«Text: Louise Wheatcroft Field research: Louise Wheatcroft Editing: Lucia Fry Design: VSO Creative Services Cover photo: ©VSO/Shahula Rasheed The views ...»
In the workload section of this report, teachers express concern over the amount of extracurricular activities in which they are often expected to be. With greater involvement of the community in organising and leading such activities, teachers could concentrate more on the job at hand: teaching and learning.
An interesting point to make, however, is that despite the lack of participation of parents in
Because there is often only one school on an island, there are two sessions: a morning session and an afternoon session (a primary session and a secondary session). Meetings such as coordination and subject meetings and extracurricular activities such as remedial classes and sports have to take place in the evenings and even during weekends. Some teachers therefore have to attend school nearly the entire day and evening, leaving them very little free time.
The school is often the focal point of the island and the demand for extracurricular activities is great from the community. Schools are under pressure to meet the community’s needs, particularly in islands where the community provides funds for the school. Teachers said they would very often be notified of a meeting after school the same day, or tasks would be allocated without much warning – they had very little time to complete the tasks because of teaching and after extracurricular commitments.
There is a policy statement that schools should provide the maximum opportunities for students, but this is for schools to manage themselves14. The MOE encourages schools to take on academic activities. For example, all schools should organise remedial classes. But there are also instructions intended to limit the number of activities. For example, in primary schools, there should not be any inter-school sports activities other than singing and Qur’an competitions. Secondary schools have to produce an extracurricular activities calendar to be approved by the Ministry.
Some school heads believe the focus of schooling should be educational and therefore have few extracurricular activities other than those that support the curriculum. Others believe in bringing community and school together by providing many different types of activities.
Currently, it is the responsibility of teachers to lead, organise and run extracurricular activities, which requires much of their time and energy. While the majority of teachers support the idea of extracurricular activities, they are not happy with the extra workload that it often entails. Many teachers cited that it is often the more capable teachers that get given the extra responsibilities; that these tasks are not allocated fairly and this results in increased workload for some teachers.
Many stakeholders identified the possibility of allowing greater responsibility among the community for organising and leading some of the activities such as sports, clubs and Scouting/Guiding, which would allow teachers to focus on the academic activities. This would also serve to strengthen community relationships as discussed earlier.
5.3 Teaching methodology Every day, teachers have to mark several piles of books or worksheets handed in from each lesson. This takes up a considerable amount of their day. Marking usually consists of ticks and crosses and is not constructive to move children forward in their learning. There is no time for this kind of marking. Often when teachers attempt something new, a different kind of activity to teach a concept, it may not require work to be recorded in books. Parents and supervisors often complain that the teacher is not doing their job properly because the children are not producing a written record of learning. This relates back to the previous section outlining community relationships and the importance of making parents aware of different teaching strategies and ways of learning. Supervisors and school management too need to be aware of such strategies.
‘We want management to listen to us. Teachers are the people doing the job but they make the decisions for us.’
TRAINED PRIMARY TEACHERFor many teachers, the issue seems to be a lack of involvement in decision-making by school management. Teachers feel they are not consulted about the decisions that affect them. For example, with the activities being organised, they are not consulted about who will be involved and when but are given orders and instructions. Teachers have many good ideas about the organisation of the school, curriculum, planning and extracurricular activities but don’t feel that the opportunities exist for them to contribute towards such decisions. In some schools, teachers meet to discuss the plans for the week ahead, but apart from that they have little involvement in making decisions.
‘Teachers are part of the machine to be used but are not used for their ideas.’
VSO PRIMARY TEACHER ADVISERAs mentioned earlier, if management training was to have a greater focus on teaching and learning, then it is hoped that school management would show a greater interest, through improved confidence, in the academic side of their job and include teachers more in decisions related to teaching and learning. It was suggested by a number of interviewees that head teachers do not know how to involve teachers in the school development process and this is an area of training that needs addressing.
Clearly, there is a huge disparity between teachers in terms of workload, and this disparity depends on many factors, as outlined above. The key issue is lack of control for teachers over their workload due to lack of teacher participation in school decisions and lack of freedom in delivering the curriculum. If teaching methodologies could change then teachers may free up time from marking for more purposeful activity.
6. Student behaviour and student profile In some schools, teachers were very happy with student behaviour and it was a significant motivating factor for these teachers.
‘If I can control the class and have good classroom management, then the lesson goes well.’
UNTRAINED PRIMARY TEACHERDiscipline was therefore not an issue for everyone but was a significant issue for most teachers. There appears to be less of a problem in the early grades but in Grades 6 and 7 the problem increases. There is also less of a problem for local teachers than expatriate teachers, which may be due to cultural and teaching style differences. Teachers feel
• students disrupt lessons, don’t complete their homework, show a lack of respect for teachers and are disinterested in studying
• there are ineffective school disciplinary procedures and a lack of support from management and parents regarding discipline procedures
• social problems within families affect a child’s behaviour and ability to learn – some assistance is needed for such families/parents/children.
‘Sometimes I have to repeat the lesson because students have disrupted the lesson.’
UNTRAINED PRIMARY TEACHERStudent discipline is strongly related to student or class profile. Teachers cited that there is often too broad a range of abilities in their classes. There are children at one end of the spectrum of ability who cannot read and write and then there are the children at the other end who are extremely able. A few teachers are providing teaching at a more suitable level for these children; some teachers are not catering for their needs at all. This is due to a lack of training, lack of support from the management (in turn through lack of training) and because of pressure from parents to complete the pupil’s books. The curriculum materials are aimed at the average student, which results in the children at either end of the spectrum not having their needs met. Because teachers are not trained sufficiently in differentiation and because the curriculum is so rigid (or the perception of how it can be used is rigid), teachers are not able to cope with the wide profile that their classes present. This subsequently leads to discipline problems in class when students become bored or frustrated. And this has a detrimental effect on the quality of teaching and learning taking place, which in turn affects motivation.
Another factor that adds to the already existing broad range of abilities in a class, are the students who are repeating grades because they have previously failed the end-of-year examinations. They will be repeating the curriculum and can therefore become easily bored and disruptive. If they failed it the first time, then that might suggest that the curriculum was not appropriate for their needs.
Teachers also feel frustrated when they feel that discipline issues are not appropriately dealt with by management or when they are not supported by parents. There seems to be a lack of clarity in schools regarding discipline procedures and policy.
‘Some teachers use different rules so the children become confused; we need to follow the same rules.’
TRAINED PRIMARY TEACHERSchools need to have a school discipline policy that all teachers follow in order for some consistency to be established and to provide support for teachers in the classroom. The roles of teachers, supervisors, management and parents need to be clearly defined. This is in addition to effective teaching strategies being employed that aim to meet all children’s needs with the support of more relevant curriculum materials.
As discussed in earlier sections, training for school management, supervisors and parents on teaching methodologies that aid differentiation is extremely important if teachers are to feel supported in using different teaching techniques to meet the varied needs of their students.
This supports the idea that many of the factors that affect teacher motivation are interrelated.
Through training for all and greater communication between all parties, student discipline problems could be greatly reduced.
7. School buildings and facilities
A number of school building issues are demotivating factors for teachers. There is frequently a lack of classrooms. Many schools have to operate in two sessions (morning and afternoon) meaning that any extra classes or activities have to be carried out in the evenings, increasing the workload for teachers and children.
VSO MALDIVES VALUING TEACHERS 28In many schools there is one large hall, divided by partitions into separate classrooms. This makes the classrooms very noisy; it is subsequently difficult to teach and learn, and this in turn has an impact on student behaviour. The Schools Administration Section’s policy is to update schools systematically with partitions that go up to the ceiling to reduce the problem of noise carrying in the halls.
Where staffrooms exist, they are often crowded and difficult to work in.
8. Other factors affecting teacher motivation
8.1 Temporary teachers Temporary teachers cited a number of demotivating issues: low pay yet often carrying out the same duties as permanent staff; job insecurity; and no training or support given. Many temporary teachers lose their job after a year and schools are then allocated another inexperienced teacher, despite schools requesting experienced teachers from the MOE. Neither schools nor temporary teachers are happy with this situation. Despite this, many temporary teachers appear to be surprisingly highly motivated.
8.2 Career path A number of interviewees identified the fact that teachers have very little room for moving up the career ladder in teaching. What is interesting is that very few teachers identified this issue as affecting their motivation. Secondary and tertiary stakeholders appeared to find this more worrying than teachers themselves.
There are five grades within the teaching career structure. The first two grades are untrained.
Once a teacher is trained, there is no promotion other than upgrading qualifications. If a teacher manages to upgrade past degree level, they are usually taken away from the classroom to undertake other responsibilities within the MOE. Once a teacher reaches Grade 5, there is nowhere else to go. Good teachers move out of teaching and into administration, which leads to a loss in good teachers. Supervisors, too, have no way of moving up the ladder other than into a head teacher’s position, but this requires further qualifications. In secondary schools, teachers may become heads of department but this does not carry with it any increase in salary, just extra responsibility. There is thus no reward system, no formal recognition, for being a good teacher.
UNDERLYING THEMESFrom analysis of the factors examined in the previous section, it is possible to identify a number of underlying themes running through all factors. These themes act as barriers to
the improvement of the quality of education being delivered in the Maldives. They are:
1. lack of teacher voice
2. frequent change
3. strong administrative focus
4. lack of human capacity.
Before making specific recommendations to address the demotivating factors, the report will briefly examine these underlying themes.
1. Lack of teacher voice ‘Teachers are not consulted, not involved in decisions, management comes from the top down.’
MOE OFFICIALWhat emerges from this study is a basic theme of lack of teacher voice. Teachers have very little power to make changes within their schools let alone to influence educational change nationally. Neither is there is any body to speak up for teachers, due to an absence of teacher unions or civil society. Instructions come from the top down, which is indicative of the way the country is governed. When examining the factors that affect motivation in the previous section, it becomes apparent that teachers have very little involvement in any of the decisionmaking that goes on at various levels in the education system, particularly in their own schools. Teachers feel that they are merely the deliverers of education. Decisions about what to teach and how to teach, who will take certain extracurricular activities, what their training needs are and what national policy changes are needed are made without teachers’ input.
Indeed, teachers were keen to take part in the research and once they were involved in the focus group activities they had much to say and appeared to enjoy greatly the opportunity to talk to someone about their issues and concerns. So many teachers said how happy they were that someone came to listen to them and how good it is that finally their views will be heard by others in the Ministry.
Interestingly, it was not only the teachers who wanted a forum to talk. The other education stakeholders also seemed to relish the opportunity to gather together and discuss educational concerns. This perhaps demonstrates the current climate of opening up and the door is now open to such forums of discussion where in the past it was not.
‘We want management to listen to us. They’re not even discussing ideas with teachers, they just finalise the decisions among themselves.’
MIXED GROUP OF PRIMARY/SECONDARY TEACHERS
Changes are now taking place and the Ministry is recognising the important role that teachers have to play in educational reform. Indeed, when the second round table meeting was being planned, the policy-makers actually requested that teachers and supervisors, especially from the islands, attend the meeting so that they would be able to have input in the discussion.
‘At policy level, we need to listen to the people in the field.’