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Introduction | Background | Multigrade teaching, gender and the community. | Learning ,education and development. | Conclusion | Bibliography


Reasons for creating more Multigrade schools in Zambia.Because regions have small numbers of school aged children,girls and many villages are remote and isolated.Also necause of the cultural or socio-economic conditions are preventing girls and boys attendance at regular school.All over Zambia you can find deprived and inaccessible communities where there is a lack of (female)teachers.Multigrade teaching is the only form of school to reach remote or border communities.So I believe that it can contribute to the provision of educational for all.

The legal base for multigrade classes can create ainstrument for monitoring and evaluating pedagogical innovations to promote girls' education.To give the multigrade schools a kind of official status,to convince parents of the advantage of MTG teaching,MTG schools could be considered as branch schools depending on a "mother school.The local communities must be involved in the management of the school.Parents participation is a need and a must!The grouping of multigrade schools for administrative purpose could bring all the children into one community independent the schools they attend.Parents'committees are created in order to promote girls' education and education in general.Their activities could be defined by the regulations of the parents' committee of each school. They strengthen the link between the school and the family. Grouped multigrade classes should have an average of 35 pupils.When there are over 40 pupils ,different groups should be formed.There should be at least two blackboards in one classroom, one in the front and one in the back.Teachers from branch and mother schools should meet on a regular base to discuss problems.The system of multigrade teaching schools improves the teacher-pupil ratio and reduces running costs.The system of MTG teaching promotes active teaching and prepares pupils better for real life situations.This develops their sense of responsibility, maturity and leads them to greater self-reliance.

The most important challenge in a MTG Teaching system is to provide education of high quality, so that parents believe it is worthwhile to send children to school.The solution is to form partnership between governments, parents and MTG teachers. Such partnership can expand service delivery capacity and ensure quality,each partner contributing according to its comparative advantage.

The parents have a strong demand for the education for boys, but less for their female peers. That is why parents' willingess to send children to school depends considerably on their assessment of the quality of education being offered. Multigrade Teaching is the ideal way to reach this objective. By seeing that girls are fully respected in such a schools, parents will participate more and contribute more to the education of their children.

An anecdotic story, illustrates above theories. In Central Province I walked kilometres with the local female Chief to ask parents to send their children back to the school. At the same visit I explained also the meaning and benefits of Multigrade Teaching for boys but especially for girls.The parents were surprised that the Chief came along and that we walked such a distance to bring the message. In those schools, community and Multigrade schools (smaller schools) teacher attendance and teacher credibility to parents are better than in regular schools, with a corresponding positive effect on pupil

(girl) attendance and achievement.

It is important that parents participate in the education of their daughters to ensure that they believe in its quality and acceptability. In dialogue with the Multigrade teachers parents should point out the needs and lack of skills of their children, especially relating to the girls, who are often not expected to earn their own salary due to pregnancy and early marriages. Better education should allow them to get involved in affairs with men, and play a more important role in the community.

Multigrade schools are a popular alternative for improving rural education in developing countries, and not without reason. Studies suggest they can be effective and cost-effective means of raising student outcomes and expanding educational access in poor countries and regions. Nevertheless, much of the discussion advocating the models transfer to other contexts has either skirted issues of implementation, or reduced the problem to one of providing capacity, perhaps through teacher training. Other studies of educational program implementation, cited mentioned in the introduction, have often focused on macro-level variables, such as resource constraints and the political context of implementation. We have argued that, firstly, the presence of suitable macro-level conditions is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a successful implementation, A careful consideration of issues like capacity and will is required.Implementing a program of multigrade schools represents a substantial alteration of core educational practices in rural areas of developing countries.Exploring the Colombian Escuela Nueva program, showed that local capacity is important to improve educational practice, using the adoption of certain elements of active pedagogy. However, capacity was unable to provide a complete explanation for the wide variation in teaching practices we observed. The Colombian program is argued to be one of the most successful multigrade schooling programs; indeed, it serves as a model for other countries. In our opinion the lack of will in the local community was one of the important factors that reduced the success of this program. Though no empirical test was feasible, we explored conditions under which teachers may lack the commitment and motivation to participate in implementation. Our main conclusion, then, is that local will is important to the successful implementation of multigrade schooling programs and, indeed, to education programs in general. This brings us to two ultimate questions. First, what is the sense of a concept of best practice if conditions of local vary across contexts? More care needs to be taken in qualifying results by specifying the conditions of local will under which such practices would, in fact, be best. If this is not done, transfer of recommendations for one country based on another success will not,be very useful. Second, can local will be affected by policy? The third chapter suggested a few answers: greater incentives for rural teachers , or capacity-building which is more participatory. This remains, however, an important topic for additional research.

Measures to accelerate the development of education often carry potential risks for the quality of education, especially in rural areas. It is therefore important to combine these strategies with policies aimed to improve the quality of education.

This is the framework of the Zambia multigrade project which objectives were to promote a better understanding of the factors and processes determining the improvement of learning outcomes in rural primary schools,to share promising strategies to improve pupils learning, to formulate new ideas to be used as the basis for future action.

In rural Zambian schools, there are generally three main challenges: poverty, instability and the lack of qualified teaching staff.

Discussions have shown that: policies relating to the hiring and remuneration of new teachers can be adapted with the aim of providing enough teachers for rural areas to promote the goal of equal

education for all;

these policies should be combined with recruitment and deployment strategies which guarantee a balanced distribution and support of teachers in rural areas, in particular by decentralizing the management of schools;

the close supervision and participation of local communities in the schools management help in promoting regular attendance among teaching staff.

Key questions pertaining to teachers training and motivation have been emphasized in order to underline the crucial importance of developing strategies which take into consideration their relative isolation in rural schools. These strategies include: meetings and pedagogical exchanges between neighboring schools, encouraging the development of reflexive practices and mutual training (between peers); support to self-education, particularly through rural resource centers, tool-kits, and distance learning;

community support in order to resolve the problems faced by teachers.T

The area in which change is most difficult, but also most decisive, is in the daily interactions between teachers and pupils. This is why the kind of reform most likely to succeed will begin in the classroom. The content and the methods recommended by the curricula must make good use of all cultural experiences which encourage learning. Curricular content, while it should be based on national policies and on international perspective, must be structured in such a way that local needs are taken into account. In all cases, the main concepts should be adapted to the universe of the child: his or her culture, his or her language, his or her potential for development, etc.Curricular content is necessarily limited, but it must not be limiting. The main objective should be to teach children how to learn, and not merely to teach as much content as possible. Child-centered learning strategies as well as involvement of parents and the community in the education process and management of the school, have been shown to be the most effective. Steps must also be taken to ensure compliance with international standards for the number of hours of effective teaching, without sacrificing the necessary flexibility of local school calendars.

There is no proof of its strategic effectiveness in improving the quality of education,since the term can be interpreted in many different ways. Nevertheless, the analysis of relevant case studies demonstrates the positive effects of decentralization in various areas: resources collection at the local level, classrooms construction and equipment, pupils recruitment (particularly of girls), monitoring of pupils attendance and results, provision of textbooksand didactic materials, community involvement in teachers hiring, salary and lodging. Thus, decentralization reinforces multigrade schools appropriation by local communities, and promotes a greater basis for dialogue on education, at the same time that it increases the relevance of school learning by taking into consideration specific local needs.

Moreover, one of the critical conditions of success of many alternative primary school programme is the active and massive participation of communities, parents and children in the schoolmanagement. This process concentrates energies around the school, and integrates the multigrade school into a global project of collective promotion.The child must remain the center of research and evaluation in order to improve the quality of education. The objective should be to measure the learning curve of each student. Also, it is critical to establish the extent to which the structures and components of the system contribute to the improvement of education.

The final objective is to instill a research and evaluation culture into the normal school and classroom operations. This would be instrumental in setting standards and improving the quality of education.In Zambia teaching in multigrade classes, initiated in 1985, has had considerable success in terms of underprivileged childrens access to primary education, as well as in terms of the standard of education itself.A child-centered pedagogy rather than a teacher-focused approach : active teaching methods geared more towards learning than teaching;Intensive cooperation between highly qualified teachers,less qualified teachers, community members and parents;

A continual learning process grouping several levels and resources in the educational environment; older or quicker students helping the younger and weaker ones;

Teaching and educational material designed to encourage students to teach themselves or to work in small groups;

Ongoing regular training of teachers and mechanisms for mutual training and monitoring (among peers);

Use of technological resources for teaching.Sustained relations between children and adults, through the interactive relationship between schools and local communities;

Participation of the community, parents and students in,among other things, the general orientation and management of the school and the development of materials;

Use of daily/weekly timetables and calendars of the school year adapted to local realities;

The community attends to the health and nutrition of the child before the child reaches school age.

A new concept of quality : the notion of quality must break free from pre-established norms, whereby students are classified according to their capacity to conform. This new concept of quality should incorporate the notion that each child has the right to keep on learning and receiving guidance as far as his or her potential allows.

Foundations for school: the cultural background the child brings with him or her on the first day of school is the point of departure for all schooling, particularly the basic data from his or her culture and language.

Training through practice: the initial training of teachers has little impact on their performance since the most important and sustainable skills are acquired during the first five years of service.

Multigrade is the gift I give myself...I have the time and opportunity to really get to know my class over time.

Multigrade is the gift I give my children...they have the time to really get to know me over time.

Multigrade forces me to look at my class as individuals...not a high group or a low group of learners. They are of different ages and abilities, therefore I must factor that in to everything that I do.

Multigrade allows children to acknowledge their own growth. The class is the constant...their growth is the variable.

Multigrade forces me to do new and different studies with my children. Having children for three years does not allow me to start each year the same way.

Multigrade allows me to begin in year two and three already knowing most of my children. I know what they should be reading and where they are in math instruction.

Multigrade speeds up the start up time of my classroom each year. Ordinarily in every classroom, whether multigrade or single graded, it takes students and teacher time to understand the program requirements and each other. Multigrade speeds this up, since there are so many "teachers" in the room. The older children will scoop up the younger or newer pupils to teach them the workings of the room.

Multigrade children experience different roles throughout the length of their program. First year kids, look and listen and watch. Second year kids do it, just right! They follow all the rules and teach them to the youngers without being asked. Third year kids are my gift to me...they look, listen, watch, teach and then they tell me ways to do it better. They are truly analyzing and synthesizing the classroom instruction and then taking it to the next step.

Multigrade allows for growth over time. As a teacher, I do not have to make BIG decisions based on knowledge gained from less than 10 months of instruction.

Multigrade allows me the opportunity to get to know my parent group. Multigrade parents are just like multigrade children...once they know what is expected of them they go farther than I would ever have asked! Parents must have true ownership of much of the classroom workings.

Multigrade fits my personal teaching style. It allows me to grow and learn new content and new teaching strategies.

A multigrade classroom where continuous progress is encouraged works well because every child is unique and has an individual pattern and timing for growth. Such a classroom provides opportunities for children to build progressively on their developing skill and knowledge base as they work toward the Learning Results. There is respect for different learning styles. It is understood that the time it takes for children to reach certain developmental levels is a variable, prompting the elimination of time-based grade-level barriers. Teachers structure a supportive learning environment where children feel successful, develop positive self-concepts, and are helpful and sensitive to others.

One of the major benefits of a multigrade classroom is the continuity over time that multigrade provides. The student benefits from having the opportunity to stay with the same teacher and classmates and experience the same teaching style and routines over a two year period. Since the teacher is already familiar with many of the students from the previous year, instructional time is not lost getting to know a whole new class of students each year. In a multigrade classroom there is time to recognize that a child's social and emotional needs are as important as academic needs, and there is time to devote to those needs Another advantage of more than one year in a multigrade classroom is the relationship developed between the teacher and the entire family.

Academically, students in a multigrade classroom get to see a wide spectrum of learning as they work with classmates who are at different places in the learning process. Multigrade education emphasizes building upon strengths. Pupils feel they are successful when they are working at their own level and know that everyone should not be able to do the same thing at the same time. Because the teacher values children as capable learners, she uses open-ended projects to provide for a wide range of

abilities and interests. During this time, the teacher can observe and document what each child does and how it is done. Each child is accepted at his or her own place on the developmental learning continuum. The teacher takes time to assess, evaluate and plan next steps for each child. Separate subjects are replaced by an integrated curriculum which engages children in meaningful activities that explore concepts and topics relevant and meaningful to the lives of the children. Students are grouped in many different ways and often it is by their own choice.

Socially and emotionally, students develop a sense of caring and nurturing or feeling of family, as they help each other learn. In a classroom where all children are learning at different rates and are not all the same age, there should be little competition. New students joining the class in September find that they have peers to help them learn where everything is located, how to use materials, and with whom they can share their first experiences at school. The children are expected to make many choices throughout the day as they becomes independent learners. This allows the teacher to have more time to work productively with individuals, also. Students are often more effective at teaching each other than are teachers teaching students. By helping each other, students reinforce their own understanding of knowledge, skills and attitudes. The informal nature of the classroom encourages much interaction between children and between children and adults. Conversations are encouraged as the children talk through their work in progress. These conversations help them understand just what they have learned. While the students are supporting and assisting each other, real leadership qualities have a chance to emerge.

Parent and community support benefits all types of educational endeavors by positively affecting student learning, but it is particularly crucial for multiage programs because the approach is unfamiliar to most citizens.

Multiage practices have evolved gradually over decades as research revealed more about learning and child development. But to adults whose last contact with elementary education occurred during their own childhoods, these practices can seem a sudden, radical departure from familiar ways.

Multiage practices are vulnerable to misunderstanding and can stimulate violent opposition if efforts are not made to explain and build support among parents, the local education community, and the general public.

I am glad that I could reflect on my personal practical knowledge including influences from my childhood, early schooling, college ,professional development opportunities and on my teaching experiences including interaction with students,pupils, other teachers, district,provincial and national office personnel, and the process of teaching. I have developed a new understanding of the curriculum and ways of instruction, and I have also been able to consider alternate ways of teaching. Upon reflecting on my practice, I can see certain conditions for change emerging from the narrative, which may be helpful for other teachers considering change in their practice.

First, it is necessary to identify personal beliefs about teaching and learning and to determine how those beliefs can help or impede a change in practice. Second, it is necessary to examine classroom organization and management with a view to identifying those factors which better support learning. Taking a different perspective on curriculum and seeking alternate instructional strategies comes next.

A further condition is noting and establishing a collaborative relationship between pupils and teacher and determining the roles and responsibilities in that relationship. Having access to effective leadership and the support necessary to implement successful change as well as the professional

development and in-service required to complete the task is a necessary condition. Understanding the importance of utilizing a pupils assessment and evaluation policy which coincides with the philosophy behind the multigrade approach is critical. Being committed to including parental and community involvement in education is another condition. Last but not least, the desire to want to change is one of the essential conditions for changing any practice.I believe that change will not happen in classroom practice until practitioners are ready and willing to seek what they need to make any changes and obtain the support necessary from other teachers, the administration and district office in order to implement successful change. Any teacher, group of teachers, or school improvement team wishing to make a change from single-grade, multigrade or traditional methods of teaching or attempting to look at curriculum and its delivery in their own classrooms, would find that multigrade instruction is flexible and has application in any teaching situation.

Finally, all I have read in the literature on multi-age teaching and my own personal experiences throughout a twenty year career, points to multigrade as being appropriate for the way children learn. For this reason, many teachers in urban areas are choosing to organize their classrooms using this approach because of its effectiveness when implemented properly. As teachers in rural areas become aware of the characteristics and advantages, I feel with proper training and support, they too will use the multigrade approach throughout their schools and feel enthusiastic about the prospect.

To be shore Multigrade Teaching will be a success in Zambia I suggest the (local) government respect four elementary rules:

Make sure their teachers receive sufficient training.

Inform their communities.

Find funding for transition expenses.

Monitor their schools' progress and assist in evaluating and improving the implementation process.

In order to make the change from a traditional to multigrade progress, we have to be realistic about the time and resources necessary to make a change of this magnitude. Keeping this in mind, I strongly believe that implementing a multigrade approach to teaching and learning is worth promoting.