A Brief History of Special Education

Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. History has shown that this has never been an easy clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the educational practices and services of education and special education by the human educators who deliver those services on both sides of the isle, like me.

Over the last 20+ years I have been on both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to be a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized teachers. I have also been on the special education side trying to get regular education teachers to work more effectively with my special education students through modifying their instruction and materials and having a little more patience and empathy.

Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education teacher who taught regular education inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students as well. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the territory of some regular education teachers with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor do I see this pushing and pulling becoming easy anytime soon.

So, what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special education, as its name suggests, is a specialized branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), the physician who “tamed” the “wild boy of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.

Special educators teach students who have physical, cognitive, language, learning, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that deviate from those of the general population. Special educators provide instruction specifically tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education more available and accessible to students who otherwise would have limited access to education due to whatever disability they are struggling with.

It’s not just the teachers though who play a role in the history of special education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of individuals with disabilities. Sadly, education in this country was, more often than not, very neglectful and abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.

There is even a rich literature in our nation that describes the treatment provided to individuals with disabilities in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as in the real world, the segment of our population with disabilities were often confined in jails and almshouses without decent food, clothing, personal hygiene, and exercise.

For an example of this different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition, many times people with disabilities were often portrayed as villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.

The prevailing view of the authors of this time period was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these seeming misfortunes are ultimately intended for one’s own good. Progress for our people with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this way of thinking permeating our society, literature and thinking.

So, what was society to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the nineteenth century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential facilities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, if you will…

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions had increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities just wasn’t working. Institutions became instruments for permanent segregation.

I have some experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments in self-contained classrooms in public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I have also taught in multiple special education behavioral self-contained schools that totally separated these troubled students with disabilities in managing their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends and peers.

Over the years many special education professionals became critics of these institutions mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their peers. Irvine Howe was one of the first to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it took a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students with disabilities.

Now on the positive side, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut, by Gallaudet. That school is still there today and is one of the top schools in the country for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!

However, as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who deviated from those of the general population.

Sadly, Darwinism opened the door to the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done right here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Kind of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, this kind of treatment is obviously unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of these disabled children. Thus, concerned and angry parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public eye. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this this eugenics and sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.

Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with disabilities. For example, in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ movement led to enough pressure on our elected officials for something to be done on the national level for our people with disabilities.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided funding for primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities.

When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on civil rights, then it probably isn’t such a surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.

This federal movement led to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally deal with 504 cases every single day.

In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability. This was another good thing because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.

The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” to students. Public schools were not required to maximize the educational progress of students with disabilities.

Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through our courts today in 2017. However, given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said special education students could not pass through our school system without learning anything. They had to learn something. If one knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress through tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was a victory for special education students because it added one more rung onto the crusade.

In the 1980s the Regular Education Initiative (REI) came into being. This was an attempt to return responsibility for the education of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Regular Education Initiative because I spent four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher and was working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.

The 1990s saw a big boost for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reached beyond just the public schools. And Title 3 of IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in any place of public accommodation. Full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations in public places were expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of education.

Also, in the 1990s the full inclusion movement gained a lot of momentum. This called for educating all students with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of education as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.

Now on to President Bush and his educational reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.

Now, this NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing happen. Where this kind of went crazy was that the NCLB demanded a host of new things, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new objectives.

Furthermore, teachers began feeling squeezed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business and corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational background now found themselves influencing education policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.

This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized testing ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their lower echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired!” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep one’s job, and beating our kids over the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more vulnerable special education students.

Some good did come from this era though. For example, the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept public funds for education must provide special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I said earlier, the law is a long slow process of tiny little steps adding up to progress made over time.

Finally, in 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had replaced President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were now allowed to back off on some of the testing. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However, only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local control. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.

You see the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Basically, they saw no role for the federal government in education.

You see, the Founders feared the concentration of power. They believed that the best way to protect individual freedom and civil society was to limit and divide power. However, this works both ways, because the states often find themselves asking the feds for more educational money. And the feds will only give the states additional money if the states do what the feds want… Hmm… Checks and balances, as well as compromise can be a really tricky thing, huh?

So on goes the battle in education and all the back and forth pushing and pulling between the federal government and the states and local government, as well as special education and regular education. And to add to this struggle, recently Judge Moukawsher, a state judge from Connecticut, in a lawsuit filed against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, rocked the educational boat some more when in his ruling he included a message to lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

His ruling and statements appear to say that he thinks we’re spending too much money on our special education students. And that for some of them, it just isn’t worth it because their disabilities are too severe. You can imagine how controversial this was and how much it angered some people.

The 2016 United States Presidential election resulted in something that few people saw coming. Real Estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump won the presidency and then appointed anti-public educator Betsy Devos to head up this country’s Department of Education. Her charge, given to her by Trump, is to drastically slash the Department of Education, and to push forward private charter schools over what they call a failing public educational system.

How this is going to affect our students, and especially our more vulnerable special education students, nobody knows for sure at this time. But, I can also tell you that there aren’t many people out there that feel comfortable with it right now. Only time will tell where this is all going to go and how it will affect our special education students…

So, as I said earlier, perhaps the largest, most pervasive issue in special education is its relationship to general education. Both my own travels and our nation’s journey through the vast realm of education over all of these years has been an interesting one and a tricky one plagued with controversy to say the least.

I can still remember when I first became a special education teacher back in the mid-1990s. A friend’s father, who was a school principal at the time, told me to get out of special education because it wasn’t going to last. Well, I’ve been in and out of special education for more than two decades now, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m a regular education teacher or a special education teacher, or both. And sometimes I think our country’s educational system might be feeling the same internal struggle that I am. But, regardless, all these years later, special education is still here.

In closing, although Itard failed to normalize Victor, the wild boy of Averyon, he did produce dramatic changes in Victor’s behavior through education. Today, modern special education practices can be traced to Itard. His work marks the beginning of widespread attempts to instruct students with disabilities. Fast forwarding to 2017, for what happens next in the future of education and special education in our country… Well, I guess that depends on all of us…

Open Source Software in Higher Education

The higher education sector is quite unlike other industries. It has its own processes and a different set of demands. Most commercial proprietary application vendors develop their applications focused on a wider domain spread across industries. This, academics complain, creates a distinct disconnect between software vendors and the end-users in academia.

To overcome these shortcomings, the education industry started looking to “open source” as an alternate model. Around a decade back, institutions started debating total cost of ownership in adopting an open source based community approach vis-à-vis proprietary applications, viability of open source based business models, sustainability and security issues.

The success of community developed open source software is quite well established. Linux and Apache are ample proof of its success. A similar trend, though not that widespread in its reach, can be traced to the development of community projects in education like the Moodle and Sakai.

Through the course of its formative years, the open source community based approach in education has developed several alternative models. Some of these models and schools of thought have thrived and been implemented successfully across a significant spectrum of the industry. Progress and success in open source projects like the Sakai, Moodle, Kuali, uPortal, Shibboleth, and many more are being closely watched by the industry.

Community Source Model

One school of thought believes that open source sharing is more a philosophical approach than a viable alternative. The adoption of open source in higher education seems to suggest otherwise. FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) communities are thriving well in learning environments too.

The FLOSS model has been extensively used in initiatives like the MIT OpenCourseWare and Open Source Biology. Project Gutenberg, the Wikipedia, The Open Dictionary project are prime examples of how open source has been successfully adapted to education initiatives.

In a community source project, multiple institutions come together to partner in the project. All partners contribute financially as well as in employing human resources for the effort. In the early stages, the partnering institutions provide all design and development efforts and only in subsequent stages is the project opened to the broader community. This way, the initial support is secured and the institutions have a substantial influence in deciding how the application is modeled and designed.

The initial focus of community source projects is on collaboration between institutions. The focus in the crucial first stages is therefore to form a common economic outlook and an appropriate administrative framework rather than forming a community around a shared code. Most community based open source projects slowly migrate to open source in the later stages.

The Sakai project, for example, started as a joint effort between four institutions (Michigan, Indiana, MIT and Stanford). The initial agenda was to set up a framework of common goals that would produce appropriate software based on an agreed list of objectives. The scope for participation was later increased by forming the Sakai Educational Partners Program (SEPP), whereby other institutions can join and participate in the community for a small fee.

The Current Landscape

An education enterprise like any organization has its own needs ranging from resource planning to budgeting. Additionally, they have typical requirements like the need to integrate with financial aid programs of the government, multiple payroll cycles, and student information systems (SIS) that handle admissions, grades, transcripts, student records as well as billing. All these call for robust ERP systems. Until recently, colleges and universities mostly rely on either custom-developed systems that are more than 15 years old, or have transitioned to commercial products from vendors like Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft or vendors like SunGard that are geared towards the higher education market.

Kuali Financials was borne due to the lack of open source solutions Enterprise applications in the higher education sector are comprised of a mix of some proprietary application vendors and some key open source community initiatives. PeopleSoft, Oracle, SunGard and Datatel are some key vendors that offer tightly integrated ERP packages for the education sector.

Recent consolidation in the industry, like the acquisition of PeopleSoft by Oracle and of WebCT, Angel, etc by Blackboard, has caused considerable unease in the education fraternity. The concern stems from the fear that the trend of consolidation would lead to the monopoly of a few key vendors. The plans of these vendors to offer tightly integrated systems heightens the fear that this will provide an unfair leverage to these vendors as it would extend the community’s dependence on them.

One area of concern about proprietary applications is a seeming disconnect between the industry and software application developers. Institutions also have strong reservations about the currently available administrative software and course management systems. The feeling is that applications provided by vendors such as SAP and PeopleSoft are adapted from other industries and does not work well for educational enterprises. Moreover, the proprietary nature of the applications implies that the source code is not available and customization efforts involve substantial costs.

In the context of such a wide breadth of requirements, open source can prove to be a viable alternative. In fact, these constraints provided the impetus for open source initiatives in higher education. Some of the success has helped provide a strong foundation to building an alternative support model for the education industry.

In the Sakai project, the participating institutions decided to integrate and synchronize their educational software into a pre-integrated collection of open source tools termed Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE). Sakai has active implementations running at multiple institutes including the University of Michigan and Indiana University.

In parallel, Sakai also established a set of activity based communities that have spawned an active cooperation between the industry and application vendors. The Sakai Educational Partners Program allows educational institutions to participate in the program for a small fee. Besides, there are the Sakai Commercial Affiliates, who offer fee-based services for installation, integration and support..

Kuali, on the other hand, mainly addresses aspects of educational administration. The Kuali Financial System (KFS) is the most prominent application. It handles administrative and operational tasks like general accounting, purchasing, salary and benefits, budgeting, asset management and grants. The system is designed around modules that enable it to be tweaked to work with existing commercial applications. For example, at Indiana University, Kuali applications work together with PeopleSoft’s HR and student system. The Kuali Foundation is a non-profit consortium of multiple universities and some hardware and software companies. The Kuali Commercial Affiliate program operates on similar lines like its Sakai counterpart. The community has been growing and now includes the University of California, Cornell, Michigan State University, San Joaquin Delta College (Calif.), and The University of Arizona.

Significantly, according to the 2008 Campus Computing Survey, around 13.8 percent of the survey participants have already identified an Open Source LMS – either Moodle or Sakai – as the campus standard LMS.

Besides these, several other projects offer SIS functionality. For example, openSIS manages student demographics, scheduling, attendance, grades, transcripts, and health records, and its parent company makes add-on modules to support additional features like disciplinary tracking, billing, food service, and bulk email/SMS messaging for emergency contact.

Other Key intiaitives are

JaSig community developing uPortal, and CAS (Central Authentication Services) two components serving as input to Kuali Rice.

Internet2 – A consortium led by universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies including products such as Shibboleth and Grouper

Open Source Curricula

As with any “open source” activity, open source curricula by its very definition is one that can be freely used, distributed and modified. A model like this would seemingly be antithetic to the concept of higher education as it strikes at the credibility of the education environment. Campus education is designed to operate as a structured learning methodology. The concept of community collaboration involving academics and students on the same platform brings a lot of unpredictability into the scenario

However, FLOSS communities (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) in education have proved to be quite successful. A key principle of this learning approach is its root in adapting it to the context of ones’ experience. With its stress on learners and their preferences, this learning approach focuses more on learning by collaboration, communication and sharing.

Significant initiatives include the Connexions Project at Rice University, the OpenCourseWare project at MIT and the social learning medium of Wikipedia.

The FLOSS approach in higher education has been operating in combination with traditional teacher centered approaches. The objectives of the FLOSS approach are not to replace traditional methods but to achieve synergies in combination and offer the learner an enhanced learning environment.

The ‘FLOSS-like education transfer report’ published in September 2008, as part of the FLOSSCOM project, notes that FLOSS communities can create effective learning environments. The study has also come up with three different approaches that could be combined effectively with traditional teaching approaches.

Economic Models of Open Source

One aspect that clearly marks the adoption of open source as a winner is the fact that in this scenario, the developers are most often also the users of the software. This removes the perceived disconnect between the developer community and the end-users unlike in the case of proprietary applications. However, this is less evident in the case of administrative applications like payroll or HR. In such cases, adoption of open source has to be a directed process.

Initiatives like the Kuali project have proved that open source can also build up sustainable models that provide adequate support mechanisms. In such models, there is active collaboration between the community that comprises not only developers and end-users, but also an extended support group comprising commercial vendors. These support groups are available to offer timely support to mission critical applications. The community approach also ensures that the code is not closed and that an active community of interest ensures that enhancements keep happening as necessitated.

Projects like uPortal have been developed with minimal resources but are deployed across hundreds of institutions. The community approach has proved sustainable as in the case of the Sakai project. In terms of funding, the Sakai project garnered an investment of $6.8 million over two years.

The viability of the open source, community based model stems not from the monetary or cost aspects but principally the adaptability that it offers. The debate over cost of ownership between commercially available proprietary software and open source applications is yet to be proved empirically. However, the fact that the code is open means it can be easily adapted to suit new requirements and does not involve significant investments in terms of customization or enhancements. This does make significant economic sense in the longer term.

The case for open source in higher education is nicely documented in a study by the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness. In a 2005 study report titled, ‘Will Open Source Software Become an Important Institutional Strategy in Higher Education?’ Rob Abel notes how open source is a “great fit for higher education”. The study, based on an analysis of open source projects in education, opines that the community-based approach is an interesting model that also helps reduce the inherent risks in adopting an open source approach.

As for the cost model, the study notes that while open source has helped generate cost savings in the range of 20 to 30 percent for the commercial sector, the same may not be entirely true in education. The community-based approach, the writer notes, with its associated participation fees, may prove only marginally beneficial in terms of costs. Institutions that have their own infrastructure and resources may however, benefit from substantially reduced costs from their open source initiatives.

The Future

Open source has proved to be adaptable and a reliable platform for collaboration and learning. In their quest for ideal application software to handle administrative, operational and education platforms, most CIOs are looking at interoperability, reliability and scalability of applications. Applications like the Sakai and Kuali have proved beyond doubt that open source applications offer great configurability.

Development communities and the support of commercial vendors, as in the case of Kuali and Sakai, fuel a greater rate of innovation. Moreover, the advantage that is offered by collaboration also provides an impetus to continued improvement of the system. Support systems and enhancements for future requirements are ensured.

On the question of how to approach or adopt open source as a model, the answer would depend on the needs, the infrastructure and the means available to an institution. The community development model has shown that costs can be broadly distributed amongst participants. Experience shows that universities and colleges can collaborate to produce open source software that caters to their needs in a way that is superior to some commercial products. The collaborative model enables educational institutions to pool their financial and technical resources. Moreover, a larger community ensures that the applications are tested in a variety of testing environments, thus aiding in building robust solutions.

In term of core academics, learning systems will evolve to accommodate formative assessments and evaluation outside the classroom. Many higher education institutions have taken the lead of MIT and are offering online course materials that are accessible by anyone, free of cost. It has been adopted at Yale, Notre Dame, Tufts and Stanford School of Engineering, to name a few. The United Nations has launched an initiative that would leverage social media technologies and ideas to offer higher education opportunities to people who would otherwise not be able to afford the costs.

Commercially, open source projects have taken their first steps in the marketplace. The model is evolving aided by some significant commercial vendor backing. For the community-based open source approach to prosper, substantial financial backing is an absolute necessity to prevent it from faltering and to avoid the pitfalls that arise form source code being easily modifiable and rebranded by a different vendor. From the commercial perspective, projects like Sakai and the Kuali Foundation are likely to thrive as they have substantial stakeholders from both the academic and the corporate world.

What could derail further adoption? There are several potential risk areas:

  • Lack of understanding of entry points for adoption
  • Lack of support to adopt the applications
  • Minimal staff to support the applications
  • Lack of training / documentation to train staff
  • A “runaway” project that consumes much press and develops a negative bias toward the project

Many of these risks may be mitigated though co-operative initiatives between the foundations developing the open source solutions and commercial affiliates looking to support the solutions – and develop complementation solutions. Some examples:

  • Further publicity through conventional, non-education related channels such as Google and industry-based sites such as edu1world
  • Furrther innovation and cooperation – whether through ‘summer of code’ collaborations; or community collaborations that will transform the current listservs to more accessible forums
  • Commercial affiliates offering training and webinars
  • Commercial affiliates offering ease of use entry points, such as pre-installed servers or virtual images that can be downloaded and used out of the box

In conclusion, open source initiatives in higher education have a long way to go before they enter the commercial mainstream in a significant fashion. However, with industry and academic collaboration, it has a great potential to change the higher education landscape in the longer term.

Challenges in Introducing Value Education at Higher Education in India

Value Education is the much debated and discussed subject in the plethora of education in India. Of course it is true that the main purpose of any education will go with Value orientation. More concentration on Value education has been given at the primary and secondary level of school education than in higher education in India. Values could be effectively imparted to the young minds rather than to the matured ones. It may be the important reason for this prime importance given at the school level. There are so many modules designed with the help of agencies like NCERT and others for effectively imparting the value education to the school students. In this context, many innovative educational practices are being identified by the experts. Good number of experiments and studies are being conducted in the recent days on the effectiveness of teaching value education at school level. Some schools have very innovative and radical course designs to impart the values.

Effective teaching practices in imparting value education ranges from story telling, exhibitions, skits, one act play and group discussions to various other formats. New methods have been evolved by educationists to create an effective learning sphere. The usage of electronic gadgets also gains importance in the teaching-learning practices of value education. But at the higher education level, due to various reasons, the importance given to value education is not as much as it is given at the school level. The curriculum and the teaching methods also could be subjected to scrutiny. It is true that colleges are meant for a kind of specialization in some field of education. But in the Indian social context, the youth require direction and counseling at this stage. They have been exposed to various challenges at this stage which demands the intervention of educationists for his/her betterment. His/her character building also strengthens at this juncture. Students’ perception on various life factors and events are getting shaped at this stage. On the whole they evolve their own philosophy of life. Their sensitivity and knowledge are getting direction at this stage. Hence, an effective value orientation becomes inevitable to the students of colleges. Keeping this requirement in mind, States like Tamilnadu introduced a compulsory paper/course on value education to undergraduate students of all colleges in the State under the choice based credit system. Though this kind of effort is made with the good intention of imparting values to the youth, many limitations in bringing out the expected outcome could be identified.

The problem mainly begins with the definition of values. Defining the term ‘value’ poses a challenge to all scholars. The term value is loaded with varieties of meaning. Each meaning reflects its own philosophical position. Generally the term value is spontaneously associated with religious values. It is believed by many Indians that values are nothing but the religious and spiritual guiding principles of life. Hence, it is supposed that the path is already been laid for the life journey. But in the context of modernity and modernism there rises a fundamental question of whether value education is required at all in a modern state. There are those who argue that modern life is based on science and technology, and both are value neutral. They view that the values are bugbear held out by people living in the past, glued to outdated religious principles that have no relevance to the 21st century. At this point, there is also another group of modernist who propagate the necessity of value education at learning centres in order to safe guard the democratic state and its values. The values they wish to cultivate are modern secular values such as honesty, respect to other, equality, collectivity, democracy, respecting the human rights, sharing equal space in the public sphere and so on. These values are considered as the products of enlightenment period. Hence, four positions could be arrived at on the basis of the above understanding. The are:
1. There are religious values which are very much essential for every one and must be included in the curriculum.
2. The religious values should not find place in the educational system. They may operate at the private sphere.
3. There are non-religious secular values and they must find space in the education.
4. There is no need for teaching value education in the academics because they cannot be cultivated through formal learning and such value cultivation will make the individual biased.

In consequence to these positions, following questions arouse.
1. Whether value education should find place in the educational system?
2. If it is required, then what sort of values should be given preference in the curriculum?
3. What is the importance to be given to the religious values which are primarily developed on the basis of scriptures?
4. Can modern values alone are sufficient enough or is there any possibility of blending the values of modernity with religious values?
5. If religious values are to be given importance in the curriculum, which religion will find prime place? If there are contradictory propagation on a single virtue by two religions, then how are they to be handled?
6. Similarly religions differ on the practices also. Right from eating patterns, dress mode, marriage systems, war tactics, killing, punishments to various other aspects, religions differ on their outlook. In this situation, what sort of perceptions need to be taught?

Besides these questions, another billion dollar question would be raised on the methodology of effectively imparting those values. Then again as it is mentioned earlier, the school education can very well include this education easily because the system itself is advantageous for it to accommodate. But at the college level, the system finds it very difficult to work out. So this study could analyse the theoretical problems relating to the identification of values to be included in the curriculum at the one side and the problem of effective designing of the curriculum and imparting those values on the other side.


The necessity for imparting values to the students of all levels has been felt by everyone. The world today is facing unprecedented socio-political and economic challenges. Problems of life are becoming increasingly intense and complex. Traditional values are decentered. ‘An environment of strife pervades all countries and broken homes have become common. An insatiable hunger for money and power, leads most of people to tension and absence of peace of mind and all kinds of physical and mental ailments have become common place” 1. In the present day context of frequent and often violent social upheavals, we have to look at the problem of restlessness of the youth, their frustration born out of futility of their search for meaning of life and the purpose for which they are living, often leading to evil and wickedness. This calls for a new approach to, and a new vision of education. It is obviously felt that the present educational system promotes rat race and keep the student community in a sense of insecurity. Educational institutions have become the pressure cookers building pressures in the minds of youth. Also a loft sided educational pattern which insists on instrumental and technical rationality for the successful life in terms of gaining money and power has invaded the educational system of India. The person who is deemed to be unfit for this survival race becomes disqualified and ineligible to live in this market economy based life. The spate of industrialization and economic growth in developed nations has brought about a perceptible change in this scenario. And developing countries including India are feeling the ripple effects of this development. Values earlier considered essential by all societies have been eroded and have given way to unethical practices around the globe. Where honesty and integrity were loved and appreciated, greed, corruption and red tapism have come in, bringing in their wake, unethical responses which have pervaded all walks of life and are thwarting efforts of a few enlightened individuals to promote value based society.2 Hence, implementation of well structured education is the only solution available with all states. With growing divisive forces, narrow parochialism, separatist tendencies on the one hand and considerable fall in moral, social, ethical and national values both in personal and public life on the other, the need for promoting effective programmes of value orientation in education has assumed great urgency. Development of human values through education is now routinely seen as a task of national importance. Value education though supposes to be the part and parcel of the regular education, due to the market influences, it could not be so. Hence, it has become an inevitable need to include an exclusive curriculum for value education at all levels.

Now the next question would be about the nature of value education. What sort of values should be given preference in the curriculum is the prime problem in the introduction of value education. This problem surfaces because we can find varieties of values prescribed on the basis of various scriptures and theories. Sometimes they are contradictory to each other. This issue has been thoroughly discussed earlier. But the solution to the problem of the nature of value education is primarily dependent on the social conditions that prevail in the state. There need not be an imported value educational pattern to be prescribed in India. The burning social issues would demand the required value education. Though India is considered to be the land of divinity and wisdom, the modern value system throws challenges to the ancient value pattern. Right from the Gurkula pattern to the varna ashrama values, all values are under scrutiny by modern rationality. Hence, the relevance of the golden values prescribed by the then society is questionable in the present situation. On the other hand, the so called modern values which have been listed earlier also subjected to criticism by philosophers like post modernists. They question the very nature of the rationality of the enlightenment period. Because critics of modernity strongly declare that the modern rationality is the reason for the deterioration of human concern in the world and they paved the way for inhuman killing and escalation of values. The reason of the modernism is considered as the root of power politics which leads to inhuman behaviour of the power system, according to them. Hence the modern values like democracy, civil rights, environmental ethics, professional ethics, discipline and all such values are found useless in bringing harmony in the society. The values like discipline, tolerance, peace bears the negative connotation in this context. Hence, what sort of modern values are to be included in the curriculum is a challenge thrown towards the educationists. At one side the fanatic and fundamentalist features of religious values and on the other side the modern values based on the market economy and other factors are to be excluded and a well balanced curriculum with genuine worthy values suitable to the society has to be identified and included in the educational system. In this context, it becomes obvious that there cannot be any universal pattern of values to be prescribed in the system. When a suitable blend of religious and modern values is to be done, the designing of such course demands an unbiased, scrupulous, intelligent approach on the part of the academician who designs such course. Thus the spiritual values of sensitizing the youth for happy world and rational values for a just world are very much required. Religious values can be taken but not with the label of any particular religion, democratic values are to be included but not with its dogmatic inhuman approach. Thus there need a perfect blend of both. This is the real challenge thrown to the Indian academicians.

After the identification of these values, they need to be inculcated not to be informed to the students. Mostly listing the values is done very easily, but imparting them effectively requires genuine spirit and innovative educational practices. In the Vedic period, the gurukula system prevailed in which the student has to thoroughly undergo a pattern life with the guru shishya hierarchy. Whatever the guru declares are the values of life. But in the modern context, which is supposed to be the democratic sphere, a sense of equality and freedom has to prevail the learning situation. Also the values identified cannot be preached on the basis of the religious faiths. So the teacher has to find effective working module to internalize the values in the minds of the youth. The teachers’ understanding about the values prescribed and his/her commitment in imparting them also play a crucial role here. How to sensitize the teacher before carrying the values to the students is also a challenge to the educationists. The value education class room, if it is dealt with full seriousness and sincerity would be very interesting and challenging sphere for students and teachers. At times they need to sail at the same level with the students. The hierarchy may get disappeared. Value education demands a total responsibility from the teachers. They become more accountable. On the other side, a teacher who is committed to a set of values would always like to preach and impose them on the young minds. That extreme should also to be avoided with a balance of mind. Value education cannot be done by just delivering lectures and screening films. It requires a strong interaction between the students and the society. A lot could be experimented at this sphere. For which the supreme value ‘integrity’ is expected from the educator.

It is observed that many modules of teaching values have been designed and tested. Some are seemed to be very effective. In Tamilnadu, especially in aided colleges, with all good intention the government has introduced the value education as a compulsory scheme at the undergraduate level. But each university has its own syllabus for the same. The scrutiny of those syllabi also reveals a lot of variations in conceiving the value education. In some universities, some religion based institutions are given the responsibility of designing and even carrying out the course. Similarly the teachers who have not been exposed to any such type of training in value education are given the responsibility of teaching values. The introduction of value education for all under graduate courses is done at the cost of a core paper of that course. The teachers who have been handling their hardcore subject papers had to meet the shortage of workload due to this programme and to solve this problem, they have been entrusted with the job of teaching value education paper. This is done with the aim of avoiding the workload problem of existing teachers. The most valuable and sensitive part of education has been made like a mechanical dogmatic part. At this juncture, the fate of value education at the college level could be imagined. How to solve this issue is again a challenge to the educationists of Tamilnadu. The same fate could be observed in many other states of India. Hence, two important problems surfaces here, one at the syllabus level and the other at the teaching level. As it is discussed earlier the syllabus could be designed by way of paying attention to all aspects but imparting the same requires not only innovative teaching methods, but also innovative training method of the educators. It is as good as training the driver to drive the car; the teacher needs to be trained in imparting the values. The technical education employs teachers with sound knowledge in the subject, similarly it is essential to have teachers with sound mind and creative teaching skill to teach value education. Value education is definitely not to be dealt with compartmentalization but it should be taken as a part of the whole educational system. As Nietzsche puts it, the society requires masters to create and impart values, not the slaves who accept all the values imposed on them without any critical understanding.

Teacher Education and Teacher Quality

One of the sectors which fosters national development is education by ensuring the development of a functional human resource. The institution of strong educational structures leads to a society populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. A Positive social transformation and its associated economic growth are achieved as the people apply the skills they learned while they were in school. The acquisition of these skills is facilitated by one individual we all ‘teacher’. For this reason, nations seeking economic and social developments need not ignore teachers and their role in national development.

Teachers are the major factor that drives students’ achievements in learning. The performance of teachers generally determines, not only, the quality of education, but the general performance of the students they train. The teachers themselves therefore ought to get the best of education, so they can in turn help train students in the best of ways. It is known, that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are some of the most important factors that shape the learning and social and academic growth of students. Quality training will ensure, to a large extent, teachers are of very high quality, so as to be able to properly manage classrooms and facilitate learning. That is why teacher quality is still a matter of concern, even, in countries where students consistently obtain high scores in international exams, such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In such countries, teacher education of prime importance because of the potential it has to cause positive students’ achievements.

The structure of teacher education keeps changing in almost all countries in response to the quest of producing teachers who understand the current needs of students or just the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure that quality teachers are produced and sometimes just to ensure that classrooms are not free of teachers. In the U.S.A, how to promote high quality teachers has been an issue of contention and, for the past decade or so, has been motivated, basically, through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015). Even in Japan and other Eastern countries where there are more teachers than needed, and structures have been instituted to ensure high quality teachers are produced and employed, issues relating to the teacher and teaching quality are still of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). Teacher education is therefore no joke anywhere. This article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system and in the second part looks at some determinants of quality teaching.


Ghana has been making deliberate attempts to produce quality teachers for her basic school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s aim of teacher education is to provide a complete teacher education program through the provision of initial teacher training and in-service training programs, that will produce competent teachers, who will help improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning that goes on in schools. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only, until quite recently when, University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College and other tertiary institutions joined in. The most striking difference between the programs offered by the other tertiary institution is that while the Universities teach, examine and award certificates to their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition while the University of Cape Coast, through the Institute of Education, examines and award certificates. The training programs offered by these institutions are attempts at providing many qualified teachers to teach in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs in order to ensure quality.

The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the courses run by various institutions differ in content and structure. For example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast is slightly different from the course structure and content of the Center for Continue Education, University of Cape Coast and none of these two programs matches that of the CoEs, though they all award Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after three years of training. The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) programs run by the CoEs are only similar, but not the same. The same can be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba and the other Universities and University Colleges. In effect even though, same products attract same clients, the preparation of the products are done in different ways.

It is through these many programs that teachers are prepared for the basic schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways, or programs through which teachers are prepared are seen to be good in situations where there are shortages of teachers and more teachers ought to be trained within a very short time. A typical example is the UTDBE program, mentioned above, which design to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to produce more teachers, because of shortage of teachers, has the tendency of comprising quality.

As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) the factors that contribute to the problems of teacher education and teacher retention are varied and complex, but one factor that teacher educators are concerned about is the alternative pathways through which teacher education occur. The prime aim of many of the pathways is to fast track teachers into the teaching profession. This short-changed the necessary teacher preparation that prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers. Those who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), according to Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even though the students are engaged in a short-period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so have the capacity to learn a lot in a short period. Others argue that in subjects like English, Science and mathematics where there are usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate opening up of alternative pathways to good candidates who had done English, Mathematics and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments in support of alternative pathways, hold for the alternative teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching due to reasons I shall come to.

When the target is just to fill vacant classrooms, issues of quality teacher preparation is relegated to the background, somehow. Right at the selection stage, the alternative pathways ease the requirement for gaining entry into teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students were admitted, I can say with confidence that entry requirements into the CoEs were not adhered to. What was emphasized was that, the applicant must be a non-professional basic school teacher who has been engaged by the Ghana Education Service, and that the applicant holds a certificate above Basic Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not qualify to enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect compromised quality.

Even with regular DBE programs, I have realized, just recently I must say, that CoEs in, particular, are not attracting the candidates with very high grades. This as I have learnt now has a huge influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. The fact is, teacher education programs in Ghana are not regarded as prestigious programs and so applicants with high grades do not opt for education programs. And so the majority of applicants who apply for teacher education programs have, relatively, lower grades. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates. This drop in standard could only be attributed to CoEs’ attempt to attract more applicants. The universities too, lower their cut off point for education programs so as attract more candidates. The universities as alleged by Levine (2006) see their teacher education programs, so to say, as cash cows. Their desire to make money, force them to lower admission standards, like the CoEs have done, in order to increase their enrollments. The fact that, admission standards are internationally lowered in order to achieve a goal of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or lowering of standards introduce a serious challenge to teacher education.

The Japanese have been able to make teacher education and teaching prestigious and therefor attract students with high grades. One may argue that in Japan, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand and so authorities are not under any pressure to hire teachers. Their system won’t suffer if they do all they can to select higher grade student into teacher education programs. To them, the issues relating to the selection of teachers are more important that the issues relating to recruitment. However, in western and African countries the issues relating to recruitment are prime. It is so because the demand for teachers far outweighs that of supply. Western and African countries have difficulties recruiting teachers because teachers and the teaching profession is not held in high esteem. Teacher education programs therefore do not attract students who have very good grades. It is worth noting that, it is not the recruiting procedure only that determines whether or not teacher education will be prestigious, however recruiting candidates with high grades, ensures that after training, teachers will exhibit the two characteristics essential to effective teaching – quality and effectiveness. Teacher education can be effective if the teaching profession is held in high esteem and therefore able to attract the best of applicants. Otherwise, irrespective of incentives put into place to attract applicants and irrespective of the measures that will be put in place to strengthen teacher education, teacher education programs cannot fully achieve its purpose.

In order to strengthen teacher preparation, there is the need for teacher preparation programs to provide good training during the initial teacher training stage, and provide and sustain support during the first few years after the teachers have been employed. That is why Lumpe (2007) supports the idea that pre-service teacher education programs should ensure teachers have gained a good understanding of effective teaching strategies. Methodology classes therefore should center on effective teaching strategies. Irrespective of the pathway the training program takes, the program must be structured such that trainees gain knowledge about pedagogy, besides the knowledge of subject matter. They should also get enough exposure to practical classroom experience like the on-campus and off-campus teaching practice. Whether or not there is the need to fill vacancies in the classroom due to the high teacher attrition, many countries face, teacher preparation programs should aim at producing quality and effective teacher and not just filling vacancies.


Teacher quality has such enormous influence on students’ learning. Anyone who has been in the teaching business will agree that teacher quality is central to education reform efforts. Priagula, Agam & Solmon (2007) described teacher quality as an important in-school factor that impact significantly on students’ learning. Quality teachers have positive impact on the success of students. Where the students have quality and effective teachers the students make learning gains while those with ineffective teachers show declines. With respect to the classroom teacher, teacher quality is a continuous process of doing self-assessment so as to have professional development and a self-renewal, in order to enhance teaching. For the teacher educator, an effective or quality teacher is one who has a good subject-matter and pedagogy knowledge, which the he/she can build upon.

Outstanding teachers possess and exhibit many exemplary qualities. They have the skills, subject matter, and pedagogy to reach every child. They help equip their students with the knowledge and breadth of awareness to make sound and independent judgments. Three determinants of teacher quality will be considered here. They are; pedagogical knowledge, subject-matter content knowledge and experience.


Trainees of every profession receive some sort of education that will give them insight into and prepare them for the task ahead. That of the teacher is called Pedagogical Content Knowledge or Pedagogical Knowledge. Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be described as, knowledge the teachers use in organizing classrooms, delivering the content the students must show mastery over and for managing the students entrusted into their care. Generally speaking, pedagogical knowledge is knowledge the teacher uses to facilitate students’ learning. Pedagogical Content Knowledge is in two major forms – teachers’ knowledge of the students’ pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching methodologies. Students come to class with a host of pre-conceptions relating to the things they are learning. The pre-conceptions may or may not be consistent with the actual subject-matter that is delivered. Teachers must have a good idea of both kinds of preconception, in order to help students, replace the inconsistent pre-conceptions or build upon the consistent pre-conceptions to bring about meaningful learning. Teachers must have a repertoire of teaching methodologies for facilitating students’ learning. When the methodologies are applied wrongly little or no learning occurs in students. In effect when either of the two is weak, the teacher becomes a bad one because that teacher will not be able to execute his/her responsibility in the vocation he/she has chosen. Due to this during teacher preparation, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is emphasized.

Teachers gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge from various sources. Friedrichsen, Abell, Pareja, Brown, Lankford and Volkmann (2009) distinguished three potential sources of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. They listed the sources as professional development programs, teaching experiences and lastly teachers’ own learning experiences. During their days as students in teacher education programs, teachers are assisted in variety ways to gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge. For examples, during practice, they learn how to put the pedagogical skills they learnt. Teacher education programs and other professional development programs create avenues for teachers to gain pedagogical content knowledge through workshops, lectures, working together with colleagues, and in teaching practice. Then their experiences in their classrooms as they teach students lead them to gain insight into which methodologies work under best under specific situations. That last source is usually ignored. It indicates that the professional knowledge of the teacher begins to develop long before the teacher becomes a candidate entering into teacher education. This means, the way teachers teach influences to a large extent the prospective teachers’ professional knowledge and beliefs. This type of learning is, generally, overlooked by teachers at all levels because unintentional and informal, it is.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be gained through formal and informal means. Learning opportunities for pedagogical content knowledge, formally, designed by institutions, based on learning objectives which generally are prerequisite for certification, constitutes the formal means. In formal learning, students have clear ideas about the objective of acquiring pedagogical skills. Informal learning, on the other hand, is not organized intentionally. It takes place incidentally and so can be considered as ‘side effect’. As Kleickmann et al (2012) described it, it has no goal with respect to learning outcomes, and it is contextualized to a large extent. This is often called learning by experience. Informal, but deliberative, learning situations exists. This occurs in situations such as learning in groups, mentoring, and intentional practicing of some skills or tools. Werquin (2010) described informal, but deliberative, learning as non-formal learning. Unlike formal learning, non-formal learning does not occur in educational institutions and does not attract certification. Whether pedagogical content knowledge

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is used to bridges the gap between content knowledge and actual teaching. By bridging the gap, it ensures that discussions of content are relevant to teaching and that discussions themselves are focused on the content. As such, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is something teachers must pay attention to. Teachers who possess and use good Pedagogical content knowledge have good control over classroom management and assessment, knowledge about learning processes, teaching methods, and individual characteristics (Harr, Eichler, & Renkl, 2014). Such teachers are able to create an atmosphere that facilitates learning and are also able to present or facilitate the learning of concepts by even lazy students. They are able to make learning easier by students hence teacher with high pedagogical content knowledge can be classified as quality teachers. It is worth noting that it is not pedagogical content knowledge only that makes good teachers. A teacher will not be good if he/she is master of pedagogical knowledge but lacks subject matter content knowledge.


The goal of teaching is to help learners develop intellectual resources that will enable them participate fully in the main domains of human taught and enquiry. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter the teacher possesses. That is to say, teachers’ knowledge of subject-matter has influence on their efforts to assist students to learn that subject-matter. If a teacher is ignorant or not well informed he/she cannot do students any good, he/she will rather much harm them. When the teacher conceives knowledge in such a way that it is narrow, or do not have accurate information relating to a particular subject-matter, he/she will pass on these same shallow or inaccurate information to students. This kind of teacher will hardly recognize the consistent pre-conceptions and challenge the misconceptions of students. Such a teacher can introduce misconceptions as he/she uses texts uncritically or inappropriately alter them. It is the teacher’s conception of knowledge that shapes the kind of questions he/she asks and the ideas he/she reinforces as well as the sorts of tasks the teacher designs.

Teachers’ subject-matter matter content knowledge must go beyond the specific topics of their curriculum. This is because the teacher does not only define concepts for students. Teachers explain to students why a particular concept or definition is acceptable, why learners must know it and how it relates to other concepts or definitions. This can be done properly if the teacher possesses a good understanding of the subject-matter. This type of understanding includes an understanding of the intellectual context and value of the subject-matter. The understanding of subject matter generally reinforces the teacher’s confidence in delivering lessons, thereby making him/her a good teacher.


Experience is one of the factors that account for variations in teacher salary, the world over (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006). The fact that salary differences are based on the number of years the teacher has served, suggests that employers believe the teachers experience makes him/her a better teacher and such a teacher must be motivated to remain in the service. Though some studies like that Hanushek (2011) have suggested that the experience positively influences teacher quality only in the first few years, and that beyond five years, experience ceases to have positive impact on teacher efficacy, common sense tells us the one who has been doing something for a long time does better and with ease. Experience will therefore continue to pay, since, more experienced teachers have the propensity to know more about the subject-matter they teach, and think and behave appropriately in the classroom, and have much more positive attitudes toward their students.

Teachers who have spent more years of teaching, usually, feel self-assured in their skill to use instructional and assessment tools. These teachers are able to reach even the most difficult-to-reach students in their classrooms. They also have greater confidence in their capability to control the class and prevent incidence that might make the teaching and learning process difficult. Their experience makes them much more patient and tolerant than their counterpart with few years of experience (Wolters & Daugherty, 2007). Novice teachers progressively gain and develop teaching and classroom management skills needed to make them effective teachers. They spend time learning themselves – trying to understand fully the job they have entered. The teachers who have spent more years teaching have gained a rich store of knowledge the less experience teachers will be trying to build. Teachers’ sense of effectiveness is generally associated with good attitudes, behaviors and interactions with their students. This is something the experienced teacher has already acquired. These explain why more experienced teachers are usually more effective teachers than the novices.

Another reason more experienced teachers tend to be better teachers than their inexperienced counterparts, is that, experienced teachers have gained additional training, and hence, have acquired additional teaching skills, needed to be effective from direct experience. Usually the training of teachers does not end at the initial teacher training stage. After graduation, teachers attend capacity building seminars, workshops and conferences. These give teachers the opportunity to learn emerging teaching techniques and also refresh their memories on the things they have learnt. Such seminars, workshops and conferences mostly add to the teacher’s store of knowledge. The other advantage the experienced teachers have is that they have encountered more situations to develop the skills needed to be effective teachers through additional direct, and sometimes indirect experiences. That is to say, they have encountered challenging situations which gave them the opportunity to build their skills. Whether they were able to overcome these challenging situation or not, does not matter so much. If the teachers encounter difficult situations in their classes, they learn from them. If the teachers are able to overcome difficult situations, they get to know how to resolve such situations at the next encounter, otherwise their reflections and suggestions from co-teachers gives them ideas about how to approach same or similar situations. They also have a greater chance of being exposed to current and competent models. More experienced teachers have a higher chance of demonstrating superior self-efficacy in most areas, because they have learned the needed classroom management and instructional skills from their colleagues. Teachers who have been in active service for many years are most likely to be classified as quality teachers, because of what they have learnt from in-service training, capacity building workshops and seminars, their interaction with other teachers and what they have learnt from experience in their classrooms.


Teacher education aims at providing teacher education program through initial teacher training for teacher trainees, and in-service training for practicing teachers in order to produce knowledgeable and committed teachers for effective teaching and learning. To realize this mission, teacher education programs have been instituted for the training of teachers. These programs differ from one country to another. Even within the same country, there may be different programs training teachers for the same certificate. These alternative programs are a created, specially, where there are shortages of teachers, and attempts are being made to train large numbers of teachers at a time. These alternative programs ease the teacher certification requirement, allowing those who under normal circumstances would not become teachers. This introduces serious challenges. Because large numbers of teachers are needed within a short period, their training is somewhat fast-tracked resulting in what is usually referred to as half-baked teachers – teachers of lower quality. Applicants who did not gain admission into the program of their choice come into teaching only because they have nowhere else to go. Such applicants tend not to be dedicated to the teaching service in the end. Fast-tracking initial teacher preparation actually harm the mission for which the initial teacher training institutions were created. This is because the teacher produced through such training are usually not of high quality.

Teacher preparation has a direct impact on students’ achievement. The most important in-school factors upon which student’s success hinges, is a teacher who has been well prepared. A well-prepared teacher is one who has gone through a strong teacher preparation program. It is therefore necessary for educators to work to create needed improvements in teacher preparation. To strengthen teacher preparation, teacher preparation programs must provide strong preparation during the initial teacher training period and give support to fresh teachers until they are inducted. Pre-service teacher education should emphasize the acquisition of effective teaching strategies. This can be done in methodology classes and corresponding field experiences. Students who have quality teachers make achievement gains, while those with ineffective teachers show declines, therefore having high quality teachers in classrooms has a positive impact on students’ achievements.

Pedagogical content knowledge, subject matter content knowledge and experience determines the quality of a teacher. Teachers make subject-matter accessible to students by using Pedagogical content knowledge. Pedagogical content knowledge has two broad areas of knowledge: teachers’ knowledge of students’ subject-matter pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching strategies. What Pedagogical content knowledge does is that, it links subject-matter content knowledge and the practice of teaching, making sure that discussions on content are appropriate and that, discussions focus on the content and help students to retain the content. The teacher’s job is to facilitate the learning of subject-matter by students. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter content knowledge the teacher possesses. Teachers who possess inaccurate information or comprehend the subject-matter in narrow ways, harm students by passing on the same false or shallow subject-matter knowledge to their students. The last of the three determinants of teacher quality is experience. Teachers who have served more years gain additional and more specific training by attending seminars, conferences and workshops and in-service training and so tend to understand their job better. They also might have met and solved many challenging situations in their classroom and therefore know exactly what to do in any situation.

Educational Problem Solving

This article introduces the educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site, describing competitive offerings, the customer profile, problem-oriented solutions, target markets, product offerings, and usability features. It concludes that the module is a major contribution to the information superhighway.


The aim of this article is to introduce to the world the educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site. The article is addressed to those readers who may have an educational problem bogging them and who may therefore be looking for a way out of their predicament. The reader may be a parent, child, or student.

It is a common fact of life that we all have problems and that we are often frustrated or we tend to lash out because of our inability to find accessible and reliable information about our problems. This specialist site fills this need – as our pragmatic friend for solving our educational problems.

To be of the greatest use to people a problem solving site must combine pragmatic discussions of their personal or professional problem with merchant products that provide more detailed information. Typically, the web site will provide free information in the form of news, articles, and advice, which direct the visitor on what to do to solve her problems. Complementing this, the web site will also provide merchant products which discuss in detail how the visitor can go about resolving her problem. This means that the most effective, visitor-oriented problem-solving site will be an information-packed commercial site – and so is the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site and its specialist sites.

The approach that we have adopted below is to describe competitive offerings, the customer profile, problem-oriented solutions, target markets, product offerings, and usability features.

Competitive Offerings

The following are the top educational sites on the Internet, along with their offerings.

US Department of Education. It defines the US education policy and provides information on financial aid, educational research and statistics, grants and contracts, and teaching and learning resources.

Educational Testing Service. It provides a range of test resources.

FunBrain.com. It provides educational games for K-8 kids.

PrimaryGames.com. It provides fun learning tools and games for kids.

GEM. It provides educational resources such as lesson plans and other teaching and learning resources.

Education World. It provides advice on lesson plans, professional development, and technology integration.

NASA Education Enterprise. It provides educational materials and information relating to space exploration.

Spartacus Educational. It is a British online encyclopedia that focuses on historical topics.

Department for Education and Skills. It is a UK government department site that offers information and advice on various educational and skills topics.

Times Educational Supplement. It offers teaching news, teaching & educational resources, and active forums to help UK teachers.
All these sites are useful in the domains that they cover. Their main limitations are as follows:

1. They tend to cover only a very narrow segment of the educational market.
2. They do not take as their starting point the daily educational needs of the typical family.
3. They lack a problem focus; i.e., they do not formulate the typical learning and educational problems that pupils, students, and parents face on a daily basis.
4. As a result of the preceding point, the solutions offered are not as incisive (i.e. as problem-centred) as they could be.
5. They do not offer merchant products that deepen the visitor’s understanding of her problem and of the consequent solutions.

The educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site addresses these problems by targeting a multiplicity of market segments, adopting a customer profile that fits the typical education-pursuing family, considering the specific needs or problems that this family may face, offering incisive (problem-centred) solutions to the various problems, and offering a range of merchant products that deepen the visitor’s appreciation of her problems and of the solutions that are applicable to them.

Customer Profile

The customer profile or target visitor characteristics of the educational solutions module is the same as for all specialist sites of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site. The site has been designed to meet the needs of visitors who have an educational problem bogging them. It is designed for both males and females, even though it is often convenient to refer to just one sex when writing.

This visitor uses search engines to research information about her personal or professional problem, with the intention of finding solutions to it. The visitor is serious about solving her problem and is therefore willing to buy products that help her to achieve her mission, provided that she can find reliable and honest information about relevant products so that she can make an informed decision about which ones to acquire. This information will help her to apply her finances economically, and hence avoid wasting money.

The visitor will want a money-back guarantee so that if a product does not live up to expectations or if she were misled into buying a product she can get a refund. Such a guarantee absolves her of purchase risks.

The visitor is intelligent (without necessarily being a genius), educated (without necessarily being a PhD), computer literate (without necessarily being a computer guru), and money-minded (without necessarily being a freebie hunter or an unemployed person). This of course does not mean that freebie hunters or unemployed persons cannot gain a thing from the site. To the contrary, there is a great deal of free information on the site. Just that it is hard to see how anyone can gain the full benefits of the site without buying products.

The visitor wants high quality information products (usually in digital form) and wants to pay the cheapest price for these (without paying so much emphasis on price that she compromises quality). The visitor also wants free bonus offers that are attached to the purchased goods.

The visitor is self-reliant and can cope on her own by reading, digesting, and applying advice about her problem until she solves it or discovers that she needs help from a professional, at which point her acquired knowledge will help her to reduce her consulting fees. As a result of the knowledge gained, the visitor will be able to assess consultants in order to avoid incompetent or fraudulent ones.

Problem-Centred Solutions

Our free solutions are organised in the form of pragmatic articles that are written by top experts. Each article addresses a specific daily problem, but does not go into detail. It explains the problem and tells the visitor what she must do to solve her problem. However, it does not tell the visitor how she must solve it – this is too much for an article. To find out about the how, the visitor must buy a product (usually an e-book or e-book set) that goes into greater depth.

The set of educational articles that we have chosen, to provide initial solution to a visitor’s problem are as follows:

Signs of a Gifted Child – Informs parents on how to identify whether or not their children are gifted.

Essential Parenting Lessons for Enriching Your Child’s Education – Teaches parents how to enhance their child’s education.

Using Positive Affirmations to Be a Better Student – Teaches students how to use positive affirmations to improve their performance.

They Are Just Afraid of Writing – Teaches writing skills to students

How Can Parents Encourage Their Children to Read? – Shows parents how they can improve their children’s reading skills.

Test Preparation Tutoring – Discusses the topic of tutoring students to prepare for tests or exams.

Test Taking Strategies – Discusses various strategies for taking and passing tests or exams

Playing and Winning the Scholarship Game – Describes how to win scholarships.

How to Get a Scholarship to a UK University – Describes how to win scholarships to a UK university.

Saving Money for College – Instructs students on how they can save money in preparation for college.

Student Loans: When Your Educational Dreams Can’t Compete with the Cost – Explains to students the benefits of a student loan.

Education Loans Can Fund a Higher Degree to Boost Your Career – Also explains to students the benefits of a student loan.

The Secret to US Department of Education Loans – Teaches students how to get a US DoE loan to finance their higher education.

Student Loan Consolidation – Save Money, Pay Less, Spend More – Explains to graduates how to make use of loan consolidation to reduce their student loan repayments.

Higher Education: Finding the Right College for You – Explains to students how to find the right college or university for their higher education studies.

Mobile Learning – An Alternative Worth Considering – Explains the concept of mobile learning and its place in education.

Online Degrees – Is Online Education Right for You? – Analyses the merits of online learning as compared to traditional learning.

An Online College Education Overview – Reviews the whole concept of online learning.

Finding the Right Quotation for Your Paper or Speech Online – Shows writers and speakers how to find the right quotation to use in their writings or speeches.

Collaboration: An Important Leadership Development Skill – Explores the useful concept of collaboration and its role in leadership development.

At the end of each article is a list of merchant products that supplement the article’s content. A link is also included for accessing the educational product catalogue.

Target Markets and Product Offerings

Now let us turn to the target markets and their associated product offerings. We have positioned the segments to address the various needs of a visitor over a period of time, and at any given time a customer may belong to one or more of the market segments. There are three general classes of products offered: ClickBank products, Google products, and eBay products. Google and eBay products are presented on each page of the site. ClickBank products are grouped into product categories that match the target markets. These categories and their markets are as follows.

Children and Parenting. This consists of visitors who want parenting solutions for improving their children’s upbringing. Their needs are met through the Children and Parenting section of the educational product catalogue.

Difficult Admissions. This consists of visitors who want to learn how to get admission into top universities. Their needs are met through the Difficult Admissions section of the educational product catalogue.

Esoteric Needs. This consists of visitors with unusual needs. Their needs are met through the Esoteric Needs section of the educational product catalogue.

Financial Aid. This consists of visitors looking for scholarships, grants, or loans. Their needs are met through the Financial Aid section of the educational product catalogue.

Leadership Skills. This consists of visitors looking to develop their leadership skills. Their needs are met through the Leadership Skills section of the educational product catalogue.

Learning. This consists of visitors who want to improve their learning ability. Their needs are met through the Learning section of the educational product catalogue.

Mental Speed. This consists of visitors who want to explode their mental speed. Their needs are met through the Mental Speed section of the educational product catalogue.

Positive Affirmations. This consists of visitors who want to transform their negative dispositions into a positive mindset in order to improve their performance. Their needs are met through the Positive Affirmations section of the educational product catalogue.

Speaking. This consists of visitors looking to improve their speaking skills. Their needs are met through the Speaking section of the educational product catalogue.

Tests and Exams. This consists of visitors looking to master exam technique. Their needs are met through the Tests and Exams section of the educational product catalogue.

Writing. This consists of visitors looking to improve their writing skills. Their needs are met through the Writing section of the educational product catalogue.

Usability Considerations

Usability has been enhanced to make it easy for the visitor to find solutions to her problem, by following these steps:

1. The first thing the visitor sees are a set of articles whose titles represent the specific problem area they address. The articles are accessed from the Educational Problem Solving menu of the navigation bar to the left of the screen or from the Educational Problem Solving main page. By scanning these articles the visitor can identify whether or not her problem is covered. If not the visitor can check the educational product catalogue through the Product Catalogues menu of the same navigation bar, to see whether a product exists that answers her query. If she finds nothing she knows that her problem is not addressed. She can proceed to the Related Sites pages, which are accessible from the left navigation bar.

2. If the visitor finds an article that addresses her problem then she can begin to explore that; at the end of the article she will find products that discuss her problem more deeply. She can also access the educational product catalogue through an article page.


This article has introduced the educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site. The article has examined competitive offerings, the target customer profile, problem-oriented solutions, target markets, product offerings, and usability considerations. It concludes that the module is a major contribution to the information superhighway.

A A Agbormbai is the editor and webmaster of Personal and Professional Problem Solving – a web site that fills a vacuum on the Web. He has a PhD from Imperial College London and enjoys an interdisciplinary upbringing having worked or studied in aerospace engineering, information systems development, and management. The educational solutions module is one of many specialist sites of Personal and Professional Problem Solving.