By Muhammad Ali
The concept and practice of multi-grade teaching has received increasing attention around the world. Multi-grade teaching occurs in schools when/where one teacher teaches more than one grades within the given timetabled period.
Multi-grade teaching is practiced in many countries either by choice or by necessity. For example in UK, France, Sweden etc., multigrade teaching is adopted by choice considering it a constrictive pedagogy in inculcating certain positive skills in students such as peer socialization and self-study etc. Hence teachers are prepared intentionally for multigrade teaching during their professional development programs.
It has been observed that in many government primary schools in Pakistan, particularly in rural areas like Gilgit Baltistan, instructions occur mostly in multi-grade setting due to different reasons such as lack of teacher, lack of classroom and low population of students etc. Hence, in Pakistan, like many other developing countries, multigrade teaching is adopted by necessity.
According to some studies, more than 40 percent of primary schools in Pakistan, majority in the rural areas, are multigrade. However, it is observed that teachers are less quipped with the skills to teach multigrade classes. Consequently, the incapability of the teachers to teach multi-grade classes affects the quality of teaching learning process in school. Thus, there is a dire need to reflect on the teaching learning practices of teacher education intuitions in order to improve their practices related tomulti-grade teaching.
Teacher education institution plays a vital role in developing prospect/student teachers around the world. However, it has been observed that in Pakistan the teaching learning practices of Government teacher education institutions are less integrated with needs of the classroom level. Historically, multi-grade teaching has received less attention in the curriculum and teaching learning practices of teacher education institution. Mostly teachers are developed for mono-grade teaching hence when they confrontwith multigrade setting in school they face challenges in coping with such situation.
It is observe that with the recent reforms in teacher education, initiated by government of Pakistan with the help of USAID, new teacher education programs such as two years Associate Degree in Education (ADE) and four years Bachelor in Education (B .Ed) have been introduced in some of the Teacher Education institutions in the country including GB. These programs will be implemented gradually throughout the country in coming years.
In the newly developed curriculum, a unit on multigrade teaching has been included in the classroom management course. This is a positive step towards developing the understanding and skills of the prospect teachers about multigrade teaching. However, conscious efforts are needed to implement the newly developed curriculum effectively.
Firstly, it is observed that multigrade teaching is taught separately only in the classroom management course. However, it needs to be integrated with other teaching methods courses such as science, mathematics, languages and social studies.
Secondly, the faculty members of the teacher education institution are not well oriented about the concept and practice of multigrade teaching. Hence, the faculty members need to be developed how multigrade teaching to be taught effectively.
Thirdly, though the new curriculum has been developed on the basis of contemporary educational principles however it has been observed that mostly lecture is used to deliver the given content on multigrade teaching. The prospect teachers are not exposed to multigrade classes. There is need to provide the prospect teacher opportunity to teach in the multigrade setting classroom to practice the concept learnt in the classroom setting.
Furthermore, multigrade teaching needs to be visibly incorporated in the educational policy documents so that it can be given due attention during the planning and teaching learning process.
In short, a good number of schools in the rural areas of Pakistan possess multigrade classes because of different reasons such as lack of teachers, lack of classrooms etc. Hence, teachers are needed to be prepared keeping in view the need of the schools. Teachers must be exposed to the concept and practice of multigrade teaching and their skills to be developed in multigrade teaching in order to improve the quality of teaching learning in many of multigraded schools in the country.
The writer is an educator. firstname.lastname@example.org