|Primary Teacher Education in Malawi: Insights into Practice and Policy (CIE, 2002, 144 p.)|
A wide range of methods were used to collect data on the research questions. Survey instruments were used to establish the characteristics and perspectives on training and teaching of those beginning MIITEP, those completing the programme, and those who had been teaching for six months after qualifying. Intensive fieldwork took place in two colleges. This involved interviews with staff designed to illuminate patterns of career development and training of tutors, their attitudes to training, their perceptions of good teaching and of the qualities of trainees, their espoused theories, and their working practices. Observations of the training process were conducted to establish how tutors organised learning and teaching, and how this compared with approaches advocated in curriculum materials. Focus group discussions were conducted with students at each college and centred around the status of teachers in the community, students' previous teaching experience, their learning experiences in college and their preparedness as teachers. The data was triangulated with data from questionnaires and observations to add to the authenticity of its interpretation.
School-based fieldwork was arranged in three periods to complement the college-based data collection. Student trainees were interviewed and observed teaching to gain insight into their performance and the nature of support they received from schools. A classroom observation schedule was used and focus group discussions were conducted to find out how the students were coping in their work and to establish their aspirations and fears about college work. In addition a selection of head teachers and Primary Education Advisors (PEAs) were interviewed to explore how the school-based elements of MIITEP were working and how training might be improved.
Interviews were conducted at the Malawi National Examinations Board (MANEB) to gain insight into aspects of the assessment system and the performance of student teachers. Some testing was undertaken in the colleges, and MANEB examination papers and results were analysed. An analysis of curriculum materials was also undertaken focusing on the five student Handbooks, a Teacher Trainers Source Book, and an opportunistic sample of end-of-course examinations, assignments and projects. This provided a systematic overview of content and its organisation, and allowed judgements to be made of the appropriateness and cognitive demand levels of parts of the programme.
Data on costs was collected from the MoEST, the TDU, Divisional offices and from college level scrutiny of accounts. Principals and bursars were interviewed. National accounts and contributions from external agencies were scrutinized to build up a picture of how resources were allocated and how they were disbursed. Alongside this, enrolment and other school census data was used to develop models of supply and demand that could be used to project future training needs.
The research took place during a period of rapid change in many areas. Political transition to multiparty government had created high expectations of educational reforms and Free Primary Education. Inevitably not all that was promised could be delivered in the short term. MIITEP suffered from a long period of gestation where much of the infrastructure and many of the inputs necessary to make it a reality were slow to materialise. The research was conducted against a backdrop of some confusion about chains of responsibility for different aspects of MIITEP, lagged development of MIITEP materials, weak and sometimes contradictory flows of information about what was supposed to be happening and when, and irregular flows of finance to support both college and school-based activities. Attempts to decentralise educational administration added to the turbulence surrounding MIITEP, as did the changing form of the national Plan Implementation Framework (PIF).
This research commenced in 1998 after MIITEP was developed and cohorts of trainees were selected, but before it reached full-scale implementation. Fieldwork had to be adapted to the exigencies of the changing timetable for MIITEP. Often planned activities were rescheduled at short notice, or simply cancelled, making it difficult to follow a systematic data collection plan. The time scale of the research could not allow longitudinal samples for purposes of exploring change over time as a result of training, and cross-sectional data was the only realistic option.
Further difficulties arose from the incomplete, inaccurate, and sometimes non-existent records held by colleges, schools, district offices, and central agencies on MIITEP trainees. Tracing students into schools was very problematic. Profiling some of the characteristics of the cohorts was possible from the central data base, though this suffered from infrequent updating. It was also clear from interviews and fieldwork that in the early stages the MIITEP system was only partially understood by trainers and trainees. Some trainees had difficulties expressing themselves, and addressing general issues and broad debates about the nature of their training, and this posed problems in interpreting the data.
Finally, the MIITEP programme stalled in 1999 when funds were exhausted in advance of the scheduled completion dates and the return of the sixth cohort of students to college was delayed. Teacher training was effectively suspended for about two years whilst the arrangements were renegotiated. The programme resumed in a modified form towards the latter part of 2001.