– Janak Raj Pant
In Nepal, we have a lot of trainings in which we discuss the modern teaching techniques and learner centered teaching. Although, in its School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP), the Ministry of Education (MOE) has focused on the teacher professional development, still teaching learning activities have largely remained the same i.e. traditional teacher-dominated classroom activities. Although we reiterate, in theory, that we should move from the eastern highly strict teaching methods with due importance on the teachers’ role to the students’ and from rote learning to discovery and innovative, explanation and oratory to activity, the current situation shows that we could neither maintain our originality nor incorporate the innovative practices and standing in the transition with a high risk on making the situation even worse. This situation has made us critically reflect and explore the root causes behind this: if there is something we can do with our teacher training to make it more effective?
Against this brief backdrop, in this article I present my reflective note which focuses on my teacher training experience for different institutions and organizations in Nepal including NELTA. My reflection is based on face-to-face interactions with teachers, trainers, education officers working for different I/NGOs in different teacher training programmes in Tanahu, Dhanusha, Kapilbastu, Baglung, Surkeht and so on. In addition, I also draw on the field observation of a number of schools in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Lamjung, Makwanpur, Kaski, Kailali, Sindhuli, and Kaverplanchwok. Mostly my reflection represents the situation of teacher trainings in community (public) schools in the country.
Basically, I have tried to focus on the existing gaps and limitations in teacher training with an intention to initiate ‘thought for actions’ for improvements. Some major needs and ideas for addressing challenges are also mentioned briefly.
Presently there is little uniformity among the teacher training courses and programs. So far our state agencies have not been able to monitor the teacher training courses and programs implemented by different organizations in terms of their relevance, need and quality. It is bizarre to mention that your expertise and the standard evaluated to be a teacher trainer. In many cases, I have seen that the Teachers’ Professional Development (TPD) courses are developed overnight including the content that comes on the top of one’s head rather than from teachers’ needs analysis. This has made teacher training programs unfocused and ritual.
We have not been able to make our teacher training courses/programs consistent and uniform within and across institution. So-called trainers have been using different modules and content according to their convenience and capacities without considering their impacts and relevance in teaching and learning. My observation is that there must be at least some kind of perceived sense of standard for which everybody should try hard to achieve and therefore, not facilitating training with the content that comes in his/her mind but with some preparation, planning and reflections of their working context.
In the training programmes, we rely mostly on awfully limited materials. Frequently, we notice the trainers using the same training sessions in all the places and times not because the context and need is the same but because the trainer is good at that particular bit that he/she got from another trainer. And the trainer asks our teachers to generalize them in rest of the context. It is good to ask them to generalize but it is not fair to ask them to generalize something we fear to do and fear to bring into a broader discussion. So, another major gap in the field of teacher training is the fear to accept we are not enough and we do not have enough materials. I think first we as trainers need to be ready to accept our weakness and work hard to enhance our skills and explore resources. To this end, we can work with the teachers collaboratively and share resources with them so that they feel that what they are trying to do is new and worthwhile for improving their situation. By doing this, they feel proud of what they have created and will be able to convey the message to other teaches as well. But so far, it has not been possible not because it cannot be accomplished but because we did not try to do it. I have felt that there is we need to develop a a resource center where teachers have access to updated materials that they can read and use in the classroom. They can produce something like that in their own effort as well.
Coordination and collaboration?
There is lack of coordination among the teacher education organizations. All the organizations have their own resources. They are doing the same job in their own. What if they do it together and share it for the larger number of teachers. Instead of doing the same thing ten times, we can do the same thing accumulating all the efforts in the same place so as to make it very effective and uniform. This will foster the culture of collaboration among the organizations working with the same objectives.
Follow-up and support?
For the effective use of knowledge and skills gained during the training, trainees need frequent follow up and support based on the action plan prepared at the end of the training. It also exerts some positive pressure for training transformation. But unfortunately in many cases I have noticed that the action plans for the implementation of the training are rarely prepared. Majority of training programs lack comprehensive follow-up plans as well. And where the follow-up is conducted the support mechanism and time remains vague. The Government Resource Persons who are responsible for the regular supervision and support to the teachers have the responsibility of covering more than 32 schools in average, which is impossible for an expert to make observation and provide substantial input to teachers on their teaching skills.
Continuation and conformity?
Teacher professional development is not something that takes place in the form of an event e.g. marriage. It is something that occurs as an ongoing process. The teacher training programs we conduct need to be based on previous training, should start from what teachers practiced in different contexts, how they are using them, what were easy and what were challenging to implement in practice. Having reflected on the previous training and making it stronger in action, we can step ahead with further training. Most of the trainings we have currently are not based of previous experience and we always make a fresh start. Our trainings always begin with and dismissed in the middle, before they get matured. We remain always immature in our action and the impacts we intend to make are not seen. That is what most of our teachers are experiencing.
One of the most important features of teacher training is to what extent its effectiveness becomes visible in the classroom. The trends in our teacher training are not focused enough in this regard. The teacher themselves are supposed to be the only responsible agent for the transformation of the training. What about the trainers and training providing organizations’ role? How many of the trainers contact their teachers in this regard?
So my feeling is that teacher training has been taken very lightly and the job of training has become just a recreational project, something done for pleasure rather than for making professional impact. It is important for all the teacher educators and teacher educators’ organizations to have teacher training policy guidelines first.
I sometimes feel, maybe it is worth having a conference on teacher educators’ organizations in Nepal to develop a common teacher education policy guidelines to make them responsible for their actions and impacts.