Exploring Challenges in In-Service Teacher Training in Nepal
Globalization of English language demands competent users of English language in the world today. And to producing competent or skilled language users, there is the need of qualified educators and technical manpower. The Ministry of Education (MoE) has been implementing in-service teacher training for a long time to improve the quality of English language teachers. But there are numerous issues related to in-service teacher training, regarding its effectiveness and transformation. Therefore, this article seeks to scrutinize issues and challenges of in-service teacher training in Nepal.
In-service teacher training in Nepal is usually seen ineffective because English language teachers are not adequately trained to teach at school (Shrestha, 2008). There are questions to be addressed in relation to the quality, transformation of knowledge, effectiveness, methodology and approaches of in-service teacher training. School administrators, the major stakeholder, often complain that training is provided only when there is a revision or changes in core curriculum. But there is a lack of training and continuous support to equip teachers to face challenges while teaching.
In theory, in-service teacher training is training taken by a teacher after he/she has begun to teach. The training aims at enhancing the skills, knowledge and performance of the working teachers. In-service teacher training is important for a teacher because the working conditions and the demands from the society are always changing for professionals like teachers (Gnawali, 2001). Thus, in-service training is necessary to meet the demand of time and demands of the society.
Some of the key objectives of teacher training, as Bhan (2006) mentions, are – to upgrade the qualification of a teacher, to upgrade the professional competence of serving teachers, to prepare teachers for new roles, to provide knowledge and skills relating to emerging curricular change, to make teachers aware of critical areas and issues, and to overcome gaps and deficiencies of pre-service education. These objectives of in-service teacher trainings are equally relevant to the context of Nepali education system. In this light, Bista (2011) mentions that untrained teacher may not be as innovative as their trained counterparts. Therefore, training is important for teachers to upgrade, enhance professional competence and raise awareness in the critical issues and areas.
Role of National Center for Educational Development (NCED)
In-service teacher training programs are primarily run by the National Center for Educational Development (NCED) and Secondary Educational Development Center (SEDC) in Nepal. Established in 1992, NCED is the government run institution that conducts teacher training. The center has nine well facilitated primary teacher training centers spread throughout the country. NCED has also a policy to allow the private agencies to run teacher training programs. NCED has been offering the long-term 10 month in-service training to the working teachers but a lot of permanent teachers are still untrained.
Issues and challenges
Not only is it important to prepare updated teachers, it is crucially important to produce quality learning outcomes through in-service training. For this, one of the ways is that teachers be willing to work collaboratively with other teachers. Neuman (2010) states that many teachers who are interested in exploring processes of teaching and learning in their own context are either unable, for practical reasons, or unwilling, for personal reasons, to do collaborative work (p.18). However, in our context, teachers are hardly willing to collaborate with each other.
On the basis of my own interaction with major stakeholders, besides collaboration, these are some major issues and challenges of in-service teacher training.
Copycat mentality is one of the major issues that strives on imitation of what happens in the western countries. Our curricula, pedagogical approaches, assessment methods continue to be derived from the West. For instance, Vygotsky, Piaget, Bruner and Maslow continue to be perceived as gift for the scholars in Nepal.
Similarly, practicum or teaching practice models are imported from another context. These concepts need to be contextualized rather than adapted. Teacher training institutions and schools have not valued indigenous epistemologies or the culture and value systems of Nepali children. This has led in significant ways to schools being perceived as an alien and unfriendly place, with seemingly irrelevant content and practices that marginalize students and lead to underachievement. Therefore, the need for a culture sensitive pedagogy in teacher training program is crucial.
Shortage of trained trainers and trained teachers
The government of Nepal claims that 92.9% teachers in primary, 79.4% in lower secondary and 90.3% in secondary are trained teachers (Flash Report 2012/13). But in reality, there is a dearth of well-experienced, appropriately-trained teachers. Teachers have become training-proof, mostly in primary level because they don’t feel differences in many types of training conducted for them. The effectiveness of teacher training has not reached inside the classroom. The achievement of students in different examinations is the evidence of this low training delivery. Similarly, there are also challenges of finding quality teacher trainers who can facilitate teachers to transfer their new knowledge in the classroom.
One cannot talk about teacher training or education without adequately looking at their teaching conditions. An inescapable fact in Nepali context is that teachers are underpaid but overworked. Unreasonable demands and pressures are laid at their shoulders, more so when they get transferred to rural communities where the living standard is generally lower than in urban centers. Policy makers need to ensure that teachers are treated equally so that they could contribute the best in term of effort and outcome in the classroom and communities. Therefore, their teaching conditions need careful re-evaluation.
Ongoing professional development
It is not unusual in Nepal for teachers to continue working without further upgrading of their knowledge or skills for the rest of their teaching careers. For example, it is common for lower-secondary or secondary teachers in either rural or urban schools to fail to undergo any refresher courses for a very long time. They require attending short in-service training courses only when there are changes made to curricula. This has serious implications for the quality of their teaching. It is imperative that Ministry of Education devises strategies whereby their teachers would be continually upgraded on curriculum, pedagogical and assessment area in their respective fields.
Shifting from knowledge to practice
Teacher trainings require a shift of focus from what teachers know and believe to what teachers do in the classroom. In this regard Freeman (2001) states that as there are many problems with this knowledge-transmission view, it depends on the transfer of knowledge and skills from the teacher education to the classroom in order to improve teaching (p.73). This does not mean that knowledge and beliefs do not matter but, rather, the knowledge counts for practicing entailed by the work. A practical knowledge generates tasks and involves teachers in practice. But, practice-focused curriculum for learning teaching needs to include significant attention not just to the knowledge demands of teaching but to the actual tasks and activities involved in the work.
The concern on focusing to the practical tasks is that if the teachers become aware of the practical tasks, they can develop different tasks and apply in the classroom. Getting knowledge means being aware and applying in the daily behavior. For instance in a classroom, the novice teacher needs to know how to conduct a short warm-up language activity at the beginning of the day, it is easy to shift into a discussion of the uses of warm-ups, an analysis of possible language activities, or a reflection on how well a particular activity worked. Thus, teacher training needs to offer deliberate opportunities for teachers to practice the interactive work of instruction. Shifting of training must be observed in classroom context rather than documentation
Besides the above mentioned challenges, teacher trainings are mostly based on aid dependency where concerned authorities conduct training to get aid form the foreign agencies. Thus, teacher trainings are just in name, not in work. Without blaming anyone, training should be conducted for knowledge transferring into classroom, improving teacher skills, attitudes – but not for imposing latest development theories.
Another area of concern is the lack of induction program to new-inexperienced teachers after joining schools. Even national curriculum doesn’t talk about new teacher induction, this situation needs rectifying. A teacher goes to school and the head-teacher or principal asks him/her to start immediately, and even sometimes the teacher is assigned to teach Social Studies or Population. What needs to be remembered is that ultimately, it is the students who will suffer the consequences of inadequate support for teachers starting out on their teaching careers.
To conclude, EFL in-service teacher training in Nepal is crawling with lots of hindrances for trifling achievements. Efforts are being made but they are insufficient. The concerned authorities are required to work hard to address the dire needs. One sole organization NCED alone cannot cope up with all the challenges and thus other organizations of similar interests must collaborate. For this government must diversify and ease their monopolistic policy.
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M. Phil. ELE
School of Education