Actions proposed by teachers to improve the delivery of pre-vocational education in Jordan.
Reforms of education often ignore teachers' contribution particularly in the third world countries. These reforms usually rely on personal opinions of the individuals of decisions makers. Pre-vocational education (PVE) in Jordanian schools, face numerous problems. In this study, perspectives of teachers were elucidated qualitatively (through semi-structured interviews) and analysed to synthesize a course of actions to improve PVE delivery. These perspectives addressed different elements of the educational system: the curriculum, the teacher, the students, the supervisor, the school system and administration, the PVE workshop. The rationale behind each proposed action was analysed in addition to its contribution to improvement. Also, connecting of each proposal to the real situation of schools was discussed in order to investigate the probability of its implementation.
"Reforms have often ignored teachers except as tools to carry out new mandates and programs. But evidence that teachers are the most important factor in the effectiveness of schools and the quality of a child's education is now too strong to ignore. Teachers are not constants in the educational equation. Instead, they are perhaps the most important variable" (Judith Lioyd Yero, 2001-2002, p. 1)
Educational literature for the new century establishes that programs that promote teacher leadership and effectiveness while empowering teachers to drive the reform of education are the key to continuous improvement. Meaningful communication and consensus building among teachers, curriculum developers, and decision makers are essential to this process (Johnsons, Stevens and Zvoch, 2004).
According to Leahy (2006) and Education Improvement Commission. (2002), the perceptions among teachers, is an important area of research if teaching is to maintain its high standing. So it was important for this study to use perceptions of the teachers who are the most knowledgeable in PVE delivery as a direct source of data. That was because teachers work within the whole context of the delivery system and can identify the shortcomings of each party. Therefore, they can suggest solutions to overcome such shortcomings and to improve the delivery of the subject they teach.
The connection between education and work was recognised very early in the Eighteenth Century (Lawson, 1993; Gang, 1989). With the evolution of industrialisation, several countries, introduced vocational training into their elementary and secondary schools (Compton, 1997). It was argued that there was a need to teach youngsters the basic skills needed by industry (Lawson, 1993).
Morris (2000) mentioned that Prevocational education (PVE) received a big impetus when UNESCO perceived general education as incomplete without an introduction to vocational aspects and to technology. This was expressed in the eighteenth session of the general conference of UNESCO as follows:
"An initiation to technology and to the world of work should be an essential component of general education without which this education is incomplete .An understanding of the technological facet of modern culture in both positive and negative attributes, and an appreciation of work requiring practical skills should thereby be acquired.... The technical and vocational initiation in the general education of youth should fulfil the educational requirements of all ranges of interest and ability (UNESCO, 1974, p.7)".
The introduction of vocational education to students at this early stage (primary and early secondary) does not aim to prepare them for employment, but is rather intended to improve their general abilities and explore their interests through offering them a wide variety of experiences. Regarding the content and structure of such introductory programs, it was recommended that they should have a balance between theoretical and practical work (Psacharopoulos, 1997). It was also recommended that such programs should: be based on problem-solving and experimental approach, introduce the learner to a broad spectrum of technological fields, develop a certain command of valuable practical skills, develop an appreciation of good design and craftsmanship, develop the ability to communicate including the use of graphical means, be closely related to the local environment (UNESCO, 2002).
Pre-vocational education is an approach designed to ensure the acquisition of skills, attitudes and behaviours that enable students to continue to learn and to equip them for change in life (Kanu, 1986; Gillard, 1995). Therefore, no sharp distinction can be prescribed between theoretical and practical content, but from the outcomes identified for PVE make it inevitable that the content of these programs should be more practical.
The formal education system in Jordan has a long-standing policy of human resources development. This policy is maintained through quality education (NCHRD, 2002). One of the aims of the educational system in Jordan is to produce effective and productive citizens who are able to deal with continuous technological development and changes in life style and its requirements. Therefore, the main rationale for introducing pre-vocational education in the basic education is to expose students to real life skills in order to improve their daily life and home environment and to enable them to better appreciate manual work (MoE, 2002; Murad et al, 1995).
However, Jordanian society generally has no much interest in vocational careers and vocational education due to its social traditions that do not value this area (Al-hadidi, 1994). Jordan therefore has a shortage of labour in associated areas of employment (Rihani et al, 1997). The Ministry of Education aimed to provide the students with an appropriate orientation to work. This orientation is hoped to change perceptions and attitudes towards manual work favourably, and to lay a foundation for secondary vocational education by linking practical work to education through introducing students to the world of work. The exposure of students to pre-vocational experiences may motivate them to study technical subjects in the future (Masri, 1995). This explains the need for pre-vocational education dimension in the national curriculum of primary and secondary schools.
Pre-vocational education in Jordan is a practical form of provision that is studied at all grades of basic education. It is delivered as modularised training packages in agriculture; industry; business; home economics and health education (MoE, 1994). These modules, designed within a competency model, do not aim to prepare students directly for the work place, but rather to expose pupils to a wide base of vocational experiences, useful at personal and perhaps family levels, and to identify their vocational abilities and interests at an early stage (Tweisat, 1998). It is hoped by the Ministry of Education (MoE) that this may encourage students to better appreciate manual work, and where appropriate, to be prepared to select it as a career). The structure of PVE delivery is organised at three levels according to grade (MoE, 1994, p. 8): Level-lat which PVE is introduced at grades 1-4 on the basis of one class period per week (45 minutes), Level-2: developing PVE at grades 5-7 on the basis of two class periods per week., and the syllabus for these grades includes units relating to five different PVE packages, that is agriculture, industry, business, home economics, health and general safety, and level-3 at which teaching of the PVE is further extended at grades 8-10 on the basis of four class-periods per week. At this stage each school is required to choose packages in at least two different fields. It is required that the teacher select packages based on informed knowledge of the students' needs and understanding of the available facilities both within the school and the local environment.
Problem of the Study
The delivery of PVE faces numerous problems: Teachers are not well trained to teach practical skills; they sometimes abbreviate the delivery of the subject to theoretical knowledge only, this is because they lack the practical ability to do the exercises (Ahmad and Al-saydeh, 2008). Also, some schools were found not utilising facilities properly due to weakness in the teachers' abilities (Tweisat, 1998), and there is a wide variation in the time allocated to practical work, and sometimes PVE practical lessons are completely omitted, perhaps because of the lack of facilities and equipment. This has an impact on delivery of the curriculum since PVE objectives cannot be achieved without effective delivery of the practical exercises.
Many of the supervisors who are currently in position do not have adequate experience and professional background. This situation should have been foreseen in that the previous qualifications and experience of many of the supervisors are not relevant to the PVE program. Thus, they are ill equipped to accomplish many of the objectives of the teacher in-service training program for which they have administrative responsibility. Also, there is a misunderstanding of the relationship between teachers and supervisors; only one supervisory visit during the academic year, and the concentration of the supervisors on the weaknesses they found in the teacher's performance rather than advice and guidance to the teacher or providing feedback from the field to help in policy improvements (Al-khashman, 2000).
There is an absence of the school administrators' commitment towards effective delivery of PVE. Implementation of prevocational education is further hindered by negative attitudes among relevant parties (students, parents, school administrators and, teachers themselves). Generally, dominancy of attitudes is due to prejudice that places vocational careers low on the social ladder (Rihani et. al, 1997). This has a negative impact for the PVE teacher because of the low interest that schools administrators show in PVE and in its requirements in terms of facilities provided. Some principals order PVE teachers to make students clean the school areas during PVE lessons. This reflects its status and the absence of awareness of the specific advantages that it intends to achieve for the students. On the other hand, the students' negative attitudes towards the subject make it difficult for the teacher to convince them of the importance of PVE and to attract their attention during lessons (Dughlos, 2004).
Taking into consideration the aforementioned situation of PVE delivery, there is a need to take actions in order to improve its' delivery. When taking school improvement actions, it is necessary to consider the perspectives and experience of teachers who have the target impact on students .These perspectives have a valuable contribution to improvement, since teachers are in charge with students in teaching/learning process. This makes teachers of better knowledge of the problems and of their solutions (Educational Improvement Commission, 2000). However, teachers are usually ignored in decisions relating to educational improvement actions in Jordan (Turkhan, 2004). This negligence makes these decisions ineffective or irrelevant (Johnsons, Stevens and Zvoch, 2004). Therefore, in order to establish a realistic and relevant base for improvement of PVE delivery, teachers' perspectives concerning their proposed actions to improve its delivery were the focus of this study.
Purpose of the Study
The study aimed to investigate the teachers' proposed actions to improve the delivery of PVE in Jordan relating to the: curriculum, teacher, students, supervisor, school system and administration, and PVE workshop.
Question of the Study
To achieve the aim of the study, one question was to be answered:
--What are the actions proposed by teachers to improve the delivery of PVE in Jordan relating to the: teacher, students, curriculum, school system and administration, PVE workshop, and supervisors?
Importance of the study
The study results may contribute to improve the quality of PVE delivery in various aspects: Teachers will have better knowledge about the actions that can improve the PVE delivery. They will take actions that are relevant to their roles based on a high degree of consensus among their population. In this regard, actions proposed by high percentage of teachers in a study will be more valid than individual perspectives that are usually adopted as the bases for developmental actions particularly in vocational education programs.
Curriculum developers will improve the content and the design of the prospective PVE curriculum based on realistic opinions and experiences that reflect the real image of schools, a factor that could bridge the gap between formal and real curriculum.
School principals will be aware of their contribution to the delivery of PVE in terms of knowledge of the impacts of their practices relating to PVE. Supervisors will also improve their practice to have better supervisory activities for PVE delivery through knowledge offered by the study results concerning problems that face teachers and their perceptions towards the supervisory practices. Moreover, decision makers will have better knowledge of the situation of PVE delivery, and of the actions that they can take to improve it.
Most importantly, students and their parents will get the benefit of all the aforementioned uses of the study when they receive better PVE delivery. This is because students are the main beneficiary of any improvement in the educational systems.
The study adopted the descriptive-analytical methodology; perceptions of teachers (collected through interviews) represented data concerning the proposed actions to improve PVE delivery.
Population and Sample of the Study
Population of the study consisted of all PVE teachers in Jordan in the year 2007/2008. The total number of teachers was 1800. Sample of the study consisted of 36 randomly selected teachers who represent 2 percent of the population.
Instrument of the Study
Data was collected through semi-structured interview. Because the study aims at elucidating the actions proposed by teachers to improve PVE delivery, actions were divided into elements of the: teacher, students, curriculum, school system and administration, PVE workshop, and supervisor. Therefore, questions included in the interview schedule were:
--What are your proposed actions to improve the PVE delivery relating to the curriculum? What is the rationale behind these actions, and how they will improve PVE delivery?
--What are your proposed actions to improve the PVE delivery relating to the teacher? What is the rationale behind these actions, and how they will improve PVE delivery?
--What are your proposed actions to improve the PVE delivery relating to the students? What is the rationale behind these actions, and how they will improve PVE delivery?
--What are your proposed actions to improve the PVE delivery relating to the school system and administration? What is the rationale behind these actions, and how they will improve PVE delivery?
--What are your proposed actions to improve the PVE delivery relating to the PVE workshop? What is the rationale behind these actions, and how they will improve PVE delivery?
--What are your proposed actions to improve the PVE delivery relating to the supervisor? What is the rationale behind these actions, and how they will improve PVE delivery?
Validity and Reliability of the Interview Schedule
To determine the validity of the interview schedule, the researcher delivered it to a group of experts and asked them to give their notes on each question and on the interview schedule as a whole. After considering these comments, some questions were added; others were omitted and the wording of others was modified. For example, there were separate questions; one of them relating to the school administration, and the another relating to the school system, experts suggested that they were related and should be addressed in one question. Also, experts emphasized to ask a question on how each proposed action could contribute to the improvement of PVE delivery. To ensure the reliability, the researcher contacted some of the interviewees two weeks after the main interview, and asked him/her about selected aspects mentioned in the transcript of his/her interview, that was to ensure whether the interviewee will mention the same idea or not; this method to ensure reliability of interview was mentioned in (Oppenheim, 2000). However, all teachers contacted mentioned mostly the same ideas.
Administration of the Study Instrument
The researcher used to visit the teacher, talk to him/her about the study purposes, and the need to conduct interviews with them. The interviewee (the teacher to be interviewed) took the interview schedule to have an initial idea, and then made an appointment to have the interview. This helps the interviewee to read the interview schedule in depth and prepare ideas. Also the researcher asked the interviewee for permission to record and all of them agreed.
After each interview, a full transcript was written exactly as recorded. Responses of all teachers were read by the researcher on each question to list the main ideas mentioned. Then, detailed content analysis was undertaken for each transcript. Analysis was based on the idea i.e. the response to each question (for an interviewee) was read first, separate sentences, then to read sentences carefully to decide what idea mentioned (action, rationale and contribution) in the sentence/s. This helped determine the frequencies of each idea/s in the responses to each question. Frequencies help to decide the number of teachers mentioned each action, and to order the proposed actions according to the number of proponents. In writing up the report, the researcher analyzed the action proposed, the rationale of each action, and the way in which it contributes to the improvement of delivery utilizing quotations from interviews' transcripts.
Result and Discussion
In this section, teachers' proposed actions were tabulated according to frequencies of teachers who mentioned each action in the interviews. Categories of actions included the: curriculum, teacher, school system and administration, students, the PVE workshop, and the supervision. Frequencies were only utilized to ensure that each action achieved an acceptable degree of consensus among teachers in order to start analysis of the implications of each action, its rationale, and its contribution to improvement of the PVE delivery. In the following sections actions in each category will be analyzed:
First: Teachers' Proposed Actions Relating to the Curriculum
Teachers proposed several improvement actions relating to the curriculum. Table 1 shows frequencies of teachers who propose each action.
Results in Table 1 show that there are four proposed actions relating to the curriculum. Percentages of teachers who mentioned these actions were between (92-58).
Action (1): reducing the content and activities included in the curriculum:
It is necessary to make it possible for teachers to teach units in the curriculum fields which are 5 fields (industrial, business, agriculture, health and safety, and home economics), bearing in mind that PVE has only two lessons a week in the schools timetable, the whole time of these two lessons is only (90 minutes), which is not enough to train students on practical skills, particularly with the high numbers of students in classes. One of the teachers mentioned:
"The curriculum has too many lessons and activities. These cannot be delivered in two lessons a week. I suggest reduce the number of lessons and activities".
It is obvious that teachers cannot deliver the whole content of the textbooks within the available number of lessons. However, teachers need to remember what is mentioned in the curriculum headlines that it is required to deliver units (not all units) in each field of the curriculum, the fact that could make their task, to some extent, easier.
Action (2): making split curriculum for male and female students.
Although it is mentioned in the curriculum headlines that content delivered in PVE is intended to be the same for both male and female students (MoE, 1995), there is a difference between male and female school regarding the content that can be delivered to students. This difference is implied by the facilities available in workshops of each type of schools (Al-Saydeh, 2002; Tweisat, 1998). Also, this difference could be implied by the difference in qualifications between female and male teachers; most of the female teachers are specialized in home economics, while most of male teachers are specialized in PVE agriculture, or other vocational specialization. This makes better possibility for male schools to deliver a variety of subjects than that in female schools. A teacher mentioned:
"It is illogical to have the same curriculum for male and female students. I know that the Ministry of education mentioned in the curriculum headlines that students should be exposed to the same tasks regardless of gender, but workshops are not the same and teachers specialties are not the same also".
It can be concluded that the apparent equity between males and females concerning the content of PVE is not and cannot be implemented in schools. Despite of the consensus among western educationists about the equity of male and female students, this was not completely verified in the Arab and Muslim world, and this could be an as pect of difference between the western and eastern educational systems particularly in education relating to work, since females traditionally work in jobs different from those for females.
Action (3): modifying (reducing) the level of difficulty of the curriculum to suit the students' level).
This implies that there is a difficulty for some students to fully understand the content of the curriculum or to master the included skills. It was mentioned by a teacher:
Sometimes, it is difficult for students to understand the material or to undertake tasks. I found it difficult. Therefore, I suggest make a review for the curriculum that takes this issue into consideration".
When general consensus (78%) of teachers mention a difficulty in the content of the curriculum, this means that there is a level of difficulty that hinders the students accomplishment of learning tasks. Therefore, it is a necessity to review the content of the curriculum and its organization in order to take into consideration the characteristics of students. If the content does not accommodate the student levels or (characteristics), it will be a source of frustration due to failure in accomplishment of the tasks required to achieve the curriculum objectives (Prinsen; Volman and Terwel, 2007). It is intuitive that curriculum review should be performed by specialists (who are aware of the characteristics of the target students). This raises the issue of availability of human resources who can work as curriculum developers with vocational qualifications, which was a big need in Jordan up to the last few years when the last curriculum update took place in 1997 (Tweisat, 1998).
Action (4): redesigning (renewing) the curriculum.
Subjects of PVE are mostly technological in all fields, technology is continuously charging; this implies a need to change the content delivered to students in order to keep this content relevant to students and society needs. This was mentioned by a teacher:
"Subjects in the curriculum are not up to date. You know, PVE conveys technology to students, and technology is continuously changing. If we teach the out-of-date subjects, students will not enjoy PVE and they will not pay it any attention".
If the curriculum content is not to be modernized, it will lose the attractiveness to be learned by students .And this will generate negative students' attitudes towards PVE. Therefore, there is a need to review the content of PVE curriculum in a way that produces contemporary and relevant content that is useful to student's daily life. This implies that curriculum developers (reviewers) should have a reasonable knowledge of changes in their fields of specialty (Psacharopoulos, 1997).
Second: Teachers' Proposed Actions Relating to the Teacher
The teachers' proposed actions to improve PVE delivery relating to the teacher are shown in table (2).
Results in Table 2 show that there are four proposed actions relating to the teacher. Percentages of teachers who mentioned these actions were between (100-78).
Action (1): to train teachers on the five fields of PVE curriculum.
This action was mentioned by all interviewees. Due to the variety of topics included in the curriculum (industrial, business, home economics, health and safety, and agriculture), teachers are not able to train students on all these topics, particularly practical skills. Therefore, the problem of lack of capability could be overcome by training teachers on the skills of these five fields. One of the interviewees expressed this as follows:
"Teaching of PVE requires a comprehensive teacher who acquires good experiences in all topics. This is difficult because every teacher has his specially, but these experiences could be substituted by teacher training on the five fields of the curriculum".
For teachers who are specialized in one of the curriculum fields, it is required to train them on both theoretical and practical content of the subjects. This might not be possible in training workshops that take place in short periods of time in local educational directorates. It might require some kind of academic in-service qualification through complementary PVE teacher education programs that qualify diploma holders (in one filed) for bachelor's degree, this requires giving teachers partial or full leaves from their work in schools to finish such programs. One of the interviewees expressed this as:
"training workshops undertaken in the educational directorate do not address subject matter. What is needed is an academic program designed to fill the gap in the teachers' knowledge and skills".
Action(2): reducing the teaching loads and other tasks of PVE teachers.
In addition to teaching, PVE teachers have other tasks; some of them are responsible for (class educating), workshop management, maintenance of school facilities, preparing for exhibitions. A teacher expressed his complain about this issue as follows:
"I have tasks other than teaching PVE, I manage the workshop, maintain school facilities, prepare for exhibitions, and I am responsible for educating one of the school classes. This makes it difficult because of high loads "
The issue of high work loads on PVE teachers raises the need for reducing these loads. School administration could find a variety of actions to reduce such loads, for example, to reduce the requirements for maintenance of school facilities, to appoint a specialized person responsible for the workshop, and not to allocate class educating for PVE teachers. These actions were suggested by a teacher, He said:
"School principal could ask other teachers to be responsible for class educating, and he could find specialized people outside the school to do maintenance. Also, the ministry could appoint a person to be responsible for the workshop".
If these extra loads are removed from shoulders of PVE teachers, they will find more time for teaching requirements, a factor that could contribute to better delivery of PVE.
Action (3): acquainting teachers with the use of devices and tools.
The workshop of prevocational education in most of the schools is equipped with a variety of devices and tools. Taking into consideration that PVE teachers are from different backgrounds of specialty, they are not skillful to use these devices with good capability to train students. This is also true for teachers who graduated of teacher education programs for PVE (Al-Jawaneh, 1999). Therefore, there is a need to undertake specific training for teachers on the use of devices and tools available in the workshop. This was explicitly mentioned by a female teacher. She said:
"Most of the teachers are not skillful in the use of the workshop devices and tools. So, they are afraid when they use these devise, I think, it will be of great benefit to train teachers how to use these devices. This will make them of better ability to perform practical skills".
It could be concluded that training of teachers on how to use devices and tools will improve PVE delivery through improvement of the teachers' capability to train on practical skills. This will reduce the theoretical way of PVE teaching, which is a major problem facing the PVE delivery (Ahmad and Al-Saydeh, 2007). It is expressed explicitly when teachers said that they were afraid of using devices and tools. Therefore, well designed training programs, that might take place in companies supplying these devices will be of great benefits
Action (4): appointing only PVE specialists to teach PVE
Some of the teachers have a specialty in one of the vocational fields, and other are academic in specialty and teach PVE as a complement to their teaching load. This causes problems to the delivery of the subject due to lack of knowledge and skills of subjects. One of the teachers who are not specialized in PVE said:
"Because I'm not specialized in PVE, I face problems when I teach its subjects".
Although training was suggested by teachers, others mentioned that it is difficult for teachers to master the other fields through training .This was mentioned explicitly in the speech of one of the teachers as follows:
"Training through workshops could be useful, but it is difficult to master all subjects through such training. If the problem of non-specialized teachers is intended to be resolved, new PVE specialized teachers should be appointed and non-specialized teachers could find other jobs in schools."
Therefore, the ministry of education cooperate with universities to renew the teacher education programs since these programs were stopped years ago when the higher Education Council in 2003 decided to stop all programs of 'field teacher' education programs. Also, the syllabi of these programs should be reformed in order to eliminate weaknesses reported in these programs (Salamah, 1994).
Third: Teachers' Proposed Actions Relating to the School System and Administration
Table (3) shows the teacher's proposed actions relating to school system and administration, in addition to frequencies and percentages of teachers who mentioned each action.
As shown in table (3), teachers proposed that school system and administration could help to improve PVE delivery through eight actions. Percentages of teachers who mentioned these actions were between (95-70).
Action (1): To be more interested in PVE and not to change its lessons for other activities.
It was mentioned in most of the studies that investigated the problems face PVE delivery in Jordan that it faces the problems of negative attitudes from different parties (parents, society, school principals, student, and even some teachers) (Tweisat, 1998; Dughlos, 2004). These negative attitudes render it easy for some school principals to ask PVE teachers to leave some lessons for teachers of other subjects (like science or mathematics) in order to cover the shortage of time of these subjects. It was also mentioned that some principals ask PVE teachers to clean the school building in PVE lessons. One of the teachers mentioned this as follows.
"Sometimes, the school principal as me to make Students clean the school building in PVE lesson, while I have a plan to train them on certain skills".
A school administration with an understanding of the philosophy of PVE will not make this mistake because this ensures the low status of PVE for students and their teachers. It is required to spread (among principals) the awareness of the importance of PVE for the future of students and to keep continuously monitoring the actions taken by school principals concerning PVE. Appointing of well-educated principals could be helpful to overcome this problem. A teacher presented this suggestion as follow:
"principals are not well informed about the necessity of PVE for students. If well-educated principals are to be appointed, I think actions that have negative effects on PVE will be reduced".
Action (2): doing summer school training
To do summer school training for students, particularly for students in higher basic grades, will increase the time share of PVE on comparison to other subjects. This will also make it possible to undertake practical training on skills. One of the interviewees emphasized that in the sentences:
"Pre-vocational education is delivered on two lessons a week. Therefore, training is abstract. If summer training is to be added, more time will be available, and students will find enough time to work practically, while no theoretical lessons".
This action may render PVE more rigorous, because students will come to school only for the sake of PVE training. Additionally, summer training could require some financial incentive for teachers. One of the teachers said:
"If any extra salary is to be paid, teachers will like the idea of summer training "
Extra salary (incentives for summer training will contribute to better life condition, and better morale of teachers, because salaries of teachers are not enough to cover for the life expenses.
Action (3): not to ask PVE teachers to do extra tasks.
This action is connected to the teachers' proposed actions relating to (teacher), when they mentioned in proposal (3) that it is required to reduce their teaching loads and other tasks. It is intuitive to say that the school administration is the only party who can understand the nature of the job of each teacher. Therefore, school principals can decide what PVE teachers can do without interference to their teaching activities. It could not be possible, in most of the schools, to reduce the number of lessons of PVE for the teacher, because there is only one PVE teacher in each school, but principals can manage to give other marginal tasks like class responsibility, controlling, maintenance, and exhibitions to teachers of other subjects. This was mentioned in one of the interviews as follows:
"Because of one PVE teacher in the school, no way to reduce teaching loads, but the principal can give other marginal teacher's".
Action (4): providing the PVE workshop with enough materials through increasing PVE allocations in the school budget.
As mentioned before, PVE is a practical subject, and training on such subjects requires materials. Some materials are supplied to schools through central tenders, but others are to be provided depending on the school budget, in Jordan, budgets of public school consists only of students fees, which does not exceed (6 Jordanian Dinars for every student per year). Only 15 percent of the budget is allocated to PVE (MoE, 1995), which is a little amount if compared to the cost of training materials required to train hundreds of students in the school. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the percentage allocated for PVE in the school budget in order to provide materials enough to train students. One of the teachers in one of the big schools said:
"I teach in a school of 782 students. The amount allocated for PVE in the school budget does not exceed 500 Jordanian Dinars. This amount does not enough to provide consumable materials required for training of the different exercises. It is necessary to increase this amount by any means. If not, I will teach PVE as theoretical subject".
Action (5): adding extra work place training
To add some workplace training workplace training makes it real to recognize careers and their practice, and to perceive well the status and requirements of careers. It will also enable students to appreciate workers and their efforts in the society. It was mentioned by one a teacher as follows:
"Real work in workplaces (companies, firms, factories, farms, shops, ovens, restaurants.... etc) will give students a cleaver idea about careers, and characteristics of their holders, in addition to their requirements (physical and mental)".
However, it should be kept in mind that workplace training requires a well organized system to monitor and control the activities, since it was mentioned in other studies that it is rare to take work place training assiduous by all parties (students, workplace, and the school), (Milne, 2007). Therefore it is suggested to have a pre-consent plan, and to have an accommodator to facilitate for the training of students. One of the teachers expressed this proposal:
"In order for work place training not be loose, it is required to have agreed plans, and to nominate a person in the work place to facilitate the training"
Action (6): allowing for field visits
Field visit is one of the approaches to deliver PVE content. Its benefits exceed practical skill to attitudes change. Visits could be short in time (e.g one day) or long (days or weeks). These visits also should have certain objectives to achieve, and the place to visit should be carefully selected. One of the teachers mentioned that:
"The school system should be more elastic to allow for frequent field visits for a variety of vocational locations. This will enhance the students' attitudes and allow them to see practical work. However, such visits require a lot of routine work, and should be carefully planned".
Action (7): teaching PVE by a team of teachers
Based on the variety of the subjects included in the PVE curriculum, and taking into consideration that PVE teachers are not well equipped to teach all the curriculum fields, it could be one of the realistic solutions to make teachers of other subjects contribute to PVE teaching. A teacher mentioned:
"Teachers of other subjects can help to deliver PVE subjects. Subjects that are near to PVE are, for example, science (physics, chemistry, and biology), arts education, and physical education".
Numerous advantages can be gained through team teaching: to have integration between subjects, to have deeper knowledge and mastery of skills of teachers, to reduce the load of PVE teachers, and to make other subjects more enjoyable. A teacher mentioned these advantages:
"If subjects of PVE are to be taught by teachers of other subjects, students will enjoy them better because they have negative attitudes towards PVE. Teachers have better skills than PVE teacher, this will allow students to master skills, and this will show the integral relationship between school subjects".
The mentioned advantages were explicitly mentioned by (Shafer, 2001,p.3) who studied this method and said.
"It can be one of the effective methods of dealing with certain topics, particularly those involving cross- and multi disciplinary inquiry, conflict resolutions, and value formation"
Based on the well the well established effectiveness of team teaching, it could be one of the main reform actions taken by the MoE to teach PVE by a team of teachers, but there should be a new design for the curriculum, and a clear structure that identifies roles of participating teachers.
Action (8): making PVE lessons consecutive (not separate).
Training on practical subjects is time consuming because of the multiple steps of training. Taking into consideration that Jordanian classrooms are crowded with (30-50) student in each class, it is obvious that one lesson period (with 45 minutes) is not enough to train students even on simple exercises. Therefore, it is required to have two consecutive lessons in order to have continuous time to train on different skills. If not, teacher will teach PVE as a theoretical subject, or to train some students in classes with a considerable interruption. One of the teachers presented this idea in the following words:
"The two lessons allocated for PVE are already inadequate. If the school principal makes these two lessons separate from each other, the teacher will not be able to train practically, because some exercises require too much time to train students".
It could be also implied in this proposal that there is a need to increase the number of lessons allocated for PVE in the week, particularly if the curriculum content will remain the same in size.
Fourth: Teachers' Proposed Actions Relating to Students and Parents.
Table 4 shows the teachers' proposed actions to improve PVE delivery and frequencies and percentages of the teachers who mentioned these actions.
Results in table (4) show that there are four actions relating to the students and parents. Percentages of teachers who mentioned these actions were between (100-70).
Action (1): enhancing students' attitudes towards PVE and vocational work
Students' negative attitudes towards PVE render it difficult for teachers to train on PVE tasks; negative attitudes hinder the aspiration of students to perform practical exercises, and reduce their attention to theoretical explanations.
In addition to general prejudice about vocations among the society, one of the main reasons to negative attitudes is that PVE has no credit in the average of student marks. It is only (pass or fail). One of the teachers mentioned that in the following words:
"We suffer a lot to attract attention of students (particularly in higher basic grades). Students have negative attitudes towards PVE. It is not only their attitudes, but their families' attitudes also ... to enhance student attitudes, we have to be more practical in PVE teaching; we have to deliver information about careers and their status in labor market and their advances. We can invite specialized people to talk to students about their careers; to organize field visit either (short or long)".
It could be concluded that traditional approaches to teaching are unable to enhance students' attitudes towards PVE. Therefore, teachers have to use nontraditional activities like those mentioned by the teacher above ,for example to include information about careers in the labor market, to invite specialized people, and to organize field visits.
Action (2): reducing the number of students in classes
It is mentioned in studies relating to education in Jordan that classes are crowded of students, particularly in public schools. Therefore, teachers tend to use teacher-cantered methods to deliver the content of the curriculum (Leahy, 2006). In the case of PVE, where there is a shortage of facilities and space in workshops, the number of students forces teachers to teach (not to train). A teacher mentioned that:
"Because of the high number of students in classes and workshops, we only make presentations in front of students. Very low percentage of students can do exercises.... if student number is reduced, we will allow more students to do exercises. They might redo exercises to master skills. Also, we may be able to observe students during work".
Reducing the number of students in classes is a very vital corrective action because of the numerous mentioned advantages. However, it is difficult to take such action because of the financial implications, particularly in Jordan which is a third world country of limited resources. However, this raises a need to rearrange the priorities of the MoE, i.e. to make the building of new classrooms and appointing teachers among the highest priorities
In relation to student numbers, some teachers suggested dividing students in each class into two groups; in each lesson, a group studies PVE, while the other studies arts education. This will make number of students on PVE lessons equal to half of the total number of student. This idea was mentioned as follows:
"To solve the problem of crowded classes and workshop, students could be divided into two groups. In each lesson, a group study PVE while the second learn arts education. By this the teachers will have only half of students".
Action (3): enhancing parents 'awareness of the importance of PVE
Because PVE is vocational in mature, and its students grading is (pass or fail) parents put it low. They also reflect their perceptions to students when they encourage them to exclude PVE and to consider it as a non_ school subject. Therefore, it is vital to enhance parents' awareness of the importance of PVE. it was suggested (by a teachers) to do a variety of activities, like school meetings with parents by PVE teachers, counselors and school principals. It was also suggested to do some PVE practical activities in joint sessions (students and parents), and to develop a system of communication with parents to inform them about products made by their children in PVE lessons. One of the teachers emphasized these activities by the following words:
"Parents put PVE low. They ask their children to neglect it. However, if parents become aware of PVE, they will change their attitudes.... We can invite them to meetings with school family to talk about PVE, we might arrange certain practical tasks for students and their parents. This could show them the solid advantage of the subject when they see real products done by their children. Also, we could by any means, inform them about accomplishments of students".
Action (4): to consider individual differences particularly in practical training
It is intuitive that teachers should consider individual differences between students in their teaching. But individual differences become a critical issue in practical training, because these differences (appear on the surface) while students perform their practical exercises; i.e. low achievers who cannot do these tasks will stop to work, and become frustrated. Therefore, the approach to PVE delivery should consider this issue in terms of teaching methods and curriculum content design. One of the teachers mentioned the implications of this issue. He said:
"Individual differences are more critical in practical training. Therefore, they should be carefully taken into consideration; there should be a variety of cubiculum activates to achieve each single objective. This requires curriculum developers to analyze objectives and to prescribe such activates. Also, teachers should study the differences among students and to select suitable activates for each similar cohort of students".
Proposals to consider individual differences between students are ambitious, and they require the availability of a variety of tools and devices, and to have enough time and space in the workshop. One of the teachers liked these actions, but mentioned the requirements to apply them. She mentioned.
"To consideration individual differences, it is required to have a variety of exercises which require tools and devices. Also, we cannot neglect the matters of time and space also".
Fifth: Teachers' Proposed Actions Relating to the PVE Workshop.
Table (5) shows the teacher's proposed actions to improve PVE delivery to improve PVE delivery relating to the workshop and frequencies and percentages of these actions.
Results in table (5) show that there are three actions relating to the workshop. Percentages of teachers who mentioned these actions were between (87-75).
Action (1): not to use the workshop as a warehouse for the school luggage.
Some schools exploit the workshop as a warehouse for school luggage. This is one of the features of negative attitudes towards PVE. It could cause some dangers during training. It also makes it difficult to utilize the room of the workshop for training. It also hinders the movement of students during practical work. One of the teachers mentioned this problem and its disadvantages as follows:
"I strongly suggest stop putting the school luggage in the workshop. This makes its appearance bad; it also makes movement of the students hard. It could result in some dangers".
Action (2): updating the workshop equipment to convey technological development.
In subjects relating to technology there is a continuous need for update of the learning resources because of the technology continuous change. If these resources are not updated, students will learn irrelevant tasks. A teacher said:
"Although PVE is practical subject, and technology of doing things is continuously developing, you find that majority of the workshop equipment are old. Some of them are more than 30 years old".
Action (3): increasing the capacity of the workshops by widening their areas.
Jordanian school classes are crowded; even in newly built school, the number in one class is between 35 to 50 students. PVE workshops are identical regardless of the number of students in the school. Therefore, it teachers complain that workshops are narrow and crowded, and this hinders the training. One of the teachers said:
"Workshops are narrow. Therefore students do not feel comfortable during training. Although our school is newly established, the workshop area is inadequate for student. I suggest widening the workshop to accommodate student and equipment".
It is obvious that a study is required for the compatibility between areas of the workshops and number of students, and to widen the area of the workshop wherever found necessary
Sixth: Teachers' Proposed Actions Relating to Supervision
Teachers proposed five actions relating to supervision. Table 6 shows these actions with their frequencies and the percentages of teachers who mentioned these actions.
Results in Table 6 show that there are five actions relating to the supervision. Percentages of teachers who mentioned these actions were between (92-58).
Action (1): providing continuous supervision to support PVE delivery (local or central)
There is a solid consensus found in literature that central supervision is not effective (Al-khashman, 2000). In the case of PVE teachers, where practical training is to take place in different fields by teachers, it could be useful to guarantee a good quality of training. One of the teachers said that:
"due to the practical nature of PVE, and because of the variety in the capability of teachers, there is a need for a kind of continuous supervision, to support the teacher. This could be done by principals or their assistants (if specialized), or by an expert teacher for each school or for a number of schools".
Continuous supervision that could support the PVE teachers can be provided by school principals, if their fields of specialty are relevant to PVE, but can be done by an expert teacher who can provide such supervision for more than one school in the area. This could help to solve technical problems that face the PVE delivery in schools.
Action (2): increasing the number of guidance and supervisory visits to the teacher
It seems that PVE teachers are in need for better supervision services. Therefore, in addition to continuous local or central supervision, they asked explicitly to increase the number of visits either allocated for guidance of teachers, or those allocated for supervision (assessment). This could ensure better practice of teachers in PVE delivery. A teacher said:
"Many times, I need to consult some body concerning a problem, but l do not find. PVE supervisor visits me once a year. This is not enough. If frequent visits happened I will find better chance to consult the supervisors".
Better availability of supervisors will make better contact between teachers and supervisors, and this will make better PVE delivery through more frequent consultancy from supervisor for teachers' practice.
Action (3): providing a clearer understanding for the relationship between teachers and supervisors (for both)
There is a lack of the right understanding for the relationship between teachers and supervisors. Teachers usually understand the supervisors' role as only for assessment, and some supervisors ensure this perspective. A teacher said:
"I think the supervisor visits me only for assessment report. What makes this vision right is that he doesn't show any valuable comments on what he sees in my work".
It is well established that supervisor's main job is to help teachers deliver their subjects better (not only for assessments of their performance. However, teachers' perceive the role of supervisors only as assessors to fill reports. Therefore it is vital to spread better understanding of the supervisors' roles among teachers, maybe, by more collective meetings with teachers. One of the teachers said:
"I think, more meetings with teachers collectively with supervisors could solve the problem of miss understanding. But supervisors need to do improve their practices".
Action (4): appointing supervisors specialized in PVE
Historically, PVE supervisors had been appointed from those who had college diplomas in different vocational fields, because there were no university teacher education programs for PVE. This issue produced PVE supervisors lacking the understanding of the nature of PVE and technical skills of its delivery. A teacher said:
"You know, there were no university programs to graduate PVE teachers. Only collage diploma did that". Supervisors used to be appointed form teachers. This allowed weak teachers to become supervisors".
However, in the last few years, no supervisors were allowed to be nominated for a supervisory job without a bachelor's degree with a university diploma In education. These supervisors are better qualified to supervise PVE delivery, one of the teachers said:
"Supervisors who have university degrees, with diploma in education can give better understanding of PVE".
Based on that, the Ministry of Education is advised to work with universities to re-open teacher education and supervisory programs after the cancellation of these programs in all public universalities from 2002.
Action (5): increasing the number of supervisors to improve communication with teachers
In most of the educational directorates, there are one PVE supervisor or two, at most. This makes it difficult for the supervisor to visit teacher more than once, since he/she has to visit more than 20 schools each semesters. If the number of supervision a teacher expressed that:
"If more supervisor to be appointed, less teachers will be supervised by each supervisor. This will make better communication with them".
If a teacher meets the supervisors more times, more issues and technical problems will be discussed, and availability of the supervisors for teachers will improve. This will make better communication with teachers and more cooperation will take place.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The study aimed at collecting informed teachers propositions to improve PVE delivery. These actions were comprehensive. They touched all elements of the educational system: the curriculum, the teacher, the students, the supervisor, the school system, the PVE workshop. Also, these actions were technical and directed to problems and derived from logical understanding of these problems. This is true because the teacher is the party who is most relevant to appraise the situation of the subject delivery, and able to suggest realistic actions to improve it. In Summary, proposed actions of PVE teachers to improve its delivery could be translated in the following recommendations:
--appointing specialized personnel (teachers and supervisors), and to adequately train them to perform their jobs with an acceptable level
--making the curriculum modern, relevant to students needs and aptitudes, in terms of level of difficulty and size of the material content.
--improving the school administration perceptions and implied practices relating to PVE.
--paying attention to students' and parents attitudes towards PVE and to provide them with informed knowledge about and of PVE.
--taking some corrective actions in the school system that enable for non-traditional delivery of PVE. Among these actions are to add summer training, to allow for field visits (short or long), and to teach PVE by team teaching.
--Workshops need to be modernized, widened, and not to be exploited as warehouse for school luggage.
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Mon'im A. Al-Sa'aideh, Dean Assistant for Qualification Programs Affairs, The University of Jordan, Amman.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mon'im A. Al-Sa'aideh at email@example.com.
Table 1 Teachers' Proposed Actions to Improve PVE Deliver Relating to the Curriculum No. Proposed Action Frequency Percentage 1 reducing the content and activities included in 33 92 the curriculum 2 making split curriculum for male and female 30 83 students. 3 modifying (reduce) the level of difficulty of 28 78 the curriculum to suit the students level. 4 redesigning (renewing) 21 58 the curriculum Table 2 Teachers' Proposed Actions to Improve PVE Delivery Relating to the Teacher No. Proposed Action Frequency Percentage 1 training teachers on the five fields of 36 100 PVE curriculum. 2 reducing the teaching loads and other tasks' 36 100 of PVE teachers. 3 acquainting teachers 30 83 with the use of devices and tools 4 appointing only PVE 28 78 specialists. Table 3 Teacher's Proposed Actions to Improve PVE Delivery Relating to the School System and Administration No. Proposed Action Frequency Percentage 1 To be more interested 34 95 in PVE and not to change its lessons for other activities 2 doing summer school PVE 32 89 training 3 Not to ask PVE teachers 31 87 to do extra tasks 4 providing PVE workshop 30 82 with enough material through increasing PVE allocations in the school budget 5 adding extra work place 30 83 training 6 allowing for field 30 83 visits to firms and factories 7 teaching PVE by a team 27 75 of teachers 8 making PVE lessons 25 70 consecutive (not separate). Table 4 Teachers' Proposed Actions to Improve PVE Delivery Relating to Students and Parents No. Proposed Action Frequency Percentage 1 enhancing students attitudes towards PVE and vocational work. 36 100 2 reducing the number 34 95 of students in classes 3 enhancing parents' 31 87 awareness of the important of PVE 4 considering individual 25 70 differences particularly in practical training. Table 5 Teachers' Proposed Actions to Improve PVE Delivery Relating to the Workshop No. Proposed Action Frequency Percentage 1 Not to use the workshop 28 87 as a warehouse for the school luggage 2 updating the workshop 27 75 equipment to convey the technological development 3 increasing the capacity 27 75 of the workshops by widening, their areas. Table 6 Teachers' Proposed Actions to Improve PVE Delivery Relating to Supervision No. Proposed Action Frequency Percentage 1 providing a kind of 35 97 continuous supervision to support PVE delivery (local or central). 2 increasing the number of guidance and 33 92 supervisory visits to the teacher. 3 providing a clear 33 92 understanding for the relationship between teachers and supervisors (for both). 4 appointing supervisors 28 78 specialized in PVE. 5 increasing the number of supervisors to improve communication with teachers. 28 78