|Primary Teacher Education in Malawi: Insights into Practice and Policy (CIE, 2002, 144 p.)|
|Chapter 6: The Curriculum As Implemented During School-Based Training|
Staffing conditions at the schools was also one of the factors determining how much the schools could organise support from qualified teachers. In six out of thirteen schools visited, untrained teachers outnumbered qualified teachers. The conditions at the schools were such that it was possible in theory to provide different forms of support from the qualified teachers. However this proved difficult to realise because of the inability or unwillingness of most heads teachers to organise support systematically. In all but one school, teachers were paired i.e. two classes of the same grade were combined to make one larger class with two teachers. However the pairing was organised to reduce the load of all the teachers so that instead of teaching 45 periods per week, they had half or less of a teaching load, depending on the number of teachers per class. This clearly was not a training strategy to benefit the students. The partner was not obliged to stay on in the classroom while the student was teaching and vice versa. That is why most students were paired at random either with qualified teachers or fellow students.
There were some benefits from the lighter teaching loads resulting from pairing. Firstly, the students had time to concentrate on other MIITEP activities such as reading, and writing assignments and projects. Secondly, they had time to reflect on the day's work and had more time for planning the next day's work. Thirdly, taking into account the resource constraints, the students had more time to search for the teaching/learning aids which they needed. Teaching half a load also gave the students the opportunity to mark pupils' work and cope with the large numbers of pupils involved, and time to observe their partners teach. This could help gain practical skills and improve their class management. A final advantage accruing from pairing teachers in a class was that students were able to choose which subjects they wanted to teach first so that after gaining confidence they could switch to the remaining subjects. Students were teaching 4 to 5 subjects out of a possible 9. This arrangement allows a student to learn how to teach in phases drawing from the experiences of other teachers. However in schools where pairing was not possible because of low staffing levels students had to teach full loads.
Different students were experiencing different classroom conditions. In general not much had been organised to maximise their learning. Potentially, opportunities existed for qualified teachers to observe students or students to observe the other teachers and discuss classroom issues but little was done in this area. It appears students, qualified teachers and head teachers were not sufficiently knowledgeable on how best the existing classroom setting could be utilised to benefit the student. Part of the problem seemed to be that the respective roles of students and qualified teachers were not clear and that supportive trainer-student relationships arose more by chance than design. Though it was possible for class partners to arrange their own programme of support without waiting for the head to institute a school-wide approach, this did not seem to happen very much. Croft's study discusses in more detail how trainees can be supported when they team-teach with a qualified teacher. (Croft, 2002).