Multigrade teaching in primary schools in Nepal : practice and training
One or the most significant unsolved issues in achieving Education for All is increasing the quality of education, especially among the most disadvantaged groups. In remote areas, where many of these groups live, primary schools are often organised as multigrade schools. In these schools. teachers are simultaneously responsible for two or more grades during one lesson period. However, multigrade teaching is often overlooked by both policy makers and researchers. Multigrade teachers are unsupported because mono grade teaching predominates. There is a very limited corpus of research on multigrade schools or multigrade teaching. This study aims to draw the attention of both policy makers and researchers to multigrade teaching in the context of Nepal. The research is framed by five research questions: (l) What arc the contemporary and historical system characteristics of multigrade teaching? (2) What are the characteristics of multigrade primary schools? (3) What are the practices of multigrade teaching? (4) What kind of models of im10vation and change best explain current teacher training? (5) Does current training address the problems of multigrade classrooms and improve knowledge, competence and performance of teachers? The study relies on needs-based (i. e. context and input), process and output evaluations of multigrade teacher training, conducted during twenty months of fieldwork. The main sources of evidence were observations. interviews, questionnaires, documentary analysis and focus group discussions. It can be assumed that multigrade schools are prevalent in Nepal. Although no clearly stated policies on multigrade teaching have been established, special in-service training for multigrade teaching is conducted. The practice of multigrade teaching in classrooms is diverse. Detailed observation identifies five different patterns of multigrade class organisation. This typology serves as a tool for both policy makers and researchers for understanding effective practice in the classroom. The evaluations trace the process of teacher training from the central to resource centre level, and eventually to the classrooms. Current training is inspired by diffusion-oriented models of innovation and change. While trainees gain knowledge and competence in 'practice teaching' during the training course, its final impact of the course on teacher performance in the classrooms remains modest. Problems in the training process are identified and recommendations for future improvements formulated.