Author: Schaetzel, K.
The Intensive District Approach to Education for All (IDEAL) project began its work to improve primary education in 1995. The project goal is to improve the quality of primary education in terms of improved teaching/learning methods, school environment and learning achievement of children. It is also committed to making the local community active in, and responsible for, the school and its environment. The main intervention of this component is teacher training in Multiple Ways of Teaching and Learning (MWTL), which strives to expand the methods of teaching currently in use in primary education (give teachers methods in addition to the commonly used rote memorization) and to help teachers develop different kinds of learning exercises and activities to ensure that all children in the classroom learn.
Purpose / Objective
These two component areas, Sub national Planning, Management and Monitoring and School Quality, and their management have been fully implemented in several areas of Bangladesh for two years, and in other areas for one year. Therefore, it was determined that formative evaluations of these component activities as well as IDEAL project implementation should be completed in order to see what has been accomplished and to determine areas in which more intense work is needed. This information would be most helpful before expanding IDEAL to other districts. This evaluation endeavored to find out how the MWTL methodology is working in the schools and if, and in what ways, teachers and students are benefiting from it.
Bangla, Mathematics and Environmental Science classes were chosen for study because, together, they represent a wide range of subject matter covered by the curriculum. In addition to classroom observations in schools where IDEAL has been implemented for less than two years and less than one year (10 total) and non-IDEAL schools (10), researchers interviewed teachers (50) and community members (5 from each school) of IDEAL schools to try and ascertain how they feel about the new teaching methods.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Comparative Effects of MWTL on Teaching Learning Practices in Selected Primary Schools:
This study identified the following strengths and weaknesses in the MWTL's application in Bangla, Mathematics and Environmental Science classes in primary schools:
- Less class time is spent in one-way delivery: teachers lecturing or telling stories to the class as a whole is 50% less in MWTL classes.
- Greater variety of teaching-learning activities: in addition to making the class an interesting and enjoyable place to be, children with strengths in different intelligences are better ensured of learning new concepts and skills in a way that is comfortable and easy for them.
- More interactive teaching methods used: group work, songs and dance, and role plays are used 50% more in MWTL classes than in non-IDEAL classes.
- More time spent on math problems in math classes; 31% of class time in MWTL schools is spent solving math problems, while only 14% of class time in non-IDEAL classes is spent solving math problems. This practical application of concepts and skills in class is extremely important for learning and successfully completing home tasks.
- More interactive teaching and individual work in Environmental Science Classes: 55% of class time in MWTL classes is spent in interactive learning, which lends itself nicely to environmental science concepts.
- No wastage of class time in IDEAL school classes: class time was wasted in non-IDEAL classes, but it was not wasted in MWTL classes. Students were fully engaged in learning activities for the entire class time.
- Teachers note positive changes in their behavior after MWTL training: teachers now try to structure lessons using different intelligences; they mix more with children and they are more aware of child-centered learning.
- Students are more interested, enthusiastic and able to do their lessons: students are more interested in and enthusiastic about learning, and learning using MWTL is easier for students.
- The school administration is actively involved in the teaching-learning process: school administration has become actively involved in classroom teaching and learning.
- More follow-up training is needed: teachers state that they need more training in classroom management for group work and simultaneous activities, and in incorporating multiple intelligences in their lesson plans.
- Few classroom-seating arrangements are designed for interactive classrooms.
- The school-community link is weak in some areas: The school-community link needs strengthening.
- Monitoring and supervision is weak in some areas.
Local Level Participation in the Management of Primary Schools in Bangladesh:
This study identified the following strengths and weaknesses of school catchment area mapping and school planning:
Strengths of School Catchment Area Mapping:
- Provides useful information: gives school personnel information about where students are so that they may be enrolled and their attendance monitored.
- Increases student enrollment and attendance.
- Monitors student enrollment and attendance.
- Strengthens the school-community link: parents come to school to talk to teachers and to attend meetings, and teachers are visiting homes to discuss enrollment and attendance.
Weakness of School Catchment Area Mapping:
- Teachers are not using pins to display non-attending students: teachers want to keep their own attendance ledgers, but this misses the point of using the map, accessible to the community, to track attendance.
- Not enough people are aware of the map and its purposes: more people need to be aware of the mapping process.
- Maps are not consistently realistic: based on what is actually happening in a given area.
Strengths of School Planning:
- School plans are prominently displayed: In 57% of the schools visited, the school plans were prominently displayed in the school offices.
- Mobilize community resources for primary education: after school planning activities, communities are contributing, on average, Tk. 29,158 (US$603) in cash and Tk. 10,017 (US$207) in kind. This is extremely significant in a country in which a yearly salary at minimum wage is US$ 492 (World Bank: 1999 World Development Indicators).
- Activates the School Management Committees.
- Increases the role of women in the schools.
- Contributes to the overall development of the school.
Weaknesses of School Planning:
- Planners make overly-ambitious plans.
- The planning meeting invitation is given to a narrow audience.
- Health-related issues and cultural activities receive low priority in the plan activities.
- School-community link needs to be strengthened: teachers would like more guardian and community support.
- A system needs to be established to allow donations to be made in private, but acknowledged in public.
Formative Evaluation of Implementation Process of IDEAL Project:
This study examined the management of the project, the implementation and monitoring activities, the roles played by different actors at different levels of responsibility, and identified gaps that affect quality assurance in implementation.
- School conditions: teachers feel that schools are cleaner since the inception of IDEAL.
- Community involvement: teachers and Assistant Upazilla Education Officers (AUEOs) feel that communities are much more involved in schools than in the past.
- Staff motivation: GOB and UNICEF staff are very motivated about the project and its activities.
Major Problem Areas:
- Working conditions: TA/DA and transportation and communication facilities are insufficient for sufficient school visits.
- Project management requirements at DPE are confusing because DPE is managing different projects, with different management requirements, simultaneously.
- Slow approval: approvals must follow the vertical chain of command at PMED and DPE and this is slow.
- Inadequacy in the number of project staff in some areas at the central level and at the field level, especially AUEOs and teachers.
- Level of authority is not commensurate with level of responsibility: this is felt at almost all levels of staff.
- Poor coordination among DPE, NCTB and UNICEF slows implementation.
- Lack of social mobilization and communication activities focusing on the acquisition of basic educational skills.
- Lack of technical assistance available to teachers and other education staff. Monitoring and supervision tend to focus on the administrative aspects and are not used to help teachers gain more technical expertise.
Issues for Examination and Consideration:
1. Improving the quality of primary education:
- More teacher training is needed
- Technical assistance needs to be readily available to teachers
- Classrooms need to be organized into interactive seating arrangements
- MWTL impact on student achievement is still unknown
2. Encouraging more community involvement in primary education:
- More social mobilization activities are needed
- Community contribution needs to be encouraged through broader school outreach to community members and by establishment of a system whereby contributions can be pledged in private and acknowledged in public
3. Solving management issues:
- Working to solve the major problem areas (listed above) in project management and implementation
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Education - Participatory Learning