In response to a demonstrated need, UNICEF Mauritius, the Mauritius Institute of Education and the Mauritius College of the Air developed an innovative, inter-institutional model program utilizing distance education practices that enabled over 1,000 pre-primary teachers who had no prior formal tertiary training to participate in a program leading to a Certificate in Proficiency in Early Childhood Education. The program was conducted over a two-year period (2000-2002) on a part-time basis.
Purpose / Objective
- To examine the role and relevance of the CPECE in relation to the emerging needs of the pre-school sector in Mauritius, including career structure prospects
- To assess the design, content, delivery and evaluation mode of the CPECE against trainees' perceived needs and expectations
- To evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the CPECE against its stated aims and objectives
- To review resources made available to students beyond course material, that is library, resource facilities such as study centers and workshop venues
- To identify possible improvements and/or redirections, which would make the CPECE responsive to merging trends in the ECD sector in Mauritius
- To propose strategies for improving quality assurance
- To recommend phase II of the project in the context of UNICEF transition
The appraisal used the following approaches to obtain and analyze data:
- Critical review of the program materials
- Conduct focus group and individual interviews with tutors working on the program
- Review 15% of student assignments - the project and portfolios
- Implement to 15% of 924 students (the Mauritius cohort) a modified form of the student survey form used in the initial evaluation to include summative questions; input was sought from MIE and MCA, who suggested changes to some questions
- Conduct a focus group with the students who were available - approximately 100 - to verify the accuracy of the data gleaned from the survey
- Reviewing academic transcripts of all 986 students, including those living in Rodrigues
- Conducting interviews with main stakeholders in the administration of the program: MCA, MIE & UNICEF
Key Findings and Conclusions
The success of the program is evidenced in a number of ways; first, by the very low attrition rate (6%) over the period of two years. By any standards, this is an extremely low attrition especially given that most of the students had not studied formally for quite a number of years and that studying in the distance education mode was quite foreign to them. In addition, the academic success of 94% of students was above expectation and particularly as 132 students (14%) reached a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 4.0 (the maximum) and 806 students (83%) reached a GPA of between 2.99 and 3.99. These results indicate also the sincere commitment of the students to the program.
Second, the success of the program can be attributed to the quality of the program itself and to the management of it. The dedicated staff at the Mauritius College of the Air (MCA), who had the day-to-day management of the program, and the staff of the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), who were responsible for the academic content and the level of the program, worked in a collaborative manner. This collaboration ensured that no student was disadvantaged despite the considerable distance some students had to travel to attend face-to-face sessions and their insecurities in relation to higher education and training. The mentoring of the students by both MCA and MIE, along with the advising and teaching roles of the tutors in the program, all contributed to the students' success as well as satisfaction with the program.
One remarkable outcome of the program was the achievement of a cohort of women in a workforce that, until now, had been neglected and their work unrecognized. The increase in their senses of self-worth, professionalism and empowerment came evident most clearly when they were asked how the program affected them personally. This new program created an access and equity milestone of a unique kind for these women.
As said earlier, the tutors in the program had considerable responsibility for the successful implementation of the program and credit must be given to them for the effectiveness of their work. They believed that there was a good balance between theoretical and practical aspects in the program's curriculum and this belief was supported by over 90% of the students who said in their summative questionnaire that the content of the program challenged their thinking, added to their teaching skills and changed their views about teaching.
As a result of this successful program and the enthusiasm of the students, one unanimous appeal from the students has been for the opportunity for further study to the Teachers Certificate (Pre-Primary) level, again by distance education mode. The interest in, and commitment to, higher learning are indicators of professionalism and the work has begun as a result of this program.
Of course, the initial implementation of any new program is not without its problems. As content material in a number of academic areas had to be developed in a hurry and with no prior model to fall back upon, the earlier Course Books are of limited academic and practical value and, as a result, are in need of major revision. This work should be done in time for any further expansion of the program. Overall, there is unevenness in the quality of the Course Books across the program. As well, there is a need for certain content in Course Books to be brought up-to-date with current thinking in the particular field and be made culturally relevant. Hence, the recommendation in this Report for further work to be done on program materials.
The production of the materials and the setting of assignments and examination questions, however, were very good.
A second matter that needs further thought by the program management relates to the selection of tutors. As mentioned earlier, the effectiveness of the tutors as facilitators of the program's curriculum is crucial to the program's success. While all the tutors met the selection criteria for employment, a few did not have relevant experience at the pre-primary teaching level. Where such situations occur, it is difficult for the tutors to meet students' expectations for specific practical advice related to their teaching.
A further matter to be addressed by the program management is that of providing suitable teaching venues that are conducive to student learning. Coupled to this issue is that of access to appropriate early childhood resources and library facilities. The provision of basic and carefully selected books of readings would assist in ameliorating this lack of access to resources/library provision.
The successful collaboration by the three partners in achieving the goals of the program was evident and clearly demonstrated in the following Report. Support for this collaboration came from all stakeholders: the students, tutors MIE, MCA and UNICEF Mauritius.
A higher-level program should be made available as soon as possible to successful applicants, as specified in the original program material given to participants.
Due credit should be given for the successful completion of the Certificate of Proficiency in Early Childhood Education Pre-primary towards a higher level qualification.
The next level program in the Distance Education Mode should be offered.
Program materials should be reviewed and redeveloped in line with the comments made in the Report.
A detailed cost analysis should be made of the total program with all cooperating partners. Without this, the cost benefits of the course cannot be accurately calculated. This would also seem essential if the program were to be mounted again.
In any further offering of this program, students should be given access to selected readings and/or basic texts in order to maximize tertiary study opportunities.
In any subsequent implementation of the program, the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of the partners should be agreed upon and documented in a formal Memorandum of Understanding.
Given that UNICEF Mauritius will phase-out its work in Mauritius, there is a need to ensure that funding be found for the review and rewriting of the program materials and that a person with specialist expertise in early child development and curriculum be sought for this important task.
The Government of Mauritius should acknowledge the importance of this program and of its value to the early education of the nation's young children by providing the necessary resources, both human and financial, to enable the program to be sustained.
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ECD - Center Based Care