Teaching the teachersImprovement in education not possible without enriching teachers’ skills
The national assessment of students’ achievement shows that the level of achievement of students in public schools in Nepal is extremely low. The reason behind this poor performance is simple: students are not receiving quality education in public schools. This is because teachers do not receive adequate training.
In Nepal, the term ‘Teacher Professional Development’ (TPD) started becoming popular only after the School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP) was implemented in 2066 BS. After the implementation of the plan, in-service teacher training was termed as TPD module in which each teacher was required to attend at least a month’s training programme in three phases. Today, the structure of the training has been altered, but the name remains the same. The main aim of the programme is to assist teachers in their professional development.
Numerous efforts have been made to make teaching a preferred and respectable profession. Some notable efforts are: the necessity provision of teacher license, job security, opportunities for career development, provision of fringe benefits including pension and gratuity and the establishment of a national teacher service commission. These have motivated people to pursue the teaching career as professionals.
But being a teacher is not an easy job. Apart from other things, he/she should enjoy gathering and sharing practice and he/she should have team work skills and tremendous patience. This means, the teachers need to be continually updated regarding their learning. For the same, they need Continuing Professional Development (CPD). A teacher needs to take responsibility for his/her own professional development and the government needs to make available the opportunities for their professional development. Another approach one can adopt to improve one’s teaching practice is by mentoring novice teachers who work under the close guidance and supervision of an experienced teacher.
Although this is not formally recognised in Nepal, there are practices in almost all the schools where novice teachers time and again consult with senior teachers regarding their teaching learning activities. The teachers attending the in-service teacher training in Nepal also need to do research work. One popular research type is action research, where teachers themselves search for the solutions to the problems they are facing in their teaching. They figureout the problem, explore the reasons, and try to find solutions to see whether that brings changes or not. This is a method of reflective learning. Teachers can avail of different professional organisations too to better their craft and become professionally sound. These professional organisations can be great platforms where teachers can learn from each other.
The most widely used way of assisting teachers in Nepal for their professional development is teacher training. Teacher training, particularly the in-service teacher training has a long history in Nepal. Almost all the education projects in Nepal have training as one of their major components. The latest one, School Sector Development Plan has also regarded training as one of the major interventions for quality education. There is a lot of investment in school education but the outcome, however, has not been satisfactory. The low achievement level of the students shows that much is still needed to be done—particularly in the teaching-learning practice.
A major component of the teaching-learning practice is the teacher and thus if we want to see improvement in the teaching-learning practice, we should be supporting the teachers. There are some ways of assisting teachers in their continuing professional development. The first thing that needs to be done is revise the existing teacher development curriculum, both in-service and pre-service. Teacher training should have a practical approach where trainers don’t just tell teachers the do’s and the don’t’s; instead, they should demonstrate how to conduct the lessons. The major reason behind the low transfer of teaching capabilities to the actual classroom is the modality of training delivery. Trainers need to demonstrate how to deliver a particular content to students. This way, the trainee teachers will actually see the ‘how’ aspect and they will be able to replicate the same in their classroom.
However, the responsibility of conducting a class well does not rest entirely on the trainers. The teachers themselves should be responsible for their own professional development. Intrinsic motivation is the only way of doing that. Making the teaching profession attractive and respected can increase intrinsic motivation. Teacher training should be based on the real needs of the teachers. This increases the meaningful participation of the teachers in the training. Teachers also need to carry out classroom-based researches for bringing change in their teaching.
No improvement in education is possible without enriching teachers’ knowledge and skills. This can be done through a continuing process of professional development. If we focus on doing that, we should see a change right from the selection of teachers down to the classroom teaching. This might seem like a huge task but we can collectively work towards it and bring improvement in the quality of school education.
Baral is the secretary at the Ministry of Education Science and Technology.