is the large number of people teaching in Lesotho primary and secondary schools without a professional certificate (see chapters 2 and 3). The proprietors of schools are free to employ private teachers, who are mostly unqualified, to take up teaching positions and they are paid from the funds that the school generates. This practice comes as a result of lack of financial grants from government. The condition for allocating more teaching posts to any school is the size of the school: the larger the size of the school the more teaching posts/grants.
Schools sometimes continue to employ private teachers because they are cheaper to pay. Therefore it can be easier for an unqualified teacher to get a job than for a qualified teacher because parents might find it difficult to pay a salary of a qualified teacher.
6.3.2 Teaching is easy
Prospective students tend to assume that teaching is an easy thing to do. When new entrants come to the college and start attending classes, it is then that they realize that teaching is not easy after all. They find it difficult to complete assignments on time and some fail the tests or find teaching practice difficult. They might have done teaching as "amateurs" before joining the college, but they discover that professional teaching is not at all easy and demands rigorous training.
The college lecturers as well as the schools where student teachers go for their teaching practice tend to assume that entrants have had a teaching experience of any kind. Much too often little time is spent on teaching trainees simple things like blackboard writing as it is taken for granted that they know how to use the chalk and the chalkboard. When the trainees go for teaching practice, a lot is also taken for granted by the schools they teach in, both by the teachers and the pupils. The schools assume that the trainees have acquired pedagogical skills including knowledge about the assessment and evaluation of pupils. Experience has taught the college supervisors that the students do not get much help from the co-operating teacher and the principal of the school. Student teachers are instead loaded with duties and responsibilities and they are unwittingly turned into resource persons even before they master teaching.
In a way, people in schools are justified in thinking that NTTC interns are "jacks of all trades" because the college is supposed to prepare its products well for teaching practice and for actual teaching. Theoretically, the college challenges its students to become all-rounders out in the field, but in practice, due to "pressure of work," many of the academic staff adopt a content-transmission mode in their approach to lecturing. There is little evidence of efforts to develop innovative divergent problem-solving skills on the part of staff or students (Burke and Sugrue, 1994).
The quantity of applicants is more than adequate since the NTTC is the only teacher training college in the country. According to the NTTC Registrars office, and that of Admissions there are more applicants than the college can handle. The NTTC draws from the same pool as that of the university and other tertiary institutions. The number of applicants shows that the competition for entrance into the College is fierce since the college has the whole country to select from.
The capacity of the college is now being increased through the erection of new dormitory blocks as well as classrooms. Research might be needed to investigate the extent to which the college is used, especially whether or not it is used to its full capacity.
As far as the Secondary Teacher Certificate is concerned, some of the students who are admitted to the programme are of the same calibre as those admitted into the university. Others, though, have fewer credits than those admitted into the university, or have failed English or have only a pass in English. As a result, they gain entrance into the university after doing well in the STC programme. One would expect that these students who have spent three years at the NTTC would at least be admitted into the second year at the university, but they are treated like fresh COSC students and take the full four years to obtain a degree. So in total it takes them seven years or more to get a degree (sometimes two years teaching experience is required). One wonders what the NTTC is for if not upgrading students all round. If the university questions the NTTC programmes, since the NTTC is an affiliate of the university, one would expect that the university would take care to ensure that the college maintains acceptable standards. Perhaps one emerging issue is the status of NTTC as an autonomous college, given these perspectives.
As far as maturity and personal qualities of students are concerned, the NTTC has the same problem as other tertiary institutions. Nowadays, the students are getting younger and younger. If it were not for people who have already taught before coming to the NTTC, the image of the College would be that of preparing adolescents to be teachers. Luckily, there are more mature people at the NTTC because of the Diploma students. The PTCs and the STCs are definitely younger and less mature and therefore their motivation is questionable.
There is a voluntary Induction Programme (IP) of the National University of Lesotho, which supports Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTS) in Lesotho. The programme is part of the in-service programme of the Science Education Department in the Faculty of Education (FED) at NUL. It aims at helping all the Secondary School Teachers who graduate from NUL, Lesotho Agriculture College and NTTC to fit well in the schools and learn how to teach and reflect on themselves. But the primary school teachers are not yet part of this programme.
During the first year of teaching Beginning Teachers (BTs) have the following support:
A teacher mentor is attached to each BT in school. This mentor oversees everything at school level and acts as an Induction Programme Coordinator (IP) in the school. Among other things she observes BTs in the classroom, helps them to get used to the school environment, to use self reflection tools produced by IP, and provides counselling to the BT where need be.
It has to be noted though that BTs also get support from the IP staff through school visits and seminars and workshops. The visits are found valuable since it is during such visits that the IP staff help to establish the relation between the BT and the Mentor Teachers (MTs). Seminars on the other hand give BTs an opportunity to share their experience about school life, to discuss ways of addressing some of these experiences and to be informed about the Ministry of Education set up and activities.
There are several gaps regarding the programme which need to be filled up still. Currently, the programme is on a "voluntary basis" and this position poses threats to the continuity of the programme. But the primary school teachers have expressed interest in the programme although the chances of including them are not very positive since the institution that runs the programme only trains secondary school teachers. It is apparent that there is no formal scheme for providing the primary school system with such benefits.
There are different views concerning the quality of the NTTC entrants. On the positive side, according to the Registrars and the Admissions Offices, there is so much competition for places at the NTTC that, even though the stated entry requirements for PTC are COSC with two credits and three passes, in practice more credits are required due to a high level of competition. The college even has students who are university material because of the number of credits they have. There has, therefore, been a lot of improvement as far as the quality of students is concerned.
The other view is expressed by Burke and Sugrue (1994), who indicate that the quality of candidates entering for PTC is one of the most serious issues which both the Ministry of Education and NTTC have to face. They note that "students achievement level at point of entry set a ceiling to what can be accomplished with them in the training programme" (p.37) and they argue that these students necessitate the allocation of a large proportion of college time in order to upgrade the second level content areas. Their major concern relates to cost since they observe that topping up the second level education at a third level institution has a unit cost on average seven times higher than the provision of the same in high school.
According to the one-to-one interviews with two very senior officers at the NTTC, the methods of selecting trainee teachers at the NTTC are both appropriate and reliable. A certain caliber of students is admitted and there are rigorous interviews so that the careful screening of students may be assured.
However, others think that in spite of all the measures taken to ensure that the best candidates are admitted into the college, the methods of selection leave much to be desired. Even up to 1997 there were students who got into the College, as it were, through the back door. They were Junior Certificate holders who could hardly manage to go through the first year of training even though they had teaching experience. This anomaly is due to corruption. In other words, there must be some members of staff who know how to push such students in through the back door.
What needs to be done to remedy the situation is to check the students time after time to ensure that those who have been admitted do in fact possess the necessary entry qualifications. Already, the academic calibre of entrants holding COSC and admitted into the PTC programme is in question. Burke and Sugrue, (1994: 37) make the following observation:
The most serious drawback of entrants to PTC programmes is their lack of facility in English. While candidates with Junior Certificate only are no longer accepted, and the standard of entry has improved, it is still possible for students to gain entry without a pass in English. Such students experience considerable difficulty in comprehending lectures through English, in completing assignments and sitting examinations. Ultimately their language shortcoming will hamper their teaching out in the schools.
Other emerging issues that could be looked into in detail in other research projects include exploring the use of the NTTC capacity, the affiliation between the College and the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and the induction programme:
· Is the NTTC used to full capacity?
One wonders whether it is not possible to maximise the potential of NTTC by utilising all its buildings all the time throughout the entire year. Physical facilities such as the library and classrooms could be used for learning and teaching through evening classes for continuing education students.
· NUL and NTTC affiliation
The formal relationship between NUL and NTTC leaves much to be desired. The university, as already indicated in other chapters, approves the college programmes and its Senate is responsible for approving the College examination results, yet admitting the NTTC students to NUL is very difficult. One gets the impression that NUL "belittles" the graduates of the College although it approves of its programmes. Perhaps College autonomy will be an answer to some of the concerns raised about the affiliation.
· Formal induction scheme for primary school teachers
The need for an induction programme for the primary school teachers cannot be over-emphasised as prospective teachers in any level of teaching need to start their profession on the right footing. With the phasing out of PTC and the offering of diploma programmes one feels that the need for maintaining high standards is even greater. Future research projects might explore the feasibility of offering this programme as part of the training of a primary school teacher.
· The NTTC Diploma programmes
The College is changing its programmes by phasing out old and introducing new programmes. Recently, the College has begun offering two types of diploma programme. One such programme is aimed at upgrading those teachers who enrolled for the Primary Teaching Certificate and the other is offered for those students who do not hold a teaching certificate. There is a feeling that students who enroll in the upgrading diploma are discriminated against in favour of those who enroll for the new diploma. There is a need to engage in an intensive study that looks very closely at the curriculum for the two programmes and the way this curriculum is enacted in both groups.