The Ministry of Education (MoE) in Nepal has taken the initiative to improve existing services by introducing the School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP) for the years 2009–2015 in response to educational development challenges of the country. Finland is committed to support Nepal within the SSRP as one of the Finland’s long-term partner countries in development cooperation.
The aim of the SSRP is to improve the quality and relevance of education. The Training of Trainers (ToT) project started in spring 2013 as a two-year project coordinated by JAMK University of Applied Sciences and HAMK University of Applied Sciences working as a partner. Although the upgrading programme is a long-term process, this article describes one part of it, the ToT project. Firstly, the goals of the project are presented shortly. Secondly, the outcomes of the project are described based on the feedback of the participating teacher educators. At the end we assess the development cooperation between the higher education institutes.
The objectives of the ToT project
The goals of the project were closely linked with national ongoing reforms. The developmental objective of the project was to support Tribhuvan University in the implementation of the School Sector Reform Plan of 2009–2015 thus improving the quality of education. Taking into account the national political, economic and geographical facts, the educational reform has to be implemented in new ways.
Thus the purpose of the ToT project was to support Tribhuvan University in the implementation of the Teacher Qualification Upgrading programme by training 75 teacher trainers and ICT experts from different campuses of Tribhuvan University in open and distance learning methodology.
Table 1. The objectives of the ToT project.
|Effective implementation of the national School Sector Reform Plan 2009–2015 (SSRP) leading to equality and education for all||
|Increased competence of Tribhuvan University – Faculty of Education (TU-FoE) to implement the Teacher Qualification Upgrading Program for 13,000 working teachers across Nepal|
The framework for the project was divided into three themes:
- ICT and Open and Distance Learning (ODL) as a training model and pedagogical approach
- Development work, evaluation
- Pedagogy, adult learning and teacher`s profession.
Outcomes of the ToT project
Major organisational changes simultaneously provide the possibility for a new way of thinking. They may act like cornerstones, which help workers to look to the future (Kajamaa 2015). Heikkilä & Seppänen (2015) speak of transformative agency, where the agency is regarded as the subject`s capacity to take purposeful actions to change their work.
At the end phase of the ToT project feedback was gathered from the participants on two levels: quantitative and qualitative data using an online questionnaire and collaborative method (Learning café). The online questionnaire was answered by 56 teacher trainers from all six campuses of Tribhuvan University representing different subjects. The teacher trainers were well qualified: their teaching experience ranged from four up to more than 20 years.
The teacher trainers expressed the changes in their work during the ToT project:
- Increased ICT skills
- Pedagogical methods (student-centeredness, varied increased distance teaching methods, applying new pedagogical tools)
- Tutoring ways (student-centeredness, new ways of communication)
- Adopting developing work approach; systematic planning.
The teacher trainers had to evaluate their upgrading programmes on the campuses on a scale of 1 to 4 (figure 1).
The biggest changes seemed to be in the formulation of learning assignments, the pedagogical grounds for the new ODL model, the shift in the implementation of assessment and the importance of face-to-face teaching. The three most important personal achievements of the teacher trainers were the new, innovative pedagogical methodology combined with increased ICT-skills and a possibility for professional growth.
The three key challenges in the future work seemed to be the technological problems (e.g. learning environment, ICT hub, Moodle platform, E-library, lacking the ICT skills of participating teachers, electricity supply), motivational factors (e.g. the need to increase the number of participants, enrollment, awareness raising and motivation, need for smaller fees) and a clear status for the ODL programme on the campuses.
The collaborative feedback method (Learning café) produced many overlapping comments. Therefore the feedback was divided into three themes: competence development, open and distance learning development and contextual changes.
Competence development was regarded as very personal. However, the project seemed to increase empowerment and awareness as a teacher. The respondents referred to “an alternative approach in teaching”, which was new for them. The dialogue increased the participants’ possibilities to adopt new knowledge and build networks. The self-evaluation technique enhanced new learning, like systematic planning, too.
Open and distance learning development
According to teacher educators, development in ODL has been twofold: the development of the whole education model, from campus-based education to open learning environments on the whole university level and the development of ICT facilities, equipment and the skills. The ToT project was an updating process for the new era of education. Although the improvement of ICT skills was appreciated in the project, the teacher trainers stressed the combination of ICT technology with pedagogy.
Cooperation and contextual changes
At university level, all six campuses had started to work together organising intra-university seminars. The coordination of the collaboration has been one important factor. At the end of the project, the teacher educators also emphasised that the ODL mode was a pathway towards a new university model, the Open University. The university used to be centralised in its activities, but the ODL development has promoted a decentralised model, which empowers the campuses.
Reflection on the outcomes of the project
The social context is a foundation for every project. Global, cultural and political situations had a strong effect on the project. On one hand the feedback produced a lot of information on the reality of the campuses: the impact of political and the economic situation, the administrative policy of the university and many other factors that are out of reach of the teacher trainers. However, on the other hand they expressed enthusiasm and great willingness to implement a new, ODL-based pedagogical model.
Generally, in a situation where work changes, transformative agency (the capacity of the subjects to take purposeful actions) in their work activity differs greatly (Heikkilä & Seppänen 2015). Transformative agency manifests itself in different work orientations.
It is relevant to analyse what kind of pedagogical approaches during the ToT programme seemed to enhance transformative agency in the teacher trainers` work. The feedback showed that a huge amount of positive feedback emerged. The teacher trainers seemed to have taken many purposeful, goal-oriented actions. Obstacles that were interpreted as insurmountable at the beginning of the project were regarded as merely challenging at the end and no clear resistance to the development was visible. There was a lot of envisioning of the future: great hope that challenges in the development of the ODL models would be tackled on the campuses through collaboration.
To enhance the transformative agency of the teacher trainers, they need to have a feeling of mutual understanding. The cultural sensitivity approach was set as one of the project`s goals. For the Finnish team the project offered a huge possibility to reflect and evaluate own working methods. For this purpose the participants were asked about the “critical incidents”, which are grouped here in seven themes:
- Cultural relevance: some teacher trainers seemed to find a gap between the reality and the practices implemented by the Finnish team. Linguistic barriers existed to some extent but also differences between pedagogical methodologies.
- Social context: political instability, economic situation, infrastructure and geographical challenges.
- Factors related to the conditions of the working teachers (upgrading programme participants).
- Globalisation – “To apply global knowledge on a local level”
- New learning possibility for all
- Networking, co-operation
- Professional development.
Ideas for the future ODL-development
Cooperation ideas for future are based on the outcomes of the Tot project:
- The development of inter-campuses networking using benchmarking and sharing best practices.
- The development of the ICT infrastructure further: More ICT facilities, computers, software and sufficiently internet connections, centralised and decentralised ICT services.
- Different kind of virtual environments as a toolbox for learning.
- The continuation of ICT skills and ODL-based pedagogical training and the development of Self Learning Materials.
- The updating of strategic plans including awareness of common goals and development priorities.
- The main campus of Tribhuvan University as a leading role in organising the development work.
- Increasing the number of campuses and specialisation subjects to the ODL programme.
- In order to sustain this programme, the government of Nepal should give special emphasis to it as to the strategies made by SSRP (2009–15).
The original plan was to complete the ToT Nepal project by the end of July 2015, but a massive earthquake hit Nepal on 25 April 2015. This was noted as a risk in the Logical Framework Matrix of the ToT project. Therefore an extension of the project until the end of 2015 was applied in order to fulfill all project activities.
Maija Hirvonen, Principal lecturer, PhD, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuovi Leppänen, Senior lecturer, M.Soc.Sc, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, email@example.com
Shyam Krishna Maharian, Professor, PhD, Tribhuvan University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tauno Tertsunen, Senior lecturer, M.Ed, Häme University of Applied Sciences, email@example.com
Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument. Centre for International mobility (CIMO). Accessed 8.6.2015.
Heikkilä, H. & Seppänen, L. 2015. Examining Developmental Dialogue: the Emergence of Transformative Agency. Outlines – Critical practice Studies 15, 2, 5–29. Accessed June 8. http://www.outlines.dk.
Kajamaa, H. 2015. Collaborative work development as a resource for innovation and quality improvement in health care: an example from a hospital surgery. In S. Gurtner & K. Sovez (Eds.) 2015. Challenges and Opportunities in Health Care Management. Accessed June 8. http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-319-12178-9.
School Sector Reform Plan 2009–2015. Preparing for Effective Implementation of School Sector Reform Plan 2009–2015. Teacher Development Policy Guideline. Ministry of Education, National Center for Education Development. Government of Nepal.