4. What are the relationships between the pre-service training of teachers and pupils’ results?

The role of pre-service training on teacher quality has been subject to debate since the 1990’s. It is true that the teacher’s presence, attitude and investment (which also depend on a number of variables, such as their living and working conditions, their motivation, etc.) are yet other factors that also influence the quality of the teacher, measured in terms of their pupils’ results. The number of parameters to be taken into account, their respective weight and their interactions make it difficult to establish a clear link between teacher training and quality.

Studies conducted in the USA demonstrate that pre-service training has very little effect or is even of no significance on pupils’ results (Rivkin, Hanushek and Kain, 2005; Harris and Sass, 2010). In the context of Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, the studies conducted by the Programme for the analysis of education systems (PASEC) demonstrated that pre-service vocational training had often in reality little effect, noting that the teachers who had followed a training course did not make their pupils progress more than untrained teachers (Bernard et al., 2004).

These findings do not however lead to the conclusion that initial training is not useful, but rather that current training is not adapted to the challenges the teachers encounter in exercising their profession (Bernard et al., 2004). Indeed, training today is probably too standardised and academic to be effective (Harris and Sass, 2010). The study of precise training examples indicates that their effectiveness depends on different factors, such as programme content or duration (Bernard et al., 2004).

Aside from that, PASEC has conducted two studies in Guinea comparing 2,000 teachers, some of whom had received two years of so-called traditional pre-service training (training upstream of variable duration directed mainly toward academic and theoretical competencies, leading to a diploma granting teacher status, followed by an official first post) and others only one year of training with the accent on professional practices such as pupil-centred pedagogical practices and group work. Teachers from both groups were recruited as civil servants upon completion of their training. The study showed that teachers who had participated in the vocational training obtained better results (measured through the results of their pupils) in their first year of teaching, and then the results wore off subsequently to become practically equivalent 5 years later (PASEC, 2003). This study shows that training does exist with modalities and content enabling a reduction in duration and so in the cost of teacher training. It is important however to emphasise that “doing as well as” but cheaper than traditional training cannot be considered as a solution if it does not improve the quality of teaching.

Studies on teacher training (Perrenoud, Altet, Lessard, Paquay, 2008) show to what extent “the business of intervening in the activity of others” is complex and requires a high level of training, on academic, didactic and pedagogical levels. As such, the absence of a link between initial vocational training and pupils’ learning achievements observed in the current findings must not lead governments to neglect training but rather to rethink it, in order to make it more effective.

Hattie, with a meta-analysis of over 800 studies on the decisive factors of pupil performance, was also able to establish the key – albeit difficult to measure – competencies of teachers. It appears that teacher training must aim at developing class leadership competencies and pupil-centred practices, such as group work for example, feedback or the flipped classroom. Social competency also proves decisive (Attakorn et al., 2014; Hattie, 2008; Cornelius-White, 2007; Evertson, 2006; Marzano, Marzano, and Pickering 2003; Walberg, 1990). However, in developing countries, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, teachers are seldom trained in such practices: the frontal method, sentence repetition and group recitation of answers are frequent practices, which do not nurture critical thinking, concept development or teamwork (Akyeampong et al., 2013; O’Sullivan, 2006; O-saki and Agu, 2002; Hornberger and Chick, 2001). Moreover, studies reveal that some teachers do not have the minimum required level in mathematics and language (of their country) in order to deliver a lesson (CONFEMEN, PASEC 2014). These research findings must be taken into account when elaborating new effective and qualitative training models.



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