Trying the Impossible: Attempts at Teacher Training [Archives:1998/26/Reportage]

June 29 1998

Generally speaking the scholastic level of students is gradually deteriorating year after year, especially in science subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry. When graduates of the scientific section at Yemeni secondary schools go to study at universities abroad, they often fail and change to the easier humanities subjects. A small number actually qualifies, thus costing the state large funds in terms of scholarship allowances.
According to Ms. Lotfiya Hamza, the Principal at Arwa School for Girls the reasons behind this are multi-faceted:
– The academic year often starts late, in October, say, instead of September. This makes the teachers unable to cover the whole curriculum.
– School books are handed to the students in time.
– Some teachers do not perform their tasks efficiently so that students would later come to them for private lessons.
– Ministry of Education inspectors do a routine job. They just visit the school to look around and leave.
– There is a marked lack or even absence of science labs at state-owned schools.
– Overcrowding is another pressing problem.
– Teachers do no have easy access to reference books to be able to improve their knowledge and teaching techniques.
The Ministry of Education organized a special workshop during 20-25 June to train school inspectors in the subjects of mathematics, science, Arabic and social guidance. This workshop, in which 40 people took part, comes within an wider program to improve teacher performance instituted by the Ministry. The participants came mainly from Hadhramaut, Shabwa, Ibb, Abyan and Al-Baidha.
“This workshop is held in order to try to bridge the level gap between teachers’ performances in these subjects,” said Mr. Sabri Al-Hakimi, the coordinator for such events at the Ministry.
The training program covers teachers teaching students at grades 7 through to 12. “These 40 trainees will help train 150 other teachers per year in each governorate,” explained Mr. Al-Hakimi.
Dr. Majid Ghanem, Deputy Minister of Education for Training, told Yemen Times: “The Ministry’s 1998 plan authorizes the governorates’ education offices to organize local training courses, considering that the budget allocated for training programs is now decentralized.
“The Ministry has three distinct training programs:
– Training during service, small-scale field training, and short and medium-term courses.
– Training courses for those who have no teacher qualifications, of whom there are large numbers.
– Workshops and seminars to exchange information and expertise.”
During 1998, 14 different governorates will be covered by this decentralized teacher training programs, other governorates are scheduled for next year.
“Due to a marked lack of teachers of science and Arabic, the Ministry is coordinating with Yemeni universities to encourage student of education to enter into these specializations,” indicated Dr. Ghanem. He added that local staff cover about 90% of schools’ needs in these subjects, while, there are 9,000 to 10,000 non-Yemeni teachers working here at present.”
Secondary-school graduates have the chance to enroll in diploma studies to qualify as teachers. “There is also a strong emphasis on increasing the number of female teachers at schools in remote areas. A program jointly implemented with the UNICEF since 1990 aims to increase the number of female teachers in rural areas,” announced Dr. Ghanem.
Ms. Maryam A. Salman, curriculum specialist at the Education Research and Development Center, said: “Our center is currently preparing for primary education, from grade 4 to 6. Special emphasis is made on science subjects, Arabic and Islamic education. During the period from 1991 to 1994, new curricula for grades 1 to 3 were put into effect. Another project will be developing the curriculum for grades 7 to 12.”
Dr. Hamoud A. Al-Mkihlafi, a lecturer at Sanaa University and director of the training sub-project at the World Bank, said: “It is part of the World Bank’s plans to prepare field instructors. This workshop is rather successful because it was supervised and conducted by a team of highly experienced Yemeni academics from Sanaa University. People with no teacher training have benefited greatly from this course.
“It is very important when preparing the subject matter to strike a balance between the theoretical and practical elements of the topic. It is important that an instructor formulates a mechanism or a guide for the educational process to be followed in training other teachers.
By Ahlam Al-Mutawakil,
Yemen Times