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close this bookMalawi: A Baseline Study of the Teacher Education System (CIE, 1999, 47 p.)
close this folderChapter 4: Preliminary Analysis of the Teacher Education Curriculum in Malawi
View the document4.1 Preliminary Analysis of the Teacher Education Curriculum in Malawi

4.1 Preliminary Analysis of the Teacher Education Curriculum in Malawi

From the time government assumed control of teacher training the Ministry of Education has prescribed the curriculum to be followed in primary teacher education. Therefore all colleges offer the same kind of courses approved or dictated by the Ministry. The current curriculum is a result of the policies and strategies presented in the Second Education Development Plan, 1985-1995 (MOE, 1985) and the Statement of Development Policies, 1987-1996 (MG, 1987). The policies and strategies devised were in response to shortfalls in the previous primary school curriculum and the fact that it was now apparent that for the majority of the children, primary schooling would be terminal. The shortcomings as presented in the preceding chapter prompted the Ministry to adopt a community oriented primary school curriculum which would:

(a) focus on relevance to socio-economic and environmental needs
(b) inculcate ethical and socio-cultural traditions
(c) bring about functional literacy and numeracy

In addition the curriculum was also devised to reflect the aims of the Malawi Congress Party manifesto and statements made by the previous Head of State (Bisika, 1990). From all these presentations of different philosophies and contentions five categories of national goals of education in Malawi were formulated.

These are:

(a) citizenship skills
(b) ethical and socio-cultural skills
(c) economic development skills
(d) occupational skills
(e) practical skills

And from the broad national goals thirty-one primary school education objectives were drawn and stated in terms of student behaviours. The subjects that would do this effectively were (1) Agriculture (2) Chichewa (3) Creative arts (4) English (5) General Studies (6) Home Economics (7) Music (8) Needlecraft (9) Physical Education (10) Mathematics (11) Religious Education (12) Science and Heath Education and (13) Social Studies

Curriculum matrices for subject and period allocation across the standards were drawn. Some subjects are offered to particular standards only and there are other subjects which cannot be taken in combination by pupils.

Since teacher education was geared to equipping teachers with skills which enable them to implement the curriculum in primary schools 15 subject areas were identified for teacher education. The 15 subjects represent the core curriculum. They are (1) Agriculture (2) Chichewa (3) Creative arts (4) English (5) General Studies (6) Home Economics (7) Music (8) Foundations Studies (9) Physical Education (10) Mathematics(11) Religious Education(12) Science and Health Education (13) Social Studies (14) Malawi Young Pioneers (15) Teaching Practice.

This curriculum came into operation from 1990 to 1996. According to Hauya (1993) each subject on the curriculum was given a weighting reflecting the proportion of time to be spent on it. Table 4.1 shows period allocation per week and the weighting.

Table 4.1: 1990 Primary teacher education curriculum




1. Mathematics



2. Agriculture



3. Chichewa



4. English



5. General Studies



6. Social Studies



7. Science/Health



8. Physical Education



9. Creative Arts



10. Music



11. Home Economics



12. Religious Education



13. MYP



14. Foundation Studies



15. Teaching Practice



In this curriculum English, Chichewa, Mathematics and Foundation Studies receive relatively high weighting. This shows emphasis on permanent numeracy and literacy. Foundation Studies also takes precedence because it deals with learning theories and methodologies for effective teaching and learning. Second in emphasis are areas of Agriculture, Social Studies, Science/Health, Home Economics and teaching practice. Apart from the teaching practice the rest are areas which deal with life survival skills in communities. Primary education is seen as terminal to most children and therefore the curriculum accords this aspect of training due emphasis. Teaching practice itself is training for survival in the classroom and is therefore accorded equal weighting to community survival skills.

This curriculum has been implemented in a number of fashions depending on the demand and circumstances of teacher supply prevailing at particular periods. The problems associated with this curriculum at present have emanated from the way it has been implemented. The time given to cover the curriculum in the different programmes is one of the factors that may have far-reaching effects on the quality. For example the curriculum was designed to be delivered in two years but it is delivered in one year in the One-Year Special Teachers Programme and 3 years in MASTEP.

Another aspect worth considering is that the curriculum was designed to be delivered on a residential basis. In MASTEP different combinations of modes were employed using different curriculum materials all purporting to equip teachers with the required skills. The question to ask is do these really have the same effects? In addition the curriculum was designed to be delivered by college tutors with the help of school teachers during teaching practice. In MASTEP other educationists ranging from administrators to school inspectors have been involved. It would be interesting to investigate what effects the delivery by 'outsiders' has brought to the trainees. One should ask whether these 'trainers' do their work effectively considering the little amount of orientation they are given.

Originally the curriculum was targeted at school leavers with the necessary qualifications. In the other teacher training programmes candidates had varying teaching experiences and varying age ranges. The quality of the trainees also affects the effectiveness of a course. For example Nyirenda (1991) lamented the poor performance of T3 candidates in the One Year Special Programme. He attributed this to the wide age range (19-51 years) of the candidates and the poor quality of their JCE certificates. Therefore further analysis of the quality of trainees may lead to greater insight into the effectiveness of the curriculum. Under MIITEP the target is entrants with a school certificate (MSCE) but there are not enough candidates to fill the training capacity. This results in enrolling candidates with the lower junior certificate (JCE). MIITEP also has candidates with a wide range of ages like in the One Year Special Programme.

Udo Bude (1995) analysed the different teacher programmes and found that:

(a) The 2 year programme provided adequate time for covering the curriculum but the problem was that teacher production was slow.

(b) For the One-year Special Programme, pre-qualification teaching experience had some benefits but the curriculum was too long to be covered in a year.

(c) The MASTEP programme provided a way of involving as many stakeholders as possible in teacher training but these were not adequately prepared or oriented for their tasks.

(d) In the One Year Modified Programme the concept of addressing cost-effectiveness was evident but the time was too short for the curriculum and tutors had not been adequately oriented to the programme.

Similar analyses involving the trained teachers in their posts would be informative on how the curriculum combined with the mode of delivery and the school culture help mould teachers to be what they are. Table 4.2 below is an example of comparisons of four teacher education programmes over the past decade.

Table 4.2: A comparison of teacher training programmes






Student age range Females


22yrs-49 yrs



Duration of Residential

5 1/2 terms

5 months

25 weeks

3 months(1 term)


Slow production of teachers

· Long syllabus
· Low calibre students

· Self-study materials
· Ill prepared tutors
· Time too long

· meeting target
· availability of student Handbooks

Teaching experience


2-12 yrs


1 yr

Supervised T/P

6 weeks

6 weeks All passed

3 terms = (9 months) 6 (failed)

5 terms (211 months)


2 yrs

1 yr



Pass rate





Nominal Costs/student



75% on student salaries K12050.98/yr



· continuous
· End of course exam

· continuous in English only
· End of course Exam

· continuous
· End of course Exam

· continuous
· End of course

Sources: CERT (1995); MASTEP (1994); Udo Bude (1995); MIE (1990); Nyirenda (1991); MIE/UNDP/UNESCO (1990); TDU (1996).

· From 1993 Malawi experienced major socio-political changes which warranted serious reviews to the 1988 primary school and teacher education curricula. A preliminary analysis of the MIITEP curriculum reveals that some new topics have been added to the old curriculum:

· Firstly, emphasis is placed on school-based training which is a marked departure from the previous teacher training courses.

· Secondly, there are now more issues relating to population and environment arising from the current high rate of population growth estimated at 3.3% per annum and the alarming rate of environmental degradation.

· Thirdly, Malawi has also lagged behind in its economic growth because of high mortality and fertility rates. The MIITEP curriculum addresses these issues quite comprehensively.

· Fourthly, gender issues have been incorporated into the curriculum to sensitise the teachers and school children to the importance of involving women in all sectors of life as equal partners to men.

· Fifthly, civic education is also featured in MIITEP to highlight the socio-political changes that have occurred since 1993.

· Sixthly, practical skills have been given a new dimension where teachers are encouraged to value such skills because most pupils they are going to teach will not continue their education after primary school. The subject MYP has since been removed because of its pro single party propaganda.

· Seventhly, increasingly special needs pupils are enrolling in school and this requires teachers to be able to handle such cases without discrimination. MIITEP has a section on this to equip teachers with the necessary skills.

· Eighthly, a topic on the scourge AIDS is now included in MIITEP considering that only very few communities in the country have remained unaffected by HIV-AIDS. Is it hoped that in this way teachers could become 'life savers'.

· Last but not least the MIITEP curriculum includes community-school relationships in order for teachers to acquire skills of mobilising communities to participate in school development (TDU, 1995; Tlou, 1996).

The primary school curriculum and books need a revision to reflect some of these changes. This time the teacher education has responded to the socio-political changes rather than following what the primary school curriculum offers. In all the new education policy and framework for education has maintained the goals and aims of education stipulated in the 1985-1995 education development plan but has set out different specific targets to achieve by 2005.