! 48 ! TechKnowLogia , November/December, 2000 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.
www.TechKnowLogia.org Juan Carlos Navarro Senior Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank Suppose you hire a human resource management consultant and ask her to take a look at the way a particular profession 3 teaching 3 functions in a large Ministry of Education in a developing country. The consultant 9s report would probably point out that, after a thorough review of the rules and prac- tices that govern the teaching profession in your organization 3 which happens to be, by far, the main employer of teachers in your country - the following have been established: " New entrants to the profession are largely coming from the ranks of the less qualified secondary education graduates. As a matter of fact, for a substantial majority, teaching was not their first choice as a degree, and they tend to think that their abilities do not match particularly well the tasks and skills characteristic of the profession.
" With a few exceptions, they enter post-secondary pro- grams of less than good quality, many of which have no admission standards at all. " You are not being selective in recruiting them to work for the Ministry. No certification system ... more. less.
is in place and the recruiting process is plagued with lack of transpar- ency and extensive application of non-professional crite- ria 3 including political patronage.<br><br> " Once in, there is no way for managers or authorities in the system to get rid of even notoriously poor performers or, for that matter, to reward outstanding services. Teachers will never be evaluated and will advance only by seniority. " Teachers work with little human or material support.<br><br> " Teachers will enjoy an early and relatively generous retirement, yet it is not clear that their particular pension scheme is financially sustainable for the government in the near future. " Evidence suggests that those that abandon the profession early tend to be the most qualified. Complementing this, a survey of teachers 9 opinions has shown that they suffer from poor motivation, many work at second jobs in order to make a decent living and that they feel under appreciated and swamped in paperwork unrelated to their teaching activities.<br><br> Although they declare in principle some considerable degree of commitment to the profession and the children they serve, they decidedly dislike the envi- ronment they work in on a daily basis, probably for very good reasons. On the side, there is a good chance that the consultant will add that teacher unions have extensive control of critical human resource decisions in the organization, to the point of giving you, as a manager, only very limited in- fluence regarding decisions such as who teaches, where, to whom and how. In conclusion, you are doing a poor job at attracting the right people due to a combination of poor sala- ries, low professional standards and few opportunities for career development, deficient training and lack of in-service support.<br><br> An Exercise In Common Sense ! 49 ! TechKnowLogia , November/December, 2000 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.<br><br> www.TechKnowLogia.org With a situation like this, there is little surprise that learning in many school systems in developing countries leaves much to be desired. True, several of the characteristics singled out by the consultant are no doubt also a part of the way the teacher profession works in developed countries. Yet, what is distinctive of the teaching profession in a developing country is the simultaneous presence of most, if not all, of these char- acteristics, as well as the acute and prolonged prevalence of them and, above all, the lack of counterbalance mechanisms that allow educational institutions to correct or moderate the influence of the long list of problems mentioned above.<br><br> Strong and professional school principals are extremely scarce. Vocal and demanding parent associations or sur- rounding communities are the exception rather than the rule, and the institutional arrangement that could give them a real influence on school affairs is even more exceptional. Public information about the performance of the system, at the service of decision-making by either authorities or users is non-existent or poorly collected and disseminated.<br><br> Effective pedagogical support is absent and strong training institutions remain the exception. Professional traditions and culture are too young and poorly implanted. Pure and simple resources, materials and infrastructure are highly deficient.<br><br> It is easy to understand why securing teacher attendance at a level compatible with the mandatory number of days of classes established in the law is still a challenge for quite a few countries. (See in this issue of TechKnowLogia , "Do You Know Where Your Teachers and Schools Are?") This is not to mention more sophisticated objectives like putting in place good teaching practices or adapting teaching to the particular needs of heterogeneous learners and under- privileged pupils. Needless to say, poor children are dispro- portionately exposed to the consequences of bad teaching.<br><br> How did your organization manage to get into a situation like this? This is an interesting question, but one you are not paying the consultant to answer. Needless to say, in a for- ward-looking mood, the report concludes that you have a lot of work to do if you want to make your teacher force more productive, motivated, qualified and up to the task of pro- viding good quality education.<br><br> Where do you want to start? If the former description of the current condition of the teaching profession is adequate, improving education through the improvement of teaching constitutes a daunting task. Dealing with teacher issues as a matter of policy has all the characteristics of the most difficult problems faced by governments and societies alike.<br><br> Such issues are politically and ideologically charged; their financial implications, in almost any scenario, are huge; and technical definition has for the most part remained weak, loose and anything but convincingly conceptualized. As a matter of fact, policy interventions aimed directly at influencing teacher careers and quality constitute, with the exception of the field of training, a relatively underdeveloped field of education. Indeed, many education projects and poli- cies can be read as deliberate attempts at fixing a long list of problems in education systems 3 ranging all the way from infrastructure to information technology 3 with the exception of those directly dealing with the way teachers work and behave within the system.<br><br> Important reforms in several de- veloping countries explicitly seek to improve the quality of the teaching force through interventions promoting parental involvement in the schools, assessment testing or better school management. It is hoped that accountability will be enhanced, stakeholders will be mobilized and the day to day functioning of the education institutions will be made more responsive and efficient. Yet, more often than not, they avoid tackling head on the distorted rules and practices governing who becomes a teacher and how, and how once somebody becomes a teacher his/her performance is evaluated and re- warded, all of which are critical for the quality of education delivered.<br><br> Training, the most common and uncontroversial policy aimed at dealing with the quality of teaching, has produced relatively little impact in most developing countries, particu- larly when compared with the substantial size of the invest- ments made. Fortunately, there is now a widespread under- standing of the problems of conventional teacher training practices and plenty of innovations flourish in this field. Allowing however for the considerable impact that improved teacher training practices could have, leaves many other in- centive and management issues untouched.<br><br> Common Situation Organizing the Task Ahead ! 50 ! TechKnowLogia , November/December, 2000 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.<br><br> www.TechKnowLogia.org Clearly, a multi-pronged approach is needed. One way to start is by organizing teacher-related policies in two large groups, aimed at influencing a corresponding pair of general and mutually reinforcing objectives. " The first group would contemplate actions directed at improving the composition of the future teaching force.<br><br> It includes stronger and radically reorganized pre-service training programs, setting up transparent and highly pro- fessional selection processes, putting in place certifica- tion mechanisms, and making the teacher career attrac- tive through better salaries, clearly-structured opportu- nities for advancement, and explicit recognition of achievement. " The second group would include actions directed at en- hancing the qualifications and performance of the exist- ing teaching force. No matter how much you improve pre-service training programs or implement any of the other medium to long term measures mentioned above, you will have to work with the teacher you have for a long time.<br><br> There is evidence that they can become better teachers if actions like the following are taken: re- vamped in-service training programs, evaluation of teacher performance, definition of standards for good teaching, performance incentives, and adequate peda- gogical support provided on a continuous basis and bet- ter management at the school level. All of this requires improving the recruiting and training of school princi- pals. It is hardly necessary to insist on the key influence that the quality of teaching has on learning.<br><br> Recent research on de- terminants of learning in schools in developing countries has consistently found that teachers play a crucial role in student learning (Mullens, Murnane and Willett, 1995; Hanushek and Harbison, 1992). Similarly, studies in the US have es- tablished that differential teacher effectiveness makes a sig- nificant difference, clearly outweighing the influence of fac- tors such as class size (Sanders and Rivers, 1996). One con- sequence of this finding is the growing interest in experi- menting and evaluating different interventions in the quality of teaching (Darling-Hammond, 2000).<br><br> Obviously, each country 9s conditions will dictate different combinations of policies. There is clearly no single recipe able to accommodate what constitutes highly diverse politi- cal, cultural and social landscape. But no matter how difficult the task of reforming the way the teaching profession is or- ganized, the fact remains that a substantial and lasting im- provement of education in developing countries requires staffing the schools with qualified teachers and putting in place the incentives that will allow them to perform at their best.<br><br> * This article has benefited from recent IDB-sponsored re- search on teacher issue in Latin America. References Darling-Hammond, Linda. 2000.<br><br> cTeacher Quality and Student Achievement: A Review of State Policy Evidence d. Education Policy Analysis Archives . Volume 8.<br><br> No.1. January 2000. Hanushek, Eric A.<br><br> and Ralph W. Harbison. 1992 .<br><br> Educational Performance of the Poor: Lessons from Northeast Brazil . New York: Oxford University Press. Mullens, John E., Richard J.<br><br> Murnane and John Willett. 1996. cThe Contribution of Training and Subject Matter Knowledge to Teaching Effectiveness: A Multilevel Analysis of Longitudinal Evidence from Belize d.<br><br> Comparative Education Review . Vol. 40.<br><br> No.2. pp. 139-157.<br><br> Details about the recent evolution of innovation in teacher training in Latin America are the subject of the paper cTeacher Training in Latin America: Innovations and Trends, d by Juan Carlos Navarro and Aimee Verdisco (Inter-American Develop- ment Bank). A summary of it is contained in this same issue of TechKnowLogia : "Teacher Training: What Works and What Doesn't." Also by the same authors is another article, "Costa Rica: Teacher Training for Education Technology." Teacher-Related Policies Conclusion