Author: Watt, R., et al.
In 1991, the Government of Lao PDR and UNICEF agreed to a five-year cooperative program (1992-1996) on Basic Education. The flagship of this agreement was the establishment of the Network for Teacher Upgrading Project (TUP). The aim of this project was to upgrade the skills and knowledge of the very large cohort of untrained and unqualified teachers. The first phase of the TUP was evaluated in 1995. Implementation of the second phase began in 1998. This study is a mid-term evaluation of the second phase.
The purpose of this study is to establish the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the TUP and to identify ways in which the TUP could utilise the emerging cluster school system to advantage in the training of untrained teachers and the ongoing in-service training program of all schools in the cluster.
Given this purpose, the following outcomes were identified and approved by UNICEF for this evaluation:
This evaluation comprised:
Findings and Conclusions:
Since 1992, TUP has trained over 4,000 untrained in 11 provinces and 48 districts. One of the positive features of the trainer system is that many teachers and school officials receive assistance, not just the trainees. Trainers meet with other teachers and local school officials when visiting schools, to help them gain a clear and better understanding of the teaching-learning process and discuss what is happening in the training program for the trainees. It is evident that the trainers are going about their work using the action research model. They plan, implement their plan, review and analyse their experiences, and then re-plan. This is an impressive aspect of the project.
Supervisory visits to trainees involve a complex set of tasks. These include a protocol visit to the DEB office, observing the trainee teach, giving feedback on lessons in terms of strengths and weaknesses, making suggestions for improvement, checking lesson preparation and record-keeping. The supervisors provide additional guidance on the production of teaching aids, assist with assignments and share information with other teachers in the school. Despite the complexity of the task, trainers report high job satisfaction because they can see clear evidence of change and improvement in teacher practices.
Although each district has had funds in the past to support trainers and the supervision of trainees, it is currently not sufficient. UNICEF reduces its contribution to travel funds for supervision by 10% each year. The reduction stands at 30% and the shortfall has not been taken up by the MOE. The inadequate provision of supervision funds inhibits the support of trainees and, in fact, all teachers in the district.
The Teacher Upgrading Program in cluster schools is more visible and effective than in non-cluster schools. Support from the cluster schools management project is in addition to that offered by the trainers from the TUP. Student performance is reported to have improved as a result of the cluster schools project. Improved student performance, increased participation and completion rates, decreased drop-out rates are proudly reported by parents and education officials at every level.
Although 'child centred' learning is an important concept included in the new curriculum and emphasised within the TUP, the evaluation team rarely observed evidence of this type of teaching. The strategies employed were mostly 'teacher directed' and usually involved teachers questioning children before assigning them tasks to complete from texts or from pre-prepared exercises on the blackboard.
Many teachers are ill-prepared for teaching in a multi-grade context although multi-grade classes are common in incomplete schools, particularly in isolated locations. While multi-grade teaching is currently a part of a UNICEF teacher-upgrading project, it has not yet reached the majority of those in the field. The evaluation team observed examples of multi-grade teaching in a number of schools in each province and were constantly impressed by the commitment and efforts demonstrated by each of these teachers.
The implementation of the TUP and cluster programs has had a significant impact on human resource development in the community. It has proved to be a vehicle for the dissemination of information that can assist with community development. Examples can been seen in Health Education and the Girls' Education programs.
Interviews with various stakeholders reveal a number of commendable accomplishments due to the TUP. The overwhelming majority of interviewees stated that TUP has done much to develop good teachers. Some examples are as follows:
It is strongly recommended that the Teacher Upgrading Program be continued and extended to other provinces not yet covered by the program. Specific recommendations are given at the end of each section.
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Education - Management