|Primary Teacher Education in Malawi: Insights into Practice and Policy (CIE, 2002, 144 p.)|
|Chapter 3: The Characteristics Of Students|
A number of issues can be highlighted.
First, the mean age of trainees is high at over 26 years. MIITEP trainees are adult learners. Not only have all taught for several years as untrained teachers, with the majority having more than 3 years experience, but many also have direct experience of their own young children. These attributes carry implications for the teacher education curriculum. Both the pedagogical style appropriate to adult learners and the content of learning should reflect the age of learners and their prior experience.
Second, the majority of trainees nationally are men, as are most primary teachers. The MIITEP trainees have been recruited in about the same ratio as the existing primary teaching force (60:40 male:female). MIITEP alone will therefore have little impact on overall sex ratios amongst primary teachers. For further exploration of this issue see Croft (2000).
Third, responses from the sampled students indicate that most tribes were represented, albeit in proportions reflecting the location of the colleges chosen. Three languages predominate among these students. The new language policy, however, advocates teaching the infant section of the primary school in the mother tongue. This implies that the college curriculum should prepare students accordingly, and makes the posting system potentially less flexible.
Fourth, Malawi is a religious nation divided between a large majority who are Christian and a significant minority who are Moslem. Amongst the Christian group there are more than ten denominations with different characters. Religious affiliation may shape students' attitudes to teaching, and to pedagogy and epistemology, which also have curriculum implications for training.
Fifth, the family backgrounds of trainees are diverse. In common with the general population, the largest groups are from rural backgrounds and their parents are in agriculture-based livelihoods. A small minority have professional parents. Small but significant numbers have teachers in their families. The educational background of parents follows a similar pattern with relatively few having completed qualifications above secondary level. Thus most trainees bring to the training process rather limited experience of formal schooling, and of the modern sector.
Sixth, the level of educational qualification of trainees is low. The majority are JCE holders and have not completed a full MSCE certificate. Moreover their levels of achievement in mathematics and English suggest that both these core subjects are difficult for this group. The language results are particularly problematic since MIITEP is taught in English and the medium of instruction above infant level is English.
Seventh, the images that trainees have of their school experience are rich and varied. Some are positive and some are negative. Many have been influenced in their attitudes to teaching by particular role models of good teachers. The prior experiences, and the hopes and fears of trainees derived from their previous experience, all shape how they will respond to the teacher education curriculum.
Eighth, trainees' aspirations and expectations indicate a mixed set of reasons for enrolling in MIITEP, ranging from enthusiasm and commitment to lack of alternative employment. They also suggest that, for a proportion, primary teaching is a stepping stone to acquiring higher qualifications and teaching in secondary schools. This proportion appears to increase during the period of training.
All these observations, and those contained in the research reported in the MUSTER Discussion papers, have implications for MIITEP in action. We now turn to examine the curriculum as intended and as realised.