No Education System Ever Exceeds the Quality of Teachers

Dr Khine MyeDr Khine Mye(Department of Alternative Education)

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It is well-accepted that quality of education vitally depends on the quality of teachers. Myanmar has around 390,000 teachers in Basic Education sector deployed at 46,500 state schools teaching to 9.2 million students.After an intensive 2.5 year period of research and nation-wide stakeholder consultations, the National Education Strategic Plan (NESP) for 2016 to 2021 has been developed to prepare Myanmar teachers for high quality education. It prioritises Teacher Education as one of the strategic areas. The reforms in Teacher Education are linked to complementary and sequenced reforms in other sub-sectors, such as curriculum, classroom learning environment and student assessment. In addition to the sound policy formulation and plans, practice in the classrooms itself is crucial as all reforms shall balance policy and practice. In Myanmar, teaching and learning processes are mainly based on rote learning and the assessment is not conducive to learning as most teachers teach to test. These lead to detrimental outcomes for both teachers’ quality and learners’ outcomes. In relation to policy and practice, there was a study in Quality Basic Education Program (QBEP – 2011 to 2015) to find an evidence based remedy for the issue. QBEP was supported by UNICEF and MDEF (Multi-Donor Education Fund) and prioritized teacher education to improve quality of teaching and raise student learning outcomes. Ministry of Education conducted a baseline evaluation using quasi-experimental design. It consisted of survey questionnaire and structured classroom observation schedule. The research work used stratified sample of 200 schools in 20 targeted townships in which 6 of the 20 townships formed a ‘control group’.The baseline findings in 2012 showed that teacher-fronted activities (e.g. closed questions, cued elicitations and use of the chalk/board) were most common teacher behaviours. More dialogic approaches (e.g. open questions, probing of pupil answers, use of paired/group work) were the least used. However, in 2014, the analysis showed an upward trend in the use of an interactive pedagogy in intervention schools. For example in 2012 only 8% of observed teachers used an open question whereas in 2014 almost half of the teachers used them 2 or more times.This study proves that Myanmar teachers are moving towards interactive pedagogy and need support to accelerate the process. Teachers should be enabled in the use of a variety to teaching methods to enhance their practice and students’ achievements. The study advocates for interactive classrooms and the common features of Interactive Classrooms are identified as below.• Active student participation in Learning• Conceptual learning beyond factual learning• A willingness by teachers to let go some of the old ideas• An emphasis on problem- solving• Continuous assessment• Accountability for the results of teaching and learning• Learning integrated across subject areas• An emphasis on the whole learner• Systematic use of valuable life experiences• Sufficient curriculum time for teacher and student initiated activities• Encouragement of creativity on the part of the learner• Encouragement of trial and error learning• Encouragement of choice• Encourage of flexibility and balance- the teacher as guide or coach, not as expert• All teachers and learners are both learners and teachers• Peer teaching by students• Stress on the joy of teaching and learning• Patience on everyone’s part• Opportunity and time for small group work• Mutual respect and cooperation of all teachers and learners
These findings were presented by Dr Khine Mye, Director General, Department of Myanmar Education Research (now Department of Alternative Education) at 13th International Conference on Education and Development Conference (UKFIET), Oxford University in September 2015. Dr Khine Mye emphasized that the competencies of teachers at all levels must be strengthened through quality pre-service, in-service and continuous professional development programmes to deliver high quality education for children with a wide range of abilities and backgrounds.
Dr Khine Mye also noted the Policy implications from this study as: • School-based training linked to study materials, coaching, observation and feedback, helps teachers to explore their beliefs and classroom practices, enables teachers to try alternative pedagogic approaches, and is cost effective compared to college-based provision.• Working at the school and cluster level ensures teacher education as part of a broader capacity development strategy supporting all actors in the education system, including head teachers, township officers and teacher educators.In short, teachers whether they are from basic education or higher education need to be capable of motivating learners, facilitating learning, planning their own learning path and learners’, thinking about the wider context and needs, and reflecting and evaluating to make decisions. This will definitely ensure the quality of education in Myanmar in meeting the international standards. As teachers are essential in nurturing new learning generations, I believe strongly in the concept of “No Education System Ever Exceeds the Quality of Teachers”.

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