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CHAPTER SIX : Teacher Resource Centres in Nepal

1.0 Introduction
2.0 TRC Systems Described
3.0 Teaching Observed
4.0 Impacting On Schools
5.0 Conclusion

Gary Knamiller, Sharada Maharjan and Rakesh Shrestha

1.0 Introduction

"Improving the quality of education is not simply a question of developing schemes or building physical infrastructure, injecting more resource such as materials, teachers and teacher training into the system. The management of such schemes and resources at the school level is fundamental."

Tribhuvan University, 1997

What we learned in Nepal is that teacher resource centres (TRCs) are only as good as the schools they serve. Unless the environment in schools is right, the messages and resources being disseminated by TRCs have little chance of taking root in classrooms. We learned that there is an absolute minimum set of conditions in a school that must be in place to allow it to 'receive' and act on messages and resources coming from TRCs. The most basic is that teachers are present in schools and working with students in their classrooms. Teacher, and headteacher, absenteeism is a very big problem in state run schools in Nepal. Another basic condition is for the school to have a curriculum management structure and some experience in curriculum planning as an all-school joint venture. There must be some sort of system in schools for absorbing and operationalizing the messages and materials that staff bring back with them from activities at the TRC.

TRCs in Nepal are physically apart from schools. Teachers leave their schools to come to them, and TRC staff, for the most part, have neither time nor transport to follow-up teachers and programmes into schools to the extent needed for up-take. The school is virtually on its own in planning and implementing change.

The focus of this case study in Nepal is on the relationship between TRCs and schools. We will attempt to paint a picture of TRCs and how they work and to contrast this with a picture of schools as we follow teachers from TRC courses and activities back to their classrooms.

2.0 TRC Systems Described

There are two systems of TRCs in Nepal. Primary TRCs, called Resource Centres (RCs), are within the Basic and Primary Education Project. Secondary TRCs are called Secondary Education Development Units (SEDUs) and are within the Secondary Education Development Project. Although they are completely separate entities, having different administrations, physical facilities, personnel and management practices they do share the general purpose of being a venue for certificate up-grading courses, for dissemination courses for new curricula and textbooks, for the distribution of some resources to schools and for hosting various local education committees and events. This report considers both the primary and secondary TRCs.

2.1 Secondary Education Development Units (SEDUs) - the Secondary Education Development Project (SEDP)

"The activities of the SEDU during the fiscal year 2053/54 (1996-97) have been to enhance the quality of education in the area. Teachers have received training in teaching methods, practical work and updating in curriculum content, related to lower secondary and secondary education. The new teaching methods have been activity centred to encourage pupil-centred activity within the classroom. Teachers are encouraged to adopt these methods on returning to their schools and to share them with their colleagues at the schools."

SEDU Bulletin, Chitwan 053/54

Secondary Education Development Units (SEDUs) are TRCs which have their own set of 3 buildings located on a secondary school compound. The centre piece is the professional block housing a large teaching room with flat tables and individual chairs (as opposed to benches), a store room, a preparation room, and an office for the SEDU Master Teacher (SMT). Besides the SMT there is also a clerk, a peon and a chowkidar. A few SEDUs have VSOs assigned to them. The complex includes a residential hostel which can accommodate around 30 and a house for the SMT. There are 25 SEDUs scattered around the country, each serving between 1 and 4 districts.

Secondary Education Development Project (SEDP)

SEDUs were built and began life as Science Education Development Units in around 1985 as part of the previous UNDP/UNESCO Science Education Development Project. They were inherited in 1991 by the currently operating Nepal Secondary Education Development Project in 1991. The British Department for International Development provides technical assistance to this project costing around $4 million. His Majesty's Government of Nepal is contributing $3.2 million, and the Asian Development Bank provides a loan of $8.6 million. The total cost of the project over the 5 year period is around $ 15.8 million. This is a very big, comprehensive project. It includes curriculum and textbook development, examination reform, benefit monitoring and evaluation, research, providing books and equipment and 'enhancing teacher effectiveness and competency.'

SEDUs play a major part in the in-service teacher training programme for secondary school teachers. Some 15, 000 untrained secondary teachers are targeted for a four week, full-time, residential teacher education programme in SEDUs. Although training under the previous project focused almost exclusively on science and had approximately 3000 participants, SEDUs now include courses in Nepali, English, mathematics and social studies in addition to science. Quite recently short in-service courses in school management for headteachers are being held at SEDUs as well. The 25 SEDUs answer directly to the Secondary Education Development Centre in Kathmandu which works closely with the Curriculum Development Unit in planning in-service training and producing training materials.

"The SEDU complex in Pokhara, with the professional block shown here with the VSO English language trainer and one of our team; the residential hostel with its SMT in the middle and members of our team; the SMT's house"

SMTs are principally in-service training course managers. On average they co-ordinate 8 or 9 courses each year. While each SEDU has local development and implementation committees, the responsibility for selecting teachers to come on courses and the day to day running of courses falls principally to the SMT. The SMT is also a trainer on courses dealing with his own subject specialty, at his own SEDU and at other SEDUs as well. When he is not busy with on-site courses, the SMT is suppose to visit schools, following up past participants. This is a daunting task, however, as over 200 teachers pass through their SEDU each year. Even with the intended help of part-time, associate senior teacher trainers few course participants are ever 'observed' in their classrooms.

2.2 Resource Centres (RCs) - The Basic and Primary Education Project (BPEP)

"The Resource Centre is the 'heart' of the Basic Primary Education Project... to realise educational development at local level. The Resource Person... helping the RC Management Committee in planning and implementing the cluster school programme will bring educational activities to the doorstep of the schools."
An Information Brochure, BPEP, 1992

Resource Centres (RCs) are teacher resource centres at the primary level. They are intended to be the focus of educational development within a cluster of 10 - 25 primary schools. Whereas there are only 25 Secondary Education Development Units, serving secondary schools in 1 to 4 districts, there are in the region of 700 primary Resource Centres serving over 9000 primary schools in 40 districts. Unlike SEDUs which are directly responsible to their central management (SEDP) office in Kathmandu, RCs are directly responsible to their District Education Office, which in turn responds to the BPEP central office in Kathmandu.

Ministry of Education and Culture
Policy Implementation Board
Project Implementation Unit

Research & Evaluation Unit

Primary Curriculum & Textbook Development Unit

Primary Curriculum Dissémination & Resource Centre Development Unit

Non-formal Education Unit

Planning & Programming Unit

Physical Planning Unit

Regional Directorate of Education

District Education Office
Resource Centre

The Resource Centres we visited are purpose built structures and are located on the compounds of secondary schools which have primary sections (an important point that we will return to later). These RCs have a large classroom furnished with tables and chairs, perfect for moving about to accommodate group work and practical activities. The large blackboards are readable, and while charts and posters commonly appear on walls they most often contain information about the administrative structure and aims of BPEP. Few teacher made materials are in evidence. There is an office for the Resource Person (RP), but it is not so well equipped with reference books and typewriters, or indeed a clerk, as are their SEDU cousins.

"Primary Resource Centres in the southern part of the country and in the hill area."

RCs are intended to be multi-purpose. They act as a training centre for teachers, a materials development centre, a teachers' library, a parents' meeting centre, an examination centre and a community hall. Major training courses at RCs are: basic training courses of 150 and 180 hours which focus on teaching methods, educational materials, learning strategies and evaluation; and courses in school management for head teachers; grade specific curriculum/textbook dissemination workshops; grade teaching and multi-grade teaching courses. (It must be noted that the 150 and 180 up-grading courses are being moved to newly established 'training centres'.)

The RP has an unenviable task. On average throughout the country RPs have 2 RCs to look after and a consequent increase in the number of primary schools to deal with. Besides co-ordinating in-service courses and various cluster committee meetings (e.g. the monthly meeting of headteachers and the examination committee for the development of end of year and the grade 5 primary leaving examinations which are set at district level), the main work of the RP is supposed to be in schools, advising and supporting headteachers and teachers. Merely getting to schools can be a major problem, particularly in rural clusters where distances to schools can be considerable. Once there, however, school-based support is frequently confused by a murky delineation between the work of the RP and that of district supervisors. This lack of clarity of purpose is in the minds of both school staff and the district office personnel. In addition, the usefulness of advice is often diminished by the absence of a focused plan of curriculum/pedagogical reform, such as, for example, improvement in number work in grades 3 and 4.

2.3 Critical comments about TRCs

Before taking a critical look at the work of SEDUs and RCs the point must be made that although these two programme have been around for quite a long time, particularly SEDUs at over 10 years, the superstructure above them, and upon which they are dependent for purpose, direction and funding, continues to shift about, sometimes quite dramatically. There have been, for instance, a number of different aid organisations and various emerging priorities. Most importantly, however, is the constantly changing political scene in Nepal, a country experiencing only its sixth year of democracy. Politics plays a significant role in education, at the national level certainly, but at the most local of levels as well. The education system seems to be in a constant state of flux, and neither SEDUs nor RCs are left untouched.

Critical comments about TRCs in Nepal, then, must be viewed against this continually changing context. Programme are developing and improving. The capacity building that is going on throughout education, in terms of people and materials, and the competence and commitment of many of those working in these development programmes are encouraging indeed.

Field Study Methods

The field study, conducted by myself and three Nepali colleagues associated with BPEP and SEDP programme, was done in 3 phases during the period January 1997 - February 1998. During the first phase of only one week we outlined the work and gathered materials relevant to the activities of RCs and SEDUs, particularly training manuals, teacher workbooks and resources used in training courses. In this regard we also visited one SEDU and an RC and a sprinkling of their satellite schools.

The remaining two phases, of 2 weeks each, were devoted principally to visiting regionally based SEDUs, RCs and schools with teachers who had recently attended courses at these teachers' centres. At each centre we gathered more 'traceable' practices and resources. We spent a week in each of four regions. In total we visited 4 SEDUs, 14 secondary schools and observed some 40 lessons; 7 RCs, 11 primary schools and observed some 30 lessons.

3.0 Teaching Observed

3.1 Teaching In SEDUs and RCs

Sitting in on training sessions at SEDUs and RCs you could be excused for believing you were in similar in-service training courses in the UK. You would likely be comfortable with the instructional styles demonstrated here. There is some lecturing, of course, but much of the time is given to small group work. Teachers are huddled together discussing an exercise in their training workbooks; they are playing with hands-on materials; they are designing charts and 'improvised' teaching aids. Presentations and discussions feature prominently in plenary feedback sessions. And, on longer courses, such as the 150 hours basic training for primary teachers and one month subject specific courses in science, maths and languages for lower secondary teachers, participants observe demonstrations and trial sample lesson plans in live classrooms, if not always given sufficient time.

"Inside TRC courses where active, participative methods are very frequently used"

In-service training courses are well planned and supported with resource materials. There are detailed training manuals prepared centrally in Kathmandu, and trainers are trained in how to use them. For the most part teachers and trainers appear to be having a good time, professionally and socially. In our interviews with teachers they all say how much they like being on these courses. One teacher's comments about her RC is very representative:

"It (RC) is a nice building. There is a chance to talk with other teachers. The new teaching methods are interesting."

Approaches to English Language Teaching on aSEDU Course

Presentation create situation model key sentence students reproduce key sentence check students' understanding of new language item
Practice correct students' mistakes whole class drill group drill individual drill repetition drill conversation drill pair work
Production students perform for whole class students work freely pair work teacher does not interfere students use own language small group work discourse chain small group discussion role play

Teaching and Learning Aids flash cards - and different ways to use them matchstick drawings flannel board plastic covered wall chart as a 'white board' ready made pictures model clocks songs and rhymes language games

What brings us starkly back from our musings of how similar in-service training programmes are around the world are lingering images of our visits to schools. The contrast between teaching methods and conditions for learning at SEDUs and RCs and the teaching methods and the conditions for learning in schools is like night and day.

3.2 Teaching in Schools

We must consider first the context within which teaching takes place. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Although there are a few good looking school buildings, several newly constructed, the great majority are quite basic. Most of the classrooms we visited are stuffed with long benches and matching long thin, communal desks which are frequently broken and not adequate for the numbers of students. Schools are poorly resourced, primary schools considerably more so than the average secondary school. There are very few teaching aids and learning materials. There is no provision for supplementary materials of any kind and libraries, either school or classroom, are practically unknown. It is extremely rare to find anything on classroom walls other than the blackboard, most commonly a dull shade of dusty grey, pitted, resistant to chalk. As an attractive teaching and learning environment most government schools in Nepal, whether secondary or primary, are very unattractive, at least to the western observer. Indeed, it is only the faces of children that brighten most classrooms.

"Classrooms in primary secondary schools. Some schools have better facilities and some worse than these"

3.2.1 In regards to teaching

Rather than give a detailed report of each lesson we observed, it might be best to give a description of a typical lesson. While we did see some good teaching, for the most part there was depressingly little variation among the primary and secondary classes we observed.

The scene was virtually the same in every class - absolutely nothing on the bare walls, students crammed onto immovable desk/bench furniture (commonly 50 and above students in secondary classes, although somewhat less at the primary level); the relevant textbook, perched on students' stack of other texts and copy books, opened to the given page of the day, eyes front and centre. Not a copy book was opened for students to take notes, to write an answer to a question or problem.

Impressively almost all pupils had their own texts and copy books all neatly bound in paper covers. This is a great achievement. And, new textbooks and teachers guides and short 'textbook dissemination' courses are appearing as part of the planned development within both BPEP and SEDP.

"The textbook is the chief resource for both teacher and learner."

The teacher, too, had his copy of the student text, lecturing from it for long periods of time, occasionally moving to the blackboard to reiterate a section of text or to draw an exact diagram from the book. Occasionally s/he asked a question from which s/he expected and got a chorus answer, repeated several times. Once-in-awhile, individual students were asked to stand and recite, but rarely by name. (We checked and found that few teachers knew the names of their students.) Very occasionally, and invariably in the schools which had advance warning of our coming, the science teacher had sent children out to get some piece of equipment or plant to illustrate the lecture. The 'visual aid' was usually a three dimensional version of the example in the textbook.

Courageously one teacher tried to do the collapsing tin due to air pressure demonstration, but it did not work as the tins the children brought were very small and fell through the grid of the kerosene cooker. Obviously this demonstration with this apparatus had not been tried before. There were no questions to illicit the observations of students. Neither was the class encouraged to ask a question. In a few classes, mainly in maths and science, the teacher had a child do a problem on the board - other students simply watching, not having been instructed to try the problem themselves in their copy books.

The lesson closes with the teacher giving homework which either consisted of having the children copy sections of the text into their copy books or responding to questions which required copying sections of the texts into their copy books. ('Copy books' are aptly named. Students transfer neatly what they copy in their copy books into their exercise books as homework.) We looked at the children's exercise books and, in the main, found scarce evidence of them ever having been marked. But, then, why mark books that contain little more than copied texts? We acknowledge that it is too much to expect teachers to frequently mark so many books. But there was no evidence to suggest that exercises or problems were given as homework and that methods for going over them in class and arranging students to check each others answers were employed.

Good Practice - Notes from Teaching Observed

· Class 4 - English on the topic 'her and his'. The teacher has almost all of the 61 children working in a variety of ways. Her own blackboard work is great. She has a couple of pictures of a boy and a girl which she obviously drew herself on pieces of cardboard, and she uses them as puppets talking to one another. She does whole class choral response, but group and individual response as well. She has several pupils come to the board to write a pattern, and amazingly has the rest of the pupils doing the exercise at the same time in their exercise books. After the board work she gives them more written work, and she moves about the class checking it. She even asks the children to "Make one question?" following the pattern she has set on the board. She had obviously planned the lesson and used something more than just the textbook. She knew the children's names. (The teacher said she got many of her ideas and techniques from the 150 hour course she did at the local RC. Before that she was an untrained teacher.)

· Class 8 - Social Studies on the topic of the differences between two-dimensional maps (of the world) and globes. It is just before lunch break and we arrive 10 minutes into the on-going lesson. Impressively he had a large wall map hung on the front wall and a globe. It is obviously a new lesson for the children, 56 of them cramped into a very confined space. The teacher has drawn a chart for comparing the two kinds of maps on the blackboard and the students are copying it into their exercise books as he lectures from the 2-D map and the globe. He fills in some boxes, but leaves several blank, and calls individuals to come up to fill then in. While individual students are at the board, the others confer with their neighbours and fill in their own boxes. The teacher tries to squeeze about the class checking students' work and frequently directs them to look again at the map and globe. The students are very enthusiastic. (This teacher has recently returned from the month long social studies course at the SEDU. He said that he got the idea for this lesson from the course.)

Comment: By any standard these 2 lessons, these 2 teachers were impressive. It points out how much of the content of RC and SEDU courses is relevant to classroom practice. We keep asking ourselves, why, oh why is so little of it transferring back to classroom teaching and learning?

"Using ideas picked up from TRC courses."

3.2.2 In regard to resources

One of the most 'traceable' resources is science equipment. SEDUs in particular are distribution centres for getting science equipment to schools. Much of it is used by teachers in practical sessions on science in-service training courses at the SEDUs. Much of this equipment and apparatus can also be found in schools, in 'prep rooms', locked in cupboards. And, when you can find the key and open the rusted doors typically there are shelves packed with broken, some workable, completely unorganised apparatus. The dust and grime is thick. In a school that houses a SEDU and where the senior science teacher is a trainer on SEDU science courses there were 2 boxes full of scores of little plastic bottles containing a liquid. He did not know what they were. A set of teachers' guides sat in their plastic wrapping unopened. A globe was still in its plastic wrapping. In another school the science equipment distributed by the SEDU and observed in their boxes by one of our researchers in a previous visit some 4 months ago was still unpacked. This was by far the most common situation we encountered in all the schools we visited.

Besides science equipment there are maths materials and teacher made charts and posters that feature in TRC in-service training courses, and should be traceable to classrooms. We saw very few being used or any evidence from looking back through students' exercise books that they had been used. There were some charts, mostly commercially produced, in staff rooms, scattered about and full of dust. In only a very few lessons did we see any use of material resources. Primary teachers returning from courses are given a white, cloth pocket chart intended to be used for holding 'flash cards' of words and numbers. Several teachers brought these with them to the lessons we observed. They dutifully hung the pocket chart on the front wall by the blackboard, but only one teacher out of the 8 who brought them to the classes we observed actually used it. All the pocket charts were very white, unsoiled by use.

To sum up all we can say is that there is extremely little observable evidence of the transfer of pedagogical messages or resources from SEDUs and RCs to the schools, classrooms, lessons and students' exercise books we visited, either in the way teachers teach, or in the way students are learning, or in the improvement of the general conditions for learning in schools. We saw very traditional teaching, indeed, and little active learning except students memorizing the text.

We must remind ourselves, at this point, that our judgment of the teaching and learning we saw in schools is not based on some external criteria of what is 'good practice' and 'active learning'. Indeed, we feel that chorusing answers, copying notes and memorizing are perfectly legitimate active learning practices - applied in moderation and together with other mind stretching activities as well.

Our assessment of teaching and learning is based on the messages that are being put forward in in-service training courses at SEDUs and RCs, such as students doing paired oral drills, drawing pictures in response to a poem, teachers and/or students using small pan-balances in maths classes, teachers and/or students doing a science investigation, all of which teachers had done at their teacher centres. Of these, we saw very, very few in practice or evidence of them having been happening by consulting pupils' exercise books.

4.0 Impacting On Schools

4.1 Searching for explanations

Why is it that the work of teacher centres in Nepal appear to be making so little impact on schools and classrooms? There are many possible reasons for this lack of transfer of pedagogical messages and resources from TRCs to the schools and classrooms we visited. They may be deep within the cultural milieu that surrounds education and social relationships in Nepal. Perhaps the views of child development and how learning takes place clashes too dramatically with western constructivist philosophies of learning and teaching. What do 'child-centred' and 'active learning' mean? Perhaps teachers are overwhelmingly concerned with feeding their families on a teacher's wage in the face of rising costs of living and expectations. Recognising that these are serious concerns which form the backdrop of any analysis of the situation, the job of this study, nevertheless, is to consider professional education and technical matters.

In regard to professional and technical matters we would suggest that both teacher centre programmes in Nepal (SEDUs and RCs) are based on the assumption that the individual teacher, not the school is the unit to be targeted for change and improvement in the quality of learning. The assumption is that training one teacher to teach their classes better will positively influence teaching and learning across the school. This, we feel, is a flawed assumption. In Nepal there are two fundamental and intimately related reasons why we believe this is so:

· On the side of schools - there is neither a management structure nor a positive professional ambiance in schools for the improvement of curriculum and instruction via teacher colleagues returning from SEDU courses.

· On the side of teachers' centres - the topic of 're-entry' to one's school, including managing teaching and learning target subjects across the school, is given too little practical consideration in in-service courses.

In regard to schools, particularly in secondary schools but also in larger primary schools, there is no management structure for planning and implementing the curriculum across the school. Curriculum planning is confined to whatever individual teachers decide to do in their classes without reference to other teachers or class levels in the subjects they teach. The textbook is the sole curriculum guide.

Many of the schools we visited have classes 1-10. There is a head teacher and a deputy head. There is no one with particular responsibility to oversee the primary section, or the lower secondary section or the higher secondary section.

More to the point of this study only one of the 14 state secondary schools we visited had subject based departments, and it had only three departments - science, computer studies and examinations. Staffing arrangements do not include heads of departments or subject co-ordinators. On the whole there does not appear to be a management plan for the delivery of mathematics, or Nepali or science or English or social studies curricula across the school. Science is particularly obvious in this regard as it takes careful planning of the timetable and room bookings to do any sort of practical work when classes are large and where space and materials are limited. But other subjects, too, have their management requirements and needs for systematic planning over the school term if more active learning approaches are to be realised.

In regard to SEDU and RC programme there is little on courses to do with how teachers can involve their colleagues in considering the messages and resources brought back from TRC courses.

A particular incident in the staff room of a 1-10 'secondary school' illustrates the 're-entry problem. A teacher who had recently returned from a one month SEDU mathematics course for lower secondary which focused entirely on classes 6 and 7 mathematics was not teaching these classes at all. He was teaching class 8 maths and above. The head teacher said that there is no particular reason for this, but that is just the way the timetable worked out. We suspect, however, although we did not pursue the matter, that the trained maths teacher was assigned to teach class 8 because there are district level exams at class 8, that the person having the most recent training, regardless of its focus, would be the teacher most likely to do the best job of preparing students for the exam. (It is important to note that courses touch very little on examination preparation, a topic that is closest to the heart of all teachers.)

During this discussion another mathematics teacher who teaches classes 6 and 7, and who had not been on a SEDU course, started to complain that the class 8 teacher had not shared anything of the SEDU course with him or any other maths teachers in the school. This caused quite a stir as the blow up took place at lunch time with all staff in attendance. The teacher who was on the course said, "I was on the course to learn to teach children, not teachers." To this teacher at least the in-service training course he attended was for him, and him alone. During a lull in the argument, we asked the head teacher if the topic of how the school can benefit from those returning from courses was considered at the 3 day Head Teachers' Management course which he recently attended at the SEDU. He said that it was mentioned but only in terms of the need to consider it. Developing a management plan to do so was not considered.

Another major problem is that teachers have to do a lot of 'restructuring' of the content they engage at in-service training courses in order to use the methods and materials in their classes. One teacher who had been on a SEDU science course, for example, said that he could not do the activities they did on the course in his own classes, "... because the sessions on the course were 90 minutes and the teaching periods in school were 45 minutes." While on the surface this may seem a rather lame excuse for not doing practical work, it reflects the difficulty teachers have in restructuring what they have done on a course for their own teaching situation. He went on to say that practical work on the course was done with only 26 or so fellow trainees, but he has classes of 50 and above. He said that he thoroughly enjoyed the course but mentioned the advantages of space, tables and teaching assistants at SEDUs which he could not replicate at his school. While courses never suggest that teachers can replicate in their classrooms the exact methods used in training, it does suggests that teachers need instruction, and indeed practice, beyond the one practice session they now do as part of current courses. Also, there needs to be more about planning and managing the teaching of a subject over a period of a unit, a term, a year.

The selection of teachers for training on both SEDU and RC courses is very possibly another cause of the lack of transfer of new teaching methods and materials from courses to schools and classrooms. Priority for training is given to untrained teachers for the purpose of up-grading. Senior teachers, those having been trained many years ago, are not selected for courses. Many teachers, headteachers, trainers and SMTs and RPs, as well, expressed the view that was succinctly put by a senior English teacher who had his BEd and an MA in English. He said that he has not gone to the SEDU English course, "... because it is for untrained teachers who are young and inexperienced."

The point, here, is that these courses, which have only recently come on stream within the last 3 years or so, are innovative. They emphasize a more active approach to teaching and learning in classrooms. Senior teachers back at schools are hardly likely to be open to new messages brought back by 'trainee' teachers.

We put this point to a meeting we had with an SMT and a head teacher, himself a science trainer. They agreed that little transfer takes place. So, we offered them the idea of having all same subject teachers in the school, from both junior and secondary levels, do at least some aspects of this new training together. They both immediately said, "But, that would not be possible, the content is so different!", meaning the content (of the same subject) for junior secondary teachers would be fundamentally different from the content for secondary teachers. We replied that we thought the focus of courses was on subject pedagogy, curriculum implementation and the improvement of teaching and learning the subject across the school. They politely nodded, holding the more important knowledge to themselves that in the end it is subject knowledge, presented as discrete facts, as confirmed by the factual, recall style of examinations, that is important. The conceptual themes and skills running through a discipline and more active, thoughtful approaches to handling information, which is the focus of much of the work at TRC courses are not really that important.

Curriculum is in textbooks. Following it together with preparing examinations based strictly on the text is curriculum management. There appears to be little consideration of subject content or methods of teaching and learning between one year and the next. We did, however, encounter an example of where curriculum planning is beginning to take form.

During a discussion about curriculum planning with the headteacher of a very large urban secondary school, he produced an outline of a curriculum plan developed by the 'Municipality Level Examination Committee'. This was the closest thing we had seen to any such planning at all. It was an outline of a year's scheme of work. Chapters from relevant textbooks were divided into 3 'terminal exam' columns with statements of knowledge content objectives under each set of chapters. This was impressive indeed. But, the local SEDU had no part in the development of the plan. Indeed, this was the first time the SMT and the VSO, working in the SEDU for the last 8 months, had seen it. It must be point out that this headteacher is the chairman of this SEDU's management committee and he sits on its co-ordination committee as well. It is difficult not to conclude that this SEDU, at least, is not seen as having a role in local education affairs. Rather, it is viewed solely as a venue for in-service training courses, a role which does not extend beyond the training of individual teachers.

Selecting untrained teachers and pulling them out of their schools to attend courses at teacher centres does not, we think, contribute to the improvement of teaching and learning in schools. Indeed, it may even acerbate the problem. It certainly adds significantly to the teacher absentee problem.

4.2 Follow-up from Teachers' Centres to Schools

The most obvious strategy for aiding the transfer of ideas from teachers centres to classrooms is for trainers to follow trainees back to their schools and support them in implementing new content and methods. And, to the credit of both teacher centre programme plans for 'follow-up' had been incorporated into their designs right from the start. In the Secondary Education Development Project, SMTs and their temporary associate trainers, themselves full time teachers in schools, are suppose to visit trainees in their classrooms. They are supposed to be paid to do this supervisory work on a per visit basis. Guidelines and schedules are drawn up. The problem is that it just does not happen to any significant degree. In a separate study it was found that of 33 trainees receiving the 10 month course at a particular SEDU, a course which included 6 months of 'practice teaching' to include a series of visitations by senior teachers, none of trainee teachers had been visited.

There are several reasons for this. The sheer numbers of schools and trainees to visit and the related problems of transport and accommodation, in themselves, make follow-up an almost impossible task. But we found two other factors that mitigate against successful follow-up in schools. The first has to do with the assumption, mentioned above, about training individual teachers leading to quality improvement in schools. The intended plan for follow-up in both programme calls for SMTs and RCs, and their associate trainers and supervisors from district education offices, to be 'observers'. Trainers are supposed to sit-in on classes of individual teachers who have been on in-service training courses, to check their lesson plans, observe teaching, give feed-back on the lesson and file reports on their performance. Planning forward and developing schemes of work rarely feature in supervisor's style of working with teachers.

Such supervisory practice does not bring in other teachers who teach the same subject. It takes the focus away from a consideration of the subject across the school. The idea obviously has been extended over from the practice teaching component of pre-service teacher training programmes where quality improvement of a school as a whole is not the objective.

A second concern in regard to follow-up in schools has to do with the perceptions of headteachers and senior teachers about their role as curriculum leaders in their schools. The following episode helps to illustrate the point. The headteacher of a class 1-10 secondary school, himself an English teacher and SEDU English trainer, taught a demonstration lesson for us. He had never taught this group of class 8's before.

There are around 40 students in the class. The headteacher does oral English, and he is absolutely brilliant. He uses all the techniques - group response, paired response, correcting and repeating, getting almost all students across the class participating. This is doubly impressive because it is obvious that the students have not done such work before, and the headteacher has to instruct them in how to do every drill. He even linked the oral work with having students do a written exercise based on the language patterns he taught. The exercise was not from the textbook.

After this lesson we congratulated him on this marvelous exhibition of teaching. He said that these are the methods that are taught on SEDU English courses. We asked him if his teachers teach English in this way. He said, "No, because there is no follow-up to the courses. No one comes to observe or supervise the teachers." My research colleagues and I, as we later conferred, were absolutely stunned by this response. We were too embarrassed to ask him the obvious question, 'Why don't you do it?' It just did not occur to him that he, as a SEDU English trainer, and, of course, the headteacher of the school, should be involved in supervising his teachers teaching.

Another small episode illustrates a similar feeling in primary schools. We had just sat in on a lesson of a primary teacher who had recently completed the 150 hours course at the RC. In discussions that followed with the teacher and the head we asked him if he or any of the senior teachers at the school observe 'new teachers'. He said that they did not, that they would rather wait for the new teacher to ask them for help if they feel they have a problem.

These are not isolated cases. The teaching and conditions for learning at the primary and secondary schools, located on the same compound as the teacher centre, whose headteachers sit as chairpersons of teacher centre management committees and whose staff frequently include senior teachers acting as temporary in-service training trainers, are indistinguishable from any other more distant schools.

5.0 Conclusion

It is difficult not to conclude that there is a separation, operationally and conceptually between the work of training centres and work in schools. The assumption in Nepal seems to be that the transfer of pedagogical messages and resources from TRCs to classrooms is unproblematic.

The aim of improving the quality of teaching and learning in schools is clearly stated as being the ultimate concern of SEDUs and RCs. But, we are drawn back to that statement of hope expressed in the BPEP information brochure of 1992 for primary RCs to bring educational activities to the 'doorstep' of schools. In light of our observations we feel that this statement was prophetic: ideas and resources for quality improvement have been delivered by TRCs to the doorsteps of schools, but there they sit. It appears to us that teacher centres in Nepal have not been able 'to open the school door'.

Obviously we are using the 'doorstep' statement in a way not intended by BPEP, and for this we must apologise. Our excuse for doing so is that it summarizes so clearly the dilemma facing educators in Nepal. What do we do with all these untrained and under-trained teachers? What do we do with all those schools following very traditional approaches to teaching and curriculum management?

Our thinking, although neither new nor revolutionary, is to focus on schools and the teachers within them rather than the other way around. Rather than targeting individual teachers and observing them teach discrete lessons in their classrooms, school-based training might more productively focus on curriculum planning in specific subjects across grade levels with the group of teachers teaching the particular subject targeted for improvement.

If there is a role for the teacher centre it would be in training and supporting subject coordinators for primary schools and subject department heads for secondary schools. But, in order to succeed such a shift in focus for TRCs would have to be preceded by the development of curriculum management systems in schools. And, it is hard to imagine the development of curriculum management systems in schools without the establishment of staffing structures which accommodate heads of departments and subject co-ordinators, and for these positions to be formally recognised with a salary structure to match the increased responsibility.

We agree with the conclusion of the Tribhuvan University (1997) study with which we began this report, that "...injecting more resources such as materials, teachers and teacher training into the system (is not enough)... the management of such schemes and resources at the school level is fundamental." In this sense, the introduction of TRCs in Nepal may have been pre-mature. Schools just are not ready for them. The expectation was that TRCs could drive improvement in the quality of teaching and learning in schools and classrooms by up-grading training for individual teachers in courses taken away from their schools and classrooms. We do not believe, now, that this is possible. Schools must first be helped to provide a more fertile environment for change and development. Whether or not TRCs can contribute to such an endeavor remains an open question.

Positive Outcomes of RC and SEDU Programmes

· RCs and SEDUs together with their local management committees present visible symbols of an attempt to decentralise educational provision and put more responsibility into the hands of local people.

· Educators are being made aware of the existence of new, more active approaches to teaching and learning. All teachers we talked with thought that the content of courses was very interesting and stimulating.

· In-service training courses are very well designed, specific to subject related pedagogy and supported with good trainee workbooks and trainer manuals particular to each subject.

· Courses for the dissemination of new textbooks has been very well received. The teachers guides are very usable, with the text from the pupils' book printed conveniently on appropriate pages of the guide.

· The evolution of Headteacher Training Courses in response to the need for better management practices in schools

· The rise of cluster level examination committees to prepare examinations for all schools in the cluster, organized through RCs, brings a common focus to schools.

· In summary. Although changes at the classroom level have been modest, in the larger picture, significant changes have come about in the formal education system in terms of institutional development, staff training and development, development of more relevant teacher training curricula. There is a budding awareness of the idea that learners should work with information beyond memorising it.