International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation
The Case of In-service in Egypt
Prepared by Fayez Mourad Mina and Jean Michel Hanna
1. In-service teacher education
Principal features of in-service education in Egypt are characterized as follows. In-service teacher education in Egypt is generally planned in the absence of teachers. It is usually structured as a pyramid with leaders and inspectors at the central level, then teachers at the governorate levels. Methods used in in-service are mainly based on lectures to large groups, followed by sessions with smaller group (with some exceptions, such as: using videotapes of real lessons as material in in-service teacher education, classroom observation and analyzing teacher performance).
In-service education is usually related to changing programs or establishing new textbooks. Many centers organize training programs for teachers or for supervisors. Some centers that offer these programs include The Ministry of Education, The Center for Curriculum and Instructional Materials Development, The National Center for Examinations and Educational Evaluation, and The National Center for Educational Research. Additional centers that provide these programs include The General Directorate for In-service Training, The Regional Training Centers, The Television and Radio Broadcasts, and other institutions or organizations that depend on Universities or cultural centers.
Several problems exist in in-service teacher education in Egypt. These problems include an absence of harmonization between different centers working in teacher education and fragmentation of teacher education responsibilities, a lack of qualified or effective trainers, and a lack of active roles for head teachers at the school level. In addition to these problems, higher priority is given to the number of teachers receiving training rather than the quality of the training. There is no formal evaluation of training programs, training rarely focuses on the teacher performance, and teachers receive little real feedback. Adding to these difficulties is the costs of traveling to training centers and lodging during the work.
2. Pre-service teacher education
The teacher education system is a sub-system of the larger educational system, which in its turn is a sub-system of societal, regional, and global systems. Nevertheless, there are common achievements, problems, and needed changes to be found all over the world. Teaching is, or must be, professionalized, regardless of the educational stage at which one teaches. This implies a minimum of requirements to be a teacher that include continuous in-service teacher education.
Teachers' organizations, National Government Organization's (NGO), educational authorities and other societal agencies can support the profession of teaching in many different ways. One way would be to restrict teaching at all levels to "licensed" teachers (whether for governmental schools, private schools, higher education, or NGOs educational program), and for teachers' organizations to have a voice in current educational issues and the development of education.
Teacher education should cope with, and contribute to, recent developments in science (basically "complexity"), education (especially continuous concurrent self-education), psychology (e.g., cognitive psychology and multiple intelligences), and in the area of study and their implications for teaching (e.g., in case of mathematics; the paradigm shifts in mathematics and mathematics education). Teacher education should play a role in solving social problems, e. g., illiteracy, discrimination and so on, and attempt to deal with diversity through education. As a result of the two previous assumptions, we can look at the teacher on the one hand as an educational facilitator and as an active citizen in the society on the other.
Teaching and learning in programs of pre-service teacher education should be conducted in an atmosphere comparable to what ought to be in schools (in its ideal form) associated with training on analyzing and teaching particular curricula (professionalization of teacher education). These activities constitute some of the basics of pre-service teacher education. As well, intensive discussion and analyses of reality of schools, curricula and teaching, and the role of the teacher in their development are essential to teacher education, whether pre- or in-service education.
Teacher education should help teachers consider possible future developments in all respects. An "ideal case" 20-30 years from now, could be as follows: Almost all curricula are introduced in an integrated form in terms of problem solving, where problems mostly relate to everyday life. Calculators and computers are accepted tools in the classroom. Students submit "evidence" to justify their conclusions rather than "logical exercises" in terms of logical proofs. At the secondary level, a student selects a certain number of "integrated" problems and produces an article/piece of research in a "transdisciplinary" area. In such a vision teachers would be educated to have a "transdisciplinary" background, be able to work in "teams" to teach integrated transdisciplinary units and take part in collecting data and research work. In addition, they would need to be able to work in the framework of the "methodology of complexity." They would need to be able to use non-traditional methods of teaching including group work, based almost on self-education, employing advanced technology to collect data in an "encyclopedic form." They would also need to be able to use non-traditional means of evaluation, such as open-book exams, extended assignments, self-evaluation, and so on. To achieve these goals, in-service teacher education should be continuous and constitute an integrated part of teacher education. In-service teacher education should also meet the actual needs of teachers (as they identify them) and be conducted in ways that motivate teachers toward greater involvement in their profession.
Some Basic Ideas and Concerns
The different regions of the globe have many common problems (e.g., environmental problems fundamentalism, addiction, etc.). Some keys to their resolution lie in the behaviors and values of individuals and institutions. School curricula, and thus teacher education programs, should address them, side by side with other concerned societal institutions.
In addition to those global and regional problems, each society has its own specific problems, (e.g., overpopulation, illiteracy at different levels, problems in some particular economic sectors, some aspects of discrimination, etc.). These problems must be reflected in school curricula as well as in teacher education programs. Although they have to be shared by all societal agencies (e.g., family, school, media), the school has an important role to play. Some means of evaluation of both the processes and products of teacher education should be established. Informal means used in this respect have proved to be effective in this concern (e.g., questionnaires, interviews, content analysis, self-conception of graduated teachers, judgments of social institutions). Some of the important points in this respect are to have an organized way to attempt such an evaluation, to get feedback from the process, and to use the feedback to improve teacher education.
Much more attention must be paid to the preparation of teacher educators. In addition to the general requirements for appointing faculty members in different universities, teacher educators must have special characteristics, such as cultural and knowledge background, involvement in societal activities at different levels, and intentions to help their students and people in general. In addition continuous plans for training and follow up must become part of the system.
This includes a strong system of support for teachers, especially in their first year(s) of work. In addition to in-service training sessions, this system might take the form of "supervision" at different levels (e.g., head teacher or supervisor). To do this effectively might require changing the concept of supervision, its goals and administration from a judgemental concept to a supportive one. Generally speaking, supervision might be seen as some kind of "consultancy" helping to link school and actual teaching, research agencies for daily problems, and so on.
Suggested Policies for Teacher Education in Egypt
Minimum requirements to become a student-teacher are to have successfully completed secondary education with evidence of the desire and ability to be a teacher. The minimum requirement to recruit a teacher could be that he or she gets a bachelor's degree, with educational preparation as one of its major components. Different approaches can be used to deal with unqualified teachers; for example, open education and training programs can provide training to practicing teachers who were hired before the increase in minimum requirements. Teachers syndicates, professional organizations, educational authorities, NGOs, and the public at large, can play a great role in supporting the profession of teaching through establishing systems for "licensed teachers," providing continuous in-service teacher education and qualifying studies, holding meetings, conferences, and seminars, issuing publications, ensuring appropriate salaries for teachers, etc.
Teacher education curricula should be oriented towards the following aspects:
Particular Considerations in Teacher Education in the Area of Mathematics
Although the above mentioned parts of this overview are essential for mathematics teacher education, some particulars should be added and seriously considered in any process of planning, designing or implementation of pre and in-service programs of teacher education and/or in any relevant activity. The most important of these particular considerations seem to be as follows:
Some aspects to avoid present criticism to theories of "mathematical truth," an to attempt to build-up a new vision to it, should be considered (Mina, November 2002): Reality should not simply confined to "physical reality," but should be extended to include "virtual reality" as well as the content of "conditional propositions." Human behavior can be more easily explained assuming that the mind constructs mental models of reality, rather than by assuming the existence of a "mental logic." Mathematical systems are open and have been influenced by other systems, introducing change in all of their components.
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