2012. Vol.3, No.4, 439-447
Published Online August 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.34068
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 439
Beginning Teachers’ Perceptions of Their Training Programme
——Lessons from the Experience of a Cohort of Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education Graduates
Govinda Ishwa r Lingam
The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji
Email: govinda.lin email@example.com. fj
Received June 5th, 2012; revised July 10th, 2012; accepted July 28th, 2012
The study reported here sought to determine how a cohort of beginning teachers perceived the training
programme they completed at the Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education to prepare them for the work
expected of them in Vanuatu primary schools. All graduates of the programme in the study sample were
in their first year of teaching and their opinions were surveyed by means of a self-administered question-
naire. Analysis of the data showed that the beginning teachers were generally positive about their training
programme though some did express concerns about some important areas of it that they considered need
improvement. Substantial implications of the study impinge on three areas: the quality of the teacher
training programme; the roles and responsibilities expected of teachers in schools; and the quality of edu-
cation provided to the nation’s children. Implications of the study have relevance for other teacher educa-
tion institutions in the region and beyond in their professional preparation of teachers, at the pre-service
stage, for the myriad demands of work expected of them in a range of school settings.
Keywords: Beginning Teachers; Teacher Education Programme; Teachers’ Work; Small Developing
Island States; Pacific Context
Several inputs contribute to improving the quality of educa-
tion, which in turn determines the quality of children’s learning
outcomes. Among them are curriculum and resources, school
leadership and management, student participation, parental and
community participation, and effective accountability and
evaluation systems (Ishumi, 1986; Lockheed & Verspoor, 1991;
Grodsky & Gamoran, 2003; Tikly, 2010). While the contribu-
tion of each of these inputs is important, it is an undeniable fact
that success and failure in achieving quality education lies pri-
marily in the hands of classroom teachers (Delors, 1996) and it
is vital to recognise the centrality of the classroom teacher’s
role in achieving quality education. In particular, it is the pro-
fessional competence of the teachers that is considered the most
important contributing factor in improving the quality of educa-
tion, for they are the front-line agents responsible for translating
such things as curriculum, resources and educational policies
into effective practice (Gamage & Walsh, 2003; Grodsky &
Gamoran, 2003). The professional competence of teachers,
however, depends to a large extent on the quality of their
preparation and, in particular, the courses in the pre-service
programme, which must be aligned with and relevant to the
work and responsibilities teachers will meet inside and outside
the classroom (Gendall, 2001; Lingam, 2010). The courses
should, as well, remain responsive to emerging changes, ideas
and issues related to teacher education and school work. It is
teachers’ professional preparation and the expectations and
demands of their work in schools that are the focus of the pre-
In 1995, a meeting of the Pacific Teacher Education Consul-
tation working group was convened at the University of the
South Pacific (USP). Six principals of Regional teacher training
colleges were included among participants, who developed an
ideal teacher education curriculum for the Pacific. An ideal
teacher education curriculum, they reported, should produce a
[Views education holistically]—who is concerned for the
overall physical, mental, cultural and spiritual development
of the child;
Recognises the cultural underpinning in the various disci-
plines and uses these to advantage;
Has a thorough understanding of human development in the
Pacific, and of the roles of education in Pacific societies;
Views education as preparation for life, not merely for em-
ployment, so that she/he develops each child’s potential to
become a [valuable] member of society;
Has sufficient flexibility not only to draw on the strengths
and inspirations of his/her cultural roots, but also to be able
to engage with and educate children of differing cultural
backgrounds and in the contemporary context of continual
societal, cultural and technological changes (the ability to
balance western and traditional cultural values and method-
ologies would be valuable);
Has the necessary problem-solving and research skills to be
a reflective teacher;
Sees himself/herself as a positive role model for the chil-
dren and for the community in which he/she serves;
Has appropriate [knowledge] to learn skills to cope with
changes in the physical and social environment;
Has a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the school
Is able to successfully function in multiple-class or very
large, single-class contexts;
G. I. LINGAM
[Actively pursue opportunities for] ongoing professional
Will be able to evaluate both learning and teaching quality;
Assists in evaluation and revision of the teacher education
Participants added that the curriculum must also cater for:
Early childhood education;
Teaching on outer islands [and in other remote localities];
Culture-based content and methodologies.
(Benson, 1995: p. 3)
Most of these outlined aspects of the ideal teacher education
curriculum are relevant, and Regional teacher education institu-
tions in small island states of the Pacific could well use them to
determine whether they are reflected in their curricula. Broadly
speaking, the ideal teacher education curriculum should cater
for the knowledge and skills relating to the key areas of teach-
ers’ world of work, such as pedagogy; learning experiences;
learning environment; assessment and reporting; professional
and community relationship; curriculum framework and seek-
ing to learn (Education Queensland, 2000). Inadequate prepara-
tion in any one of the areas mentioned can have adverse effects
on children’s learning outcomes.
In the case of Pacific islands countries, multi-class teaching
is a topical issue yet many teacher education institutions have
not provided any training in it for their pre-service teachers,
who as a result face considerable difficulties (Lingam, 2008;
Learning Together, 2000; Collingwood, 1991). Since the statis-
tics indicate a widespread occurrence of multi-class teaching
arrangements in Pacific schools (Collingwood, 1991), the train-
ing of teachers in appropriate teaching methods seems vital.
This has been a long-standing area of weakness in the primary
education system in the Pacific, although some training col-
leges have received overseas assistance to incorporate a multi-
class component in their training programme. The former Lau-
toka Teachers’ College (now incorporated into the Fiji National
University, FNU) is one example, having received funding and
technical assistance towards upgrading the training programme
with a component on multi-class teaching (Lingam, 2003). It
appears that limited financial resources and unavoidably high-
cost for training make it difficult for the small island states to
provide adequate training for the full range of teachers’ roles
and responsibilities, often including handling multi-class teach-
ing. But the multi-class teaching phenomenon is a common one,
not confined to the Pacific but also prevalent in countries be-
yond the Pacific region and prospective teachers everywhere
need adequate preparation to carry out the work effectively in
multi-class teaching arrangements (Cornish, 2006; Lingam,
Apart from the special training needs of multi-class teachers,
there are calls for the preparation of beginning teachers in
school leadership matters, because in contemporary times stake-
holders are putting schools under considerable pressure to op-
erate effectively and efficiently (Boyd, 1999; Lingam, 2010).
School organisations have now become quite complex and the
training of school leaders is essential. Some countries in the
Pacific, such as Solomon Islands and Fiji, have embarked on
training programmes for school leaders (Lingam, 2010). A re-
view of research on teacher leadership concluded that today,
teachers assume leadership functions at both instructional and
organisational levels (York-Barr & Duke, 2004). To this end,
pre-service teacher education programmes should give due
consideration to leadership development. Education and train-
ing on school leadership should not be restricted to head teach-
ers and principals but also include all other teachers as they in
some way carry out leadership roles and responsibilities (Bush-
er & Harris, 2000; Dinham, 2005). In this regard, the Univer-
sity of the South Pacific (USP) responded well by initiating a
Diploma in Educational Leadership programme for aspiring
and serving school leaders (Velayutham, 1994). In recent years,
however, the number of students enrolling in this programme
has declined due to limited scholarship opportunities. The Uni-
versity’s School of Education, in case of requests by individual
countries, mounts in-country projects to prepare school leaders
professionally. In addition, at the postgraduate level there are
provisions for those students who wish to specialise on the
In recent decades, the importance, in the development of re-
flective teachers, of suitable problem-solving and research
skills, has been recognised increasingly (Baba, 1999). In the
contemporary world, the development of such teachers, able to
learn from reflection on their experiences, is crucial. Develop-
ment of an inquiry ethic is seen as integral to continuous reflec-
tion and improvement of professional practice (Darling-Ham-
mond, 1992). The 1995 Pacific Teacher Education Consultation
working group was also emphatic about the need for teachers to
possess knowledge and skills associated with research (Benson,
1995). As far back as the 1990s, Fiji’s then Minister for Na-
tional Planning and Information, the Honourable Senator Filipe
Bole (1999), was already advocating tertiary education as a
means to prepare students better for research and life-long edu-
cation in the widest sense.
Consideration of the educational and cultural context in
which the teachers are going to work would also be profession-
ally sound when any decision on teacher education curriculum
was made, helping better contextualise teacher preparation
programmes. As suggested by Konai Thaman (1998: p. 11):
… Teacher educators need to be able to utilize content
that is familiar to trainees as well as methods and tech-
nologies which are appropriate for and relevant to their
learning contexts. These would go a long way towards
improving the quality of teacher education in the region.
Clearly, teacher educators need to take cognizance of cultural
context and try to incorporate certain aspects of the culture,
especially in the methods and content of the teacher education
courses (Taufeulungaki, 2000). Such practices will enable be-
ginning teachers to use culture-based methodologies together
with western teaching methods to enhance teaching and learn-
ing processes, to help children achieve optimal learning out-
comes. The significance of contextual factors in any educa-
tional development effort should receive due attention for its
success (Crossley, 2010).
In the context of continuous change, new ways of thinking
and new skills need to be acquired to cope well with the con-
temporary demands of work (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991). As
a result, some educational contexts have made their teacher
education curriculum more practice-oriented. One shinning ex-
ample is England, where the teacher education curriculum con-
centrates more on what teachers actually do in the classroom
(Bridge, 1996; Cowen, 1990). As Bridge (1996: p. 7) points
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
G. I. LINGAM
Initial teacher education in the UK has undergone major
changes in the last few years with the increasing devel-
opment of partnership schemes between schools and
higher education institutions. The result is that more of
the training of student teachers takes place in schools un-
der the guidance of trained teachers.
Similarly, in most US teacher education institutions, the
trend has been towards a competency-based teacher education
approach (Levine & Ornstein, 1982). Some, though, argue that
a competency-based approach is too narrow for the broad range
of duties teachers are required to carry out (Lester, 1995; Bar-
nett, 1994). Cairns (1998) has proposed that capability rather
than competency may be a more useful way of understanding
what is needed to deal with the myriad of changes, challenges
and pressures faced by modern-day primary teachers.
This competency-based approach places greater emphasis on
classroom practice and the expectation is that student teachers
will acquire the various skills needed to function effectively in
the classroom. The dilemma these two approaches create is well
summarised by Horn (1994: p. 83) as:
... One of the two biggest debates in the field of teacher
education [is] which should be stressed in the formation
of a teacher... content courses or methods courses?
It is uncommon to find teacher education institutions placing
different emphasis on content courses and methods courses. For
example, Grossman, Wilson and Shulman (1989), consider the
importance of subject matter knowledge in enhancing instruc-
tion. Lawlor (1990) also claims that teachers need an in-depth
study of the subjects in the national school curriculum, rather
than too much of the study of theories in education. To enhance
teaching and learning, both content and methods courses are
important, and Summers (1994) has used the term curricular
expertise in referring to both content and method of teaching. In
the same vein, Morrison (1989) regards both types of knowl-
edge, content and pedagogical, as crucial in influencing effec-
tive and efficient teaching performance. Teachers whose knowl-
edge of both content and pedagogy is limited could seriously
find their work performance hampered in classroom situations,
and at the same time , find themselves undermining the teaching
and learning process.
Like other international organisations, the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Centre for
Educational Research and Innovation (1994: pp. 14-15) has re-
garded the following types of “knowledge” and “skills” as ap-
propriate for teachers:
Content knowledge or knowledge of the substantive cur-
riculum areas required in the classroom;
Pedagogic skills including the acquisition and ability to use
a repertoire of teaching strategies;
Reflection and the ability to be self critical, the hallmark of
Empathy and commitment to the acknowledgment of the
dignity of others;
Managerial competence, as teachers assume a range of ma-
nagerial responsibilities within and outside the classroom.
The suggested knowledge and skills are necessary to ensure
the beginning teachers can execute their duties and responsi-
bilities effectively. A study by Deer and Williams (1996)
showed that a number of teacher education programmes have
embraced these dimensions within the general expectations of
“nowing and caring”. The teacher education curriculum should
enable future teachers to deliver education effectively and si-
multaneously to take charge of the welfare and safety of the
Further, the teacher education curriculum should be based on
a constructivist perspective of the teaching and learning process.
This perspective should be adopted not only in the courses
taught, but also in the field experience. Fosnot (1993: p. 27),
who supports this view, states:
Just as young learners construct, so too, do teachers...
Teachers’ beliefs need to be illuminated, discussed, and
challenged... Prospective teachers need to confront tradi-
tional beliefs, study children’s meaning making and ex-
periments, collaboratively within a classroom context.
It is only through such practices that teachers can contribute
to meaningful teaching and learning. A constructivist approach
needs to start in initial teacher preparation, in order that the
approach become part of the teachers’ professional develop-
ment. Exposure of teacher trainees to a comprehensive teacher
education curriculum will ensure that they acquire adequate
knowledge in areas such as learning theory, child development
and pedagogy, as well as practical experience in teaching. This
would help them to attend better to the needs of pupils and
teach more effectively.
Teachers in small island states such as those in the Pacific
are expected to perform multiple roles. This fact also warrants
due attention from teacher educators. Farrugia (1993: pp. 44-45)
says in regard to the professional development of educational
The special demands on education officials and adminis-
trators in small states, particularly, the need to work in a
multiplicity of roles, seems to dictate the development of
new patterns of professional training. The more appropri-
ate are those of a multi-disciplinary nature, structured on a
modular system to reflect the adaptability and flexibility
so characteristic of the officials’ work.
This is true not only for education officials and administra-
tors, but equally for classroom teachers, as they are expected to
perform a variety of duties, some of which require reaching out
to the community the school serves. Velayutham (1987: p. 29)
reaffirms this in the statement that:
In the field of education teachers not only work with col-
leagues in the school but also with people outside the
school such as parents, community leaders, church work-
ers and even with people at the grass-root level. Hence,
the professional role of teachers extends beyond the
To enhance the handling of all these responsibilities in tan-
dem with working with other people, agencies and organiza-
tions involved in educational development, the initial teacher
education training programme should give beginning teachers
some experience in the necessary skills for collaborating with
other relevant organizations in their communities. The skills
associated with working in partnership with the community,
once incorporated into the teacher education curriculum, will
prepare beginning teachers to accept and work within a broader
definition of their role.
The preceding review of literature on teacher education illus-
trates that without adequate professional preparation on the
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 441
G. I. LINGAM
roles and responsibilities expected of teachers in the workplace,
beginning teachers could be faced with considerable difficulties
in effectively carrying out the full range of their work in
schools. The literature also makes it clear that the first desid-
eratum for the professional preparation of beginning teachers is
a teacher education curriculum suitable for meeting the de-
mands of teachers’ world of work. Only if they seriously con-
sider the suggestions advanced in the literature will teacher
education institutions develop programmes better able to pro-
duce teachers of high quality.
Study of a Cohort of Vanuatu Institute of
Purpose of the Study
The present study focused on how beginning teachers felt
about the value of the pre-service training programme, which
they had recently completed, in preparing them to meet the
demands of work expected of them in primary schools in one
small island state in the region. One research question guided
the study: What do these beginning teachers perceive about the
pre-service training programme that they completed in meeting
the demands of work expected of them in the field in their first
Significance of the Study
The findings of the study were expected to provide insights
into the value of the pre-service training programme of the
institution, especially in relation to the work expectations new
teachers’ encounter in school settings. The study was particu-
larly intended to draw attention to the beginning teachers’ con-
sidered opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the pre-
service programme in meeting the workplace demands they
actually encountered in their first teaching year. In this regard,
the present study has the potential to provide relevant feedback
to the institution as it ponders developing and strengthening its
teacher education programme.
The study will also contribute to the accumulation of knowl-
edge in the area of teacher education, and in particular,
pre-service teacher education, for the small island states in the
Pacific region. Presently, there is a dearth of research literature
on teacher education in small island states (Crossley et al.,
2011). The findings from this study could, thus, provide vital
information to those who have a vested interest in teacher edu-
cation, especially the principal stakeholder in the education
systems (usually the ministries of education), in order to de-
velop suitable mechanisms to address gaps in teacher education.
Also, the findings will contribute towards the build of local and
international literatu r e on teacher educ a t io n.
In addition, for the researcher as a teacher educator responsi-
ble for the in-service education of regional primary teachers at
the USP in the Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree pro-
gramme, the findings will be helpful in informing practice—my
own as well as that of my colleagues in the School of Education.
The findings will contribute to the provision of relevant prepa-
ration for future in-service primary teachers, to ensure they are
better equipped to meet the various demands and expectations
of work in schools. Finally, the present study may act as a
catalyst to other researchers in the Pacific region and beyond to
undertake studies on teacher education issues in general and
specific developing contexts.
The Study Context
Vanuatu is a small developing nation in the Pacific region,
though it is many times larger than several of the other coun-
tries in the vast region served by USP. For a significant part of
its colonial experience, it was a condominium—sometimes
known, with affectionate cynicism, as a pandemonium—of Bri-
tish and French colonial rule. Consequently, the small country
is left with a double heritage in many administrative and bu-
reaucratic areas including the law, health and education. Thus,
the Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education (VITE) is responsi-
ble for the training of teachers for both francophone and an-
glophone primary and secondary schools. With respect to the
training of primary teachers, the Institute has in place a two-
year training programme for both francophone and anglophone
teachers, leading to a Certificate in Primary Teaching. “Excel-
lence in Primary and Secondary Education” and “To promote
pre-service and in-service teacher training of teachers for the
Republic of Vanuatu” are the respective vision and mission
statements of the Institute (VITE, 2005: p. 5).
For the six years from 2004 to 2009 the Institute supplied
about 218 trained teachers for the Republic of Vanuatu primary
schools (VITE, 2009). In the late 1990s and at the turn of the
21st Century the Institute received funding and technical assis-
tance from the World Bank, the Australian Government, the
French Government and the European Union, making it possi-
ble to carry out some revisions of the training programme and
infrastructure development, as well as some professional de-
velopment for the staff.
This study is limited to just one of the regional primary
teacher education institutions in the Pacific region, VITE; the
graduates of only this one teacher institution participated in the
study. In view of this, it may not be possible to generalize the
findings to other teacher education institutions in the Pacific.
The findings, however, could provide relevant information
about the quality of the preparation of teachers available to the
Vanuatu primary education system, as the Institute is the sole
provider of teachers needed for the nation’s primary schools.
The schools in which these graduates were teaching included
both urban and remote island examples. The scattered distribu-
tion meant that the most useful research tool for gathering data
seemed to be a survey questionnaire (Gay, 1992). The ques-
tionnaire consisted of two major sections: Section A with
closed questions relating to the pre-service programme the
teachers had completed the previous year and Section B in-
cluding an open-ended question relating to areas the respon-
dents considered needed attention in the pre-service programme.
These were similar to the open ended approach used in phe-
nomenographic research (Marton, Dall’Alba, & Beaty, 1993).
They were asked to respond to these questions after critical
reflection on the training programme they had completed and
the work they were now required to carry out in primary
schools. For the closed-ended questions a 5-point likert scale
was used: 1being the lowest and 5 highest being the highest.
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
G. I. LINGAM
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 443
The participants included for the study were the entire cohort
of 33 graduates for the year 2009 from the Vanuatu Institute of
A complete listing of all the graduates was obtained from the
Planning Division of the Ministry of Education and the VITE.
Permission was obtained from the following relevant authori-
ties before gathering data from the beginning teachers: Depart-
ment of Education Vanuatu and the Principal and staff of VITE.
In a covering letter, the beginning teachers were informed that
participation in the study was voluntary and that data collected
would be analysed and reported in such a way that their confi-
dentiality and anonymity would be ensured. Satisfied with the
procedures followed, the School of Education Postgraduate
Research Committee provided ethical clearance for conduct of
The quantitative data were analysed using the basic statistics
of means and standard deviations (Mehrens & Lehmann, 1991).
The qualitative data obtained from the open-ended question
were analysed in terms of the themes and patterns that emerged
from reading and re-reading the data (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992).
These were then interpreted in relation to the existing literature
to answer the research question posed. In addition, relevant
quotations from the open-ended questions are presented as they
demonstrate the beginning teachers’ perceptions of their train-
ing programme in relation to the work required of them in the
schools. In selecting to do this, the researcher gave weight to
Ruddock’s (1993: p. 19) suggestion that “some statements carry
a rich density of meaning in a few words”.
The summary of the quantitative data is presented in Table 1.
The statements are categorised according to the nature of work
expected of teachers in schools. The seven broad categories
suggested by Education Queensland (2000) and the OECD
(1994) were borne in mind as helpful in the present study in
terms of grouping the statements: Pedagogy; Learning Experi-
ences; Learning Environment; Assessment and Reporting; Pro-
fessional and Community Relationships; Curriculum Frame-
work; and Seeking to Learn.
Ratings by factors.
Major Category Statement Group Mean
(N = 33) Standard
Pedagogy Presented methods that have been useful in my teaching. 3.9 0.69
Developed my skills in planning for teaching. 4.5 0.49
Provided me with adequ ate theore ti cal knowl edge on teaching and learning process. 3.9 0.52
Framework Familiar i sed me with the primary cur r iculum. 3.9 0.61
Learning Experiences Helped me to or ganise and conduct extra-curricular activities in the school. 3.8 0.69
Provided me the skills required to give support to children with learning
difficulties. 3.8 0.57
Developed my ability to e ng age children actively in developi ng knowledge. 4.5 0.50
Prepared me to maintain class discipline adequately. 4.2 0.73
Reporting Ma de me familiar with a vari ety of assessme nt techniques. 4.0 0.79
Professio nal an d
Relationships Developed my ability to work with children and parents of other linguistic groups. 3.7 0.91
Developed my ability to wor k collaboratively with parents a n d colleagues . 4.2 0.56
Helped me to carry out work in the school’s com munity. 3.8 0.68
Seeking to L earn Developed my ability to reflect crit i cally on my own practice to improve the quality
of my work. 2.5 0.64
Made me enthusiastic about te ach in g. 3.7 0.55
Prepared me to carry out research to inform my practice. 3.0 0.73
Developed my ability to learn independently. 3.8 0.63
Learning Environment Prepared me to perform a dministrative duties. 2.5 0.74
Prepared me for multi-class teaching. 2.6 0.84
G. I. LINGAM
When the beginning teachers were asked to indicate areas in
their training programme they felt needed attention, heading the
list and in order of frequency of mention were multi-class
teaching, school practicum, school administration, relevance of
some of the courses, duration of the training programme and
programme upgrading, learning environment, staff responsibil-
ity and resear ch.
Some of the comments showing beginning teachers’ concern
about the quality of the preparation for multi-class teaching are
I think it is better to have more training for multi-class
teaching. A trained teacher will have better knowledge
and skills to teach [in the multi-class context].
If I were given this opportunity I would improve multi-
class teaching. This is because most teachers out in the
field, especially in remote areas, are teaching multi-class
while they had not been educated or trained in this spe-
If I am given the opportunity to improve the college pro-
gramme, I will incl ude t h e multi-class training programme.
There are not enough trained teachers in the field and the
College is not providing anything on this. I mean, there is
one book on multi-class teaching but the College has not
considered this as an issue. All teachers in the field today
in Vanuatu are single-class teachers. This is one reason
why single-class teachers cannot teach multi-class... we
do not have quality education. [If] we have trained multi-
class teachers here, we can provide quality education no
matter the situation of the class.
The experience here does not deliver anything on multi-
class teaching. Therefore to make sense that this can be
included in the training programme, it is best to include
that in the Professional Studies component. This must be
taught throughout a term so that the trainees may be fully
equipped on how to cope with multi-class teaching in fu-
In relation to improving school practicum, the following are
some of the typical comments from the beginning teachers:
To improve the pre-service progr amme, the aspect I would
change is to increase the number of practicums. For in-
stance, practicums are often carried out once a year. To
improve the trainees’ experience in teaching, I think there
should be two practicums in a year, which will allow the
trainees to have better ability to implement and cultivate
more learning from their practicums.
One aspect that I would change is to avoid conducting as-
sessments in other courses when students go out for teach-
ing practice. They must concentrate on teaching practice
and not other work.
Some of the beginning teachers’ responses on training in
school administration are equally telling:
An important aspect is school administration. We should
understand how to administer school affairs. Because so
many times we get the name Head Master but we do not
know how to run the school. It is a major need [for the
College] to provide better training for administration. So
when teachers [graduate] they will know better how to
administer schools back in their islands.
School administration training should be also included in
the pre-service programme because most teachers who
come from remote areas need to know some administra-
tion skills, how to head a school and upgrade education
standards of the school. As experienced, most teachers
when they finish from the College they become head
teachers so they face difficulties on administration be-
cause there are no other teachers trained especially for ad-
On the learning environment at VITE, the following are
some of the comment s:
This is not a secondary level of education, this is a high
institute of learning so it needs a high quality of learning
resources, classrooms and facilities as well as other areas
and buildings that need improvement.
Improve kitchen, sleeping rooms and classroom condi-
tions as they are very poor.
Rebuild some of the classrooms because some of the class-
rooms are too old. Trainees need a good classroom envi-
ronment to learn.
With regard to programme duration and upgrading, the fol-
lowing were some of their comments:
Most of all I would like to see all the primary student
teachers graduating with a Diploma instead of a Certifi-
I would change the length or period of studying here. The
period of studying here is only 2 years, which I think is
not enough to get all information about teaching. I think
this should be extended to 3 to 4 years. I say this because
in primary courses we have more [to cover] than the sec-
ondary and when towards the end of the two years, lec-
turers try to rush with what they think is important and we
try to cope, which is very difficult. Therefore, I think 3 or
4 years’ training will be better for every one of us, the
lecturers and the trainees for better future teachers.
Regarding staffing, the beginning teachers also offered per-
tinent c omments:
Our current lecturer for professional study is on contract
after the former one passed away 6 months ago. We have
missed a lot of important areas during that period of six
month with no tutor.
The aspect I would change is that lecturers travel a lot and
sometimes we missed some ve ry important things to learn.
There should be at least two subject lecturers to a subject,
for another one to replace the one travelling. The reason
for that is that this year a lot of lecturers have been travel-
ling and we find out that sometimes we just rushed
through the topics we’ve missed, which is not helpful.
The purpose of the present study was to determine the begin-
ning teachers’ perceptions, with hindsight, of their professional
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
G. I. LINGAM
preparation in relation to what they are experiencing as the
work required of them in Vanuatu primary schools. This section
takes up the discussion of the findings.
Quantitat ive D ata
The analysis of the quantitative data for each one of the
broad categories points to areas of positive perception and areas
needing more attention as perceived by the beginning teachers.
Taken as an aggregate, the beginning teachers perceived their
training programme positively, finding it helpful in preparing
them to meet the demands of work in the primary schools.
Considering that high mean scores indicate a favourable re-
sponse, the analysis of the quantitative data shows that the be-
ginning teachers have a positive perception of the training pro-
gramme in terms of the broad dimensions of “knowing and
caring” (Deer & Williams, 1996) and “knowledge and skills”
(OECD, 1994). In the terminology used in this study, the
analysis of the quantitative data demonstrates that the beginning
teachers have positive perceptions of their preparation in areas
pertaining to pedagogy; learning experiences; learning envi-
ronment; assessment and reporting; professional and commu-
nity relationships; curriculum framework; and seeking to learn.
This is reflected in the fact that the means calculated for most
of the major categories exceed 3.0; only in the last category
(learning environment) are the means for both the items below
3 (Table 1). In addition, one item under the seeking to learn
category has a mean of less than 3. Likewise, the standard de-
viations (Table 1) for the items demonstrate few major diver-
gences of opinion in the feedback obtained from the beginning
However, the feedback obtained from the beginning teachers
on the open-ended question indicate grave concerns relating to
certain areas of the pre-service programme and these areas
warrant the attention of the relevant authorities. These findings
are discussed in what follows.
With regard to areas needing more attention, these new
teachers included amongst the areas they found weak an alarm-
ingly long list: multi-class teaching, school practicum, school
administration, relevance of some of the courses, duration of
the training programme and programme upgrading, learning
environment, staff responsibility, and research.
The beginning teachers used the opportunity presented by the
free-response section to express their frustration at the lack of
preparation for multi-class teaching. The low mean in the quan-
titative data also mirrors this (Table 1). It can be deduced that
beginning teachers are well aware of the multi-class teaching
arrangement as a norm in remote schools and the difficulties
faced in teaching in such school contexts. In fact, its inclusion
in the teacher education programme was recommended as far
back as the 1990s (Benson, 1995). Inadequate or absent prepa-
ration will affect the delivery of education in such circum-
stances and ultimately the children will suffer (Lingam, 2008;
Learning Together, 2000; Collingwood, 1991). Teacher educa-
tion programmes in the regional teachers’ colleges need to in-
corporate multi-class teaching components in their programmes
as all Pacific regional countries have at least some schools with
multi-class teaching as the norm; in particular, the situation is
quite common in remote primary schools in regional countries.
A degree of understaffing at the Institute, as well as frequent,
often unavoidable, absences of lecturers from their duty, have
negative effects on beginning teachers in certain areas of their
professional preparation. Although constraints in human re-
sources in the education ministry of a small island state mean
that lecturers may at times be called upon to provide other ser-
vices (Farrugia, 1993; Velayutham, 1987), the Institute lectur-
ers’ priority should always be their official Institute duty of
responsibility for the pre-service professional preparation of
The concern the beginning teachers expressed on teaching
practicum is not unique; this has been a recurring theme in
other contexts as well. Also, there is an on-going debate in most
jurisdictions about the issue (Horn, 1994). The beginning teach-
ers have indicated the need to increase the duration of the
teaching practicum so that the prac-teachers come to know
more about the teachers’ world of work and in some contexts it
has been possible to address this concern. For instance, in Eng-
land, pre-service teachers are given more opportunities with
hands-on experience (Bridge, 1996; Cowen, 1990).
As mentioned earlier, teachers in small island states are
called upon to carry out many roles and responsibilities, not
least of which is school leadership (Farrugia, 1993; Velayutham,
1987). Given the interest in improving educational leadership in
today’s schools, the development of a course on school leader-
ship would be a step in the right direction (Lingam, 2010; Ve-
layutham, 1987; Sanga, Pollard, & Jenner, 1998). Because
schools are being subjected to intensifying demands that they
operate effectively and provide good quality education, profes-
sional preparation programmes should cater also for some train-
ing towards educational leadership. Thus apart from preparation
on the teaching and learning of the school curriculum, prepar-
ing pre-service teachers for leadership would be a welcome
move. However, this was not catered for in the training pro-
gramme these people had undergone. The feedback from the
open-ended question and also the mean for the item reflects this
concern (Table 1). Teacher education institutions have the
capacity also to nurture future school leaders. Inclusion in the
pre-service programme of a component on school leadership or
school management would be relevant, as in their future as
teachers they will be contributing to improving people and the
environment in which they work. Consequently, they would be
multi-skilled and multi-talented, not just competent in their
classroom work but also possessing skills in managing a school
(Velayutham, 1987). In most countries in the Pacific, the lack
of training and development of school leaders is already a ma-
jor concern (Lingam, 2010).
Due to the gaps in their preparation, these graduates from
VITE may have been pointing to a need for revision of the
teacher education programme as well as suggesting that the
programme be upgraded to Diploma level. The feedback is
timely as other teachers’ colleges in the region are attempting to
upgrade their programmes to Diploma level. There are signs
that in the near future the VITE programme may be revised and
upgraded. In turn, such a process may address some of issues
raised by the beginning teachers (Gladys Patrick, a College
lecturer, personal communication, 2009). This would be a posi-
tive move as other concerns expressed by the beginning teach-
ers could also be given serious consideration, such as the need
to provide at the institute a pleasant learning environment with
suitable resources and facilities for learning and teaching.
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 445
G. I. LINGAM
To achieve primary education of good quality, the first re-
quirement is better prepared teachers in the school system.
Teachers whose capacity is limited by deficiencies in their
preparation will affect children’s education and their future life
opportunities. Once teachers are trained and posted to schools,
some are effectively inaccessible as the schools in which they
teach are too isolated from the main urban centres. Such teach-
ers will not, because of the constraints imposed by distance,
have at their disposal any means for professional improvement.
Even the technology that has revolutionized our present life-
styles reserves its greatest benefits to the comfortably off urban
dwellers; the delivery of distance learning is still a major chal-
lenge in many small island states. In view of this, teacher edu-
cation institutions, especially those in the Pacific as well as
those with similar characteristics to it, need to revisit their
teacher education programmes frequently in the hope of pro-
viding better preparation to teachers at the pre-service level. In
this regard, cognisance of teachers’ world of work is warranted
in the search for ways to improve all teacher education institu-
tions, in both developed and developing contexts, due to vari-
ous reforms taking place in the field of education.
Adequate training in all areas of school work is vital to en-
sure beginning teachers make a difference in the lives of the
students they teach. Otherwise children in schools, especially
those in remote areas, will continue to suffer in their pursuit of
a better quality of education because of limited capacity of
teachers. Since pre-service is the first phase of professional
preparation of teachers, it is important that it is strengthened, as
not all of the teachers will have opportunities for any in-service
training after that. More research could be conducted in future
with the same cohort of beginning teachers to determine how
they develop their own theories of teaching, especially during
the early years of their teaching career. Since the present study
is about the perceptions of the beginning teachers on their
pre-service training programme, it may say little about the how
successfully these teachers have been able to put their learning
into practice in their respective schools and classrooms. This
could possibly be another area of research endeavour. Though
on a small scale, the present study has unearthed some poten-
tially relevant information about the pre-service training pro-
gramme at VITE and the information could help the institute to
strengthen its offerings and live up to its vision and mission.
Comparable institutions elsewhere in the region and beyond in
other small island developing states and contexts will also be
likely to find the Vanuatu experience relevant.
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