|The Costs and Financing of Teacher Education in Malawi (CIE, 2000, 57 p.)|
Primary teacher education in Malawi is in crisis. The MIITEP system of training adopted since 1997 has succeeded in completing the training of three cohorts of untrained teachers. Three cohorts are in the training system but the completion of their programme is hampered by lack of agreement about continued funding. Cohort 4 is currently enrolled for its final residential period. A seventh cohort has yet to be enrolled. A direct consequence is that the pupil per qualified teacher ratio will rise from its already very high levels to exceed 80:1. This will jeopardise the achievement of the Free Primary Education policy.
The recent commitment to give priority to teacher education through the establishment of a Directorate, a phased increase in budgetary allocation, and new investment in the Training Colleges and their staffing is to be welcomed. It is accompanied by a review by the Ministry and donor partners intended to shape developments in teacher education. This analysis draws attention to a range of issues. These include the following.
First, analysis of primary teacher supply and demand leads to a clear conclusion that only a method of delivery capable of yielding in excess of 7,500 teachers per year will come close to servicing the targets identified in the PIF which are consistent with those generated by our own projections. Current primary TTC capacity is of the order of 2,500 students. Under the MIITEP system, with three-month residential blocks, three cohorts can be accommodated each year. Other modes of training including longer residential periods could only reach these levels of output if several additional TTCs are constructed and staffed. They would have substantially higher recurrent costs than MIITEP.
Second, the number of staff in the primary teacher training colleges is dwindling. It is currently thought to be about 15014 across 6 colleges. About half are within a five years of retirement, many are under-qualified, and morale is disturbingly low. Currently there appear to be no plans to renew the cadre systematically. Within two years it seems probable that staffing in the TTCs will fall below the levels that would be necessary to service MIITEP or any successor programme.
14 TDU estimate March 2000
Third, teacher training college infrastructure has been degraded by persistent under-funding and irregular release of the recurrent non-salary budget. Maintenance has not occurred (to the point where a TTC has been closed for lack of working sanitary facilities). Learning materials aside from MIITEP handbooks are often absent or out of date, and other kinds of equipment often broken or not available.
Fourth, school-based supervision and support for MIITEP trainees is expensive. The research evidence from MUSTER suggests that it is not consistently arranged, coverage is poor, and the value it adds to the training of students is debatable. The exception is that zonal workshops are generally well received and thought useful.
Fifth, teacher education curriculum material has a range of strengths and weaknesses. Learning and teaching in the Colleges varies widely in quality and consistency with MIITEP goals. Co-ordinated curriculum management and trainee-centred learning activities are not prevalent and articulation between the College-based programme and subsequent field-based support appears weak.
Sixth, analysis of the assessment strategy and final examination papers leads to some cause for concern that what is tested may not reach desirable levels of validity and reliability. It is important that MIITEP desired outcomes are reflected in assessment related to certification.
It is not the purpose of this report to lead to detailed proposals for the future of MIITEP, or its successor. That is a task for the MOESC and its donor partners. Nevertheless, it is important to outline some key conclusions that arise from this analysis of costs and finance and other parts of the MUSTER research programme. These we argue should be considered when the regeneration of the teacher education system is considered. The establishment of a Teacher Education Directorate tasked with the development and implementation of policy creates the opportunity to bring coherence, medium term stability, and real quality to a much neglected but crucial component of the education system.
Our analysis identifies several critical areas where new policy related to primary teacher education is needed. To be meaningful decisions on policy cannot be separated from programmed activities and their associated resource requirements. Three issues stand out.
First, a decision on the continuation of MIITEP or its successor can no longer wait without cumulative damage to the quality of primary schooling and a deterioration in performance against most if not all the relevant PIF indicators. Teacher training has effectively been suspended as demand grows.
Second, methods of training substantially different to MIITEP have yet to emerge which can satisfy what appear to be the fundamental requirements. These are the capacity to produce 7,000 or more teachers a year, unit costs no higher than MIITEP costs, and sufficient continuity with existing methods to allow quality improvement. The last point is important. A radical shift to alternative methods of training would require extensive reorientation of all those involved and would negate the investment to date in support infrastructure for teacher education. Substantial change would need several years to develop new materials and retrain staff at all levels. We note that lengthened periods of in-College training unambiguously imply higher unit costs, lower output, and substantial transitional demands during a change over period. It may be better to persist with an improved version of the existing programme than to seek an as yet unidentified alternative.
Third, the research indicates that MIITEP, or its successor, could be reinvigorated and modified in ways which could reduce costs, maintain output, and encourage focus on achievable goals that would improve quality. In brief a strategy to achieve this would address the following issues systematically as an integrated set of concerns in several arenas.
Arena 1. - Policy
A consistent medium term plan for teacher education does not exist. The training system cannot be developed in a sustainable way without clear commitments over time which allow enrolment planning, accumulation of expertise, the development of efficient and effective institutional infrastructure, and systematic quality improvement.
A consensus is needed that the nature of the demand for primary teacher training precludes some options that might otherwise be desirable. The choice is simple and should be made. It is between methods that can produce trained teachers in sufficient quantity to meet demand, and those which might improve quality but will dramatically reduce the number of pupils with access to teachers with any training at all.
The arrangements for the co-financing primary teacher education between the MOESC and its partners need agreement. Predictable flows of external assistance are needed over an appropriate period. Without these it is unlikely that PIF targets are feasible. It may also be that the gains of the past will be eroded.
Policy on funding and accountability should be revisited. Current practice in funding the operational expenditure of the TTCs creates bottlenecks in the flow of funds and unrealistic allocations for learning and teaching infrastructure. It absorbs wholly disproportionate amounts of senior management time. It is unclear why more simplified and predictable arrangements cannot be put in place for the small number of TTCs. We understand grant-aided schools self-manage audited budgets that do not suffer the same inefficiencies and irregular flow of funds. Similar arrangements might be considered for the TTCs.
Arena 2 - Colleges
Decisions on the future of the TTCs. A window of opportunity exists to renew the cadre of teacher educators, rehabilitate buildings and infrastructure, and generate developmental TTCs that could have a real impact on the quality of learning and teaching.
Without a substantial programme to identify, train and appoint a new generation of College lecturers, the primary TTCs capacity will degrade rapidly as a result of attrition amongst existing faculty. Addressing this need is of the highest priority since any such programme may take several years to come to fruition if it is to be of quality. It might well be accompanied by targeted staff development for existing faculty far enough from retirement for investment in new skills to be worthwhile.
Part of any regeneration of the cadre of primary College lecturers should recognise the need to attract and retain high quality staff. Current salary levels do not seem sufficient for this purpose. If it is intended to up-grade the education level of lecturers to graduate status and to re-profile lecturers' jobs towards a more demanding set of professional responsibilities then greater incentives and rewards will have to be considered.
The learning environment in the TTCs is generally inadequate to support quality teacher education. It also demoralises staff and trainees. Needs differ but with imaginable amounts of investment in rehabilitation, extension of facilities, and appropriate re-equipment, a transformation is possible.
Further, the TTCs could be staffed and resourced to be regionally located centres for professional development as well as initial training. They could complement TDCs and other facilities in a way that is not currently possible. They could take on developmental responsibilities with others (e.g. PEAs) to improve access, retention and quality in clusters of schools associated with the TTCs. This could generate new synergies and closer links between TTC staff and the realities of the schools for which they are preparing trainees.
Strategic support to revitalise College management and re-orientate it towards effective learning and teaching is critical. Without stable and purposeful leadership directed towards clear goals institutional development will be unpredictable and sporadic. We understand turnover of College principals is high, new appointments have no initial or subsequent management training, and external sources of advice and support are unclear. No TTC appears to have a strategic plan, which would create direction and focus energy towards agreed goals. TTCs will only establish themselves as centres of excellence if senior management teams have the skills and commitment to make this a reality.
Arena 3 Curriculum Issues
College curricula are established and materials have been developed. In the short term there would seem no realistic alternative but to continue using the MIITEP handbooks, which are the main resource. If there is some assurance of their use beyond cohort 7 it becomes attractive to address areas of weakness or omission in the curriculum and support enrichment e.g. language and study skills, mathematics (see Stuart and Kunje, 2000). Full-scale revision of the handbooks would not seem purposeful unless or until a convincing case is made which would justify the costs and identify the benefits.
The current system of field support is over-ambitious and demonstrably ineffective. In particular College visiting of trainees in school often does not occur and when it does can be fragmented and incomplete and focused solely on assessment. The main reasons for this are structural. The logistics preclude frequent visiting with a developmental purpose. PEA visiting is characteristically accomplished in the context of whole school development visits. These realities lead to the suggestion that these field support activities are reconsidered and integrated into the normal work of PEAs. This can and should be complemented by support from Headteachers who have a responsibility for managing, developing, and appraising all their staff. Modifying the arrangements as suggested would release TTC staff to concentrate on College-based quality improvement, development activity focused on the area local to the TTC, and would increase efficiency and reduce costs by eliminating duplication. TTC staff might also play a role in training and professional support for PEAs.
The load created by the assessment strategy adopted is substantial. It is not clearly justified by the contribution it makes to effective professional development, or the selection of those unsuited to teaching. Final examinations are expensive. It is important that they are reliable and valid indicators of learning. Modest investments in quality improvement in this area should pay dividends.
In conclusion, the analysis reported in this paper does identify exciting possibilities for ways forward that would transform what is a deteriorating situation in primary teacher education. The MUSTER studies indicate both the strengths and weaknesses of the current system. What has been achieved should not be undervalued, nor should the difficulty of the task ahead be under-estimated. The TTC system is small, but it can be transformed with vision and insight. This is critical to the main planks of MOESC policy on primary education development.