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The Status of Distance Education in Malawi
Malawi College of Distance Education

Context:
This report gives a good introduction to distance education I Malawi. It focuses primarily on the Malawi College of Distance Education, its history and enrolment statistics, although the report also covers problems facing education in Malawi in general.

Source:
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Malawi

Copyright:
Permission granted.

THE STATUS OF DISTANCE EDUCATION

                                                      IN

                                              MALAWI

1.    INTRODUCTION  

Recommending an introduction of informal education in Malawi in 1964, the Education for Development Survey Report states that the thirst for knowledge and skill was great in Malawi at all ages and levels, and that for children out of school  whether they left or dropped out. other means of continuing their education had to be provided this led to the introduction of correspondence education in 1964.

Malawi College of Distance Education  (MODE was established in 1 965 with a  set of objectives.

2. OBJECTIVES OF MALAWI COLLEGE OF DISTANCE EDUCATION

  • To provide an alternative formal secondary school education to school going-age children who fail to secure places in conventional secondary school systems due to limited places.

  • To provided a second chance to adults who missed formal education during their youth days.

  • To prevent a drain of much needed foreign exchange to correspondence colleges in neighbouring and distant countries.

To provide primary school teacher up-grading courses (no longer applicable).

3. ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE

To achieve its aims and objectives. MODE is structured as follows:

  • Administration including Accounts

  • Tutorial (Tutors and Editors)

  • Schools broadcasting

  • Print

  • Student Services

  • Research and Evaluation

  • Computer Services

To improve the administrator effectiveness, the activities of the College have been 
decentralized by establishing two regional offices in the North (Mzuzu) and in the Centre (Lilongwe).  These MCDE Regional Offices look after the welfare of the students in the respective regions.

4. COURSES OFFERED

The College at present offers the following courses:

  •  Malawi School Certificate of Education Course (equivalent of GCE 'O'-Level).

  • Junior Certificate Course.

  • Primary School leaving Certificate Course.

5. GROUPS OF STUDENTS

Since the establishment of the College in 1 965 to provide secondary education, the system has grown so big that it is evident conventional secondary schools are second to distance education in terms of numbers served by each system i.e. enrollment. The table below shows a progress of enrollment, figures since the establishment of the College to date:

TABLE 1  MCDE: ENROLMENT 1964 - 1993

YEAR TOTAL ENROLLMENT
1964/65
1965/66
1966/67
1967/68
1968/69
1969/70
1970/71
1971/72
1972/73
1973/74
1974/75
1975/76
1976/77
1977/78
1978/79
1979/80
1980/81
1981/82
1982/83
1983/84
1984/85
1985/86
1986/87
1987/88
1988/89
1989/90
1990/91
1991/92
1992/93
1424
1856
6037
3848
3461
2185
2769
3038
3560
3601
3712
3590
3574
3797
4728
5128
5641
8137
8274
8702
10268
10528
12587
12076
16559
18929
28252
35130
35779

The table shows that MCDE began with a small number of students and now it is handling over 1 20,000 active students.

      These students are in three groups:

  • Home study students

  • Study Centre students

  • Night Secondary School students 

In the 240 distance education centres, students receive full time tuition. Some of these D.E Centres operate in Primary school buildings.   Each centre has a team. of teacher/supervisors who give face-to-face instructions to the students. There are over 600 Teacher! Supervisors who were trained for primary school but now teaching secondary school materials.

There are 33 Night Secondary schools operating for two hours in the evenings.  Teachers from conventional secondary schools teach and supervise the students (Two of these operate in primary school buildings and manned by Primary School teachers).

6.  MODE OF TUITION

     There are three modes of tuition:

  • Printed materials which are developed by Tutors, Commissioned writers, Editors and Graphic Artists.  The materials are mostly printed by the College.

  • Face-to-face teaching through the Teacher/supervisors in the centres and Night schools.

  • Radio programmes which supplement complement and enrich the printed materials.  These are developed and produced by producers.

7.  MCDE ENROLMENT VERSES SECONDARY SCHOOL 
     ENROLMENT

MCDE caters for more students than the conventional secondary schools. The Ministry allocates 2.7% to MCDE as opposed to 12% to secondary school section of its annual budget. The table below shows comparative statistics between secondary schools and MCDE enrolments from 1980 to 1993.

TABLE 2:  COMPARATIVE STATISTICS

YEAR TOTAL SECONDARY SCHOOL ENROLMENT (1-4) MCDE YEARLY ENROLMENT (NEW ENTRANTS) MCDE ACTIVE NUMBER OF STUDENTS FORM1-4
1980 16488 5128 14285
1981 18006 5641 15607
1982 19329 8137 19087
1983 19832 8274 23946
1984 22245 8702 24437
1985 24343 10268 26363
1986 25177 10528 30053
1987 25681 12587 32065
1988 26396 12076 35038
1981 28564 16559 34606
1990 29326 18929 44763
1991 31495 28252 58386
1992 33826 35130 84272
1993 36550 35779 87327

The table indicates that distance education reaches many students and is cost effective MCD  has achieved the following:

  • The Malawi society has recognised the role and value of MCDE.  (as the result enrolment is ever increasing)

  • Expansion of MCDE Headquarters and establishment of tow regional offices in the North and Centre.

  • Printing facilities (machines, staff) have improved though still very inadequate.

  • Placement of computer in several offices (except regional offices), but there is no local network in place.

  • Acquisition of two Desk Top Publishing (DTP) facilities (Insufficient though).

  • Equipped some D.E. Centres with audio/ radio facility.  With the rapid growth of  centres, most of them are not supplied with this essential facility

  • Trained a few writers for course development in study materials and audio/radio programmes.

  • Training of members of staff both on  job and external training.  But because of staff turn over, the College has been robbed of this expertise and lost it to other institutions.

  • Boasts of selection to University and Teacher Training Colleges for some of its students (even though minimal).

  • Products of MCDE system have seen their way into various organisations (employment) hence contributing to the development of the nation.

The quality of education of the MCDE products has been affected by some of the following constraints:

  • Shortage of staff at headquarters, due to staff-turn over.

  • Use of under-qualified teacher supervisors who are trained to teach in primary schools.

  • Using an open system of enrolment resulting in overcrowded centres.

  • Inadequate transport for sets bulk dispatch, monitoring, support and supervision. 

  • Lack of incentives, career development and prospects for both staff at headquarters and in the field.

  • High shortage of booklets-These are not fully supplied to each student because of shortage of printing paper, chemicals and only two efficient printing machines.

  • Infective radio programmes because of overcrowding in centres against one two radio per centre.

8.  EDUCATION FOR ALL-PRIORITY: AFRICA, 1990

The above pages are a record of how Distance Education as an instrument of educational activities can be utilised to reach each member of the population. The activities on record were and are being carried under a persistent slowing down in the global growth of the economy and to a constant deterioration in the living conditions of the population in Malawi.

Major Problems:
The statistics submitted in 1990 to UNESCO (Priority. Africa NE 990; show the following:

(a)  Gross rates o f school in percentage:

                Primary 1990 -     72%
                Secondary 1990 -  4%

(b)  Percentage of girls enrolment:

                Primary 1990-      44%
                Secondary1990-  38%

(c)  Primary: percentage reaching indicated grade:

                 4th grade-           51%
                 Final grade-         31%

(d)  Total public expenditure in education as % of GNP (1987):  3.2%

 These figures, show at a glace the essential problems posed by education in   
 Malawi:

  • an increase in the number of children attending school which is having difficulty in keeping up with a steady increase in the population of school age,

  • a very high illiteracy rate,

  • the cruel impact of the economic crisis on public expenditure on education.

As stated by William H. Draper III, These statistics offer critical insights into the present profile of education in the developing world.
They must be at the heart of a new strategy for every government'.  (Jomtien: World Conference for Education for All, March, 1990). Since then, Malawi 
has progressed in the following:

  • Trained over 4,000 Primary School teachers through the distance education approach in the MASTEP (Malawi Special Teacher Education Project).

    Through this approach, the problem of under-staffing in primary schools was slightly alleviated.

  • Sensitized parents to send girls to school through the mounting of the GABLE programme financed by UNICEF. The programme enabled all girls to attend primary school without paying fees. Girls who performed exceedingly well were awarded special incentives.

    This project has had an impact on MSDE enrolments on female students. The number of female students enrolling with College increased. though with a small percentage.

    Indirectly, the programme affected boys who took it as challenge and therefore positively competed with the girls.

  • In order to increase the number of staff in primary schools, besides the MASTEP, the teacher training period in Colleges was reduced from two years to one year of training. The prospective trainees first teach in primary schools for one year as pupil teachers.

    The impact of this on MCDE is the increase of Teacher/supervisors in distance education centres as well as improved staffing.

  • In September, 1994 introduced free primary education for all primary school going age group and the provision of all school materials. This will increase the number of primary school leavers who will aspire for secondary school education. Distance education through MCDE will be the answer considering the limited secondary school places in the conventional system.

9. MAJOR PROBLEMS

Education in Malawi was not a first priorityy hence:

  • Formal education is terminal at the final grade of primary school which is eight years of school. Within this period of learning, there is a very high dropout rate. Soon a pupil leaves school, even after 8 years of primary school, he/she loses literacy.

    The following table illustrates the situation:

TABLE 3:  FROM 1 PLACES IN CONVENTIONAL SECONDARY SCHOOLS VERSUS PRIMARY SCHOOL GRADUATES

PRIMARY SCHOOLS STD 8

SECONDARY SCHOOL

YEAR ENTERED PASSED FORM ONE PLACES DEFICIT
1980/81 70661 49090 5422 43668
1981/82 72841 53346 5559 47787
1982/83 77553 56728 5602 51126
1983/84 79974 56630 6597 50023
1984/85 83823 59828 6906 52922
1985/86 88454 61905 7184 54921
1986/87 92363 65937 7376 58561
1987/88 95631 71162 6894 64268
1988/89 110987 73179 7244 65935
1989/90 115737 78149 7392 70757
1990/91 99161 92613 7985 84628
1991/92 101825 60418 7550 52805
1992/93 119575 65535 7550 57985
  • Secondary education is exposed to very few pupils due to a small number of secondary schools established in the country.  As a result parents/guardians found MCDE as an alternative route to secondary education, causing an exceedingly increase in enrolments on MCDE on the very limited resources.

  • Higher education:  There is very high competition for this facility after four years of secondary school education.  This is because of the very few places at University level.

DISTANCE EDUCATION AND MULTI-MEDIA IN EDUCATION INSTITUTION

Distance education uses any' or a combination of these media:

  • Self instructional printed materials.

  • Audio/radio programmes transmitted either on radio or played on cassette players.

  • Video/television lessons.

  • Telephone.

  • Face-to-face contact.

In order to effect the goal of education for all it is essential for everyone to be given access to an acceptable standard of education and to make such education available in remote areas where the permanent presence of qualified teachers is not possible.

Malawi, through MCDE uses a combination of printed materials, audio/radio and face-to-face contact arid very little of telephone. This could be reinforced by using more of the modern techniques of disseminating knowledge (television, video tapes, computers) to effectively complement conventional school and sustain literacy.

Malawi College of Distance Education uses the radio to reach primary schools, secondary schools (Distance Education Centres in particular) and Teacher Training Colleges. There are thirty weeks of radio broadcasts to schools/colleges annually for 14  hours per week.

Problems and constraints:
While it is understood that the radio has the capacity to provide considerable support in an education enterprise and that the cost of education does not rise in proportion to the number of children being educated in Malawi.

  • Primary schools were last equipped with radios in early eighties which have since been rendered useless through breakdown, and lack of trained technicians.

    apart from the 60 primary schools which were supplied with radio receivers during the Primary Schools Broadcasting project (PSB) (1991-2) the rest benefit from the programmes when teacher use personal radios.

  • About 80 secondary schools have been supplied with radio cassette through the educational cooperation between France and Malawi.  These listen to the educational radio programmes.

  • Teacher Training Colleges have been equipped with videos, through the EPSA project for training purposes.  The students benefit from this facility.

  • MCDE has about 240 Distance Education Centres.  About three-quarters of these centres have either  a radio or radio cassette supplied by the College.  These radio-receivers were procured by the College through funds from Government and African Development Bank.

    With increasing enrolment and overcrowding in centres, the facility at each centre is not as effective as expected.  Coupled with lack of regular supply of cells, most teacher/supervisors are not using the facility.  Solar energy would answer the constraint.

  • The University Colleges and Malawi Institute of Education have established departments of educational technology where students were exposed to multi-media approaches.

11.  MULTI-CHANNEL LEARNING BASE

From the Jomtien:  World Conference for education for All, one of the priority 
areas is INFORMAFRICA Project.  Information Technology and the 
techniques associated with it are among the keys of development in a nation.  
That is why this project "informafrica" was designed to put information 
technology to be used in the development of education in Africa.

The project had been launched with the aim of finding a way of breaking down 
existing constraints, and to set up national or regional centres for the 
distribution  and exchange of information, experience and even products and 
services.

Information technology is being introduced in the Malawi educational systems:

  • Some secondary schools have been equipped with computers to train students some computer knowledge.

  • One MCDE Centre-St. Charles Lwangwa-Lalaka has been equipped with computers for training students (through Peace-Corps-USA).

The Multi-Channel Learning Base IMCLB for East and Southern Africa will be established basing on the need to exchange information as wet,' as collaborating on resources, approaches, courses. materials and training at Regional level. The Multi-Channel Learning Base will aim to strengthen the capacity of the 15 African countries (Malawi included to develop effective distance teaching/learning systems.

Specifically the project intends to achieve the following:

  • The proposed MCLE will function as a facilitator and promoter for the development of D.E. and other alternative approaches to deliver education and improve overall quality in education within the region.

  • The facility will be used as a mechanism for cooperation and planning in implementing or enhancing projects at national and regional levels.

  • It will facilitate networking within the region by offering more systematic opportunities for training professional development , access to information and provide professional advice and consultancies.

  • Basing on the concerns of Education for All, MCLB will initiate in promoting alternative routes to learning in areas such as secondary level education, teacher training, technical vocational training and higher education. 

12. THE PROMOTION OF NATIONAL, SUB-REGIONAL, 
       REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION IN 
       DISTANCE EDUCATION

Malawi is operating a unique 'Distance Education' system from most Systems in  other countries. With the three groups of students: Home study, Night school and Centre students, the college is running an alternative conventional secondary level education, plus a very small percentage of primary level education.

The overall objectives of the Second Education Development Plan (1985 - 
1995).

(a)  the equalization of educational opportunity;
(b)  the promotion of efficiency in the system;
(c)  the improvement of physical and human resources; and
(d)  the judicious use of limited resources.

Indeed, attempts and/or effort are continually being made to achieve these objectives at national level both through the conventional and distance education approaches.  At secondary education level. D.E. approach is catering for far more students that the conventional system (See table 2).

With these objectives in mind, the regional and sub-regional co-operation and collaboration aims at:

  • developing national capacities, covering the exchange of expertise, research, creation of data banks. training of personnel, the pooling and co-production of teaching materials.

  • placing a forum open to D.E. institutions, which would facilitate interaction and help to prevent bottlenecks.

  • standardizing programmes (i.e. above primary level), which would facilitate economic scale and the production and exchange of materials.

Areas of cooperation at Regional and Sub-Regional levels would be in the   
following:

  • Training
    (a)  course development.
    (b)   management organisation and administration.
    (c)  other media skills.
    (d)  student support.
    (e)  training for specialization.
    (f)   training of teachers

  • Information, Monitoring evaluation evaluation and research
    (a)  sharing information.
    (b)  collaborating in monitoring, evaluation and research.

  • course development. 

13. AVAILABLE EXPERTISE AND CAPACITIES IN MALAWI

Apart from Malawi College of Distance education, other government   
organisations (Ministries) offer distance education through printed materials,, 
radio and some face-to face, (e.g. Sukulu Za Kwacha).  The only private 
organisation offering courses at a distance is the Aggrey Memorial School 
(AMS).  The school was established in 1976 and it offers formal, vocational 
 and informal education courses.

  • Human Resources
    Trained personnel are available in these institutions:
    MCDE, MIE, Secondary and University of Malawi.

NB:  Due to staff-turn over, trained personnel in distance education are performing duties different from D.E. activities. 

  • Material Resources at MCDE
    Over the years MCDE has generated some very useful materials which other countries envy when they see them.

  • Courses Developed at MCDE
    These are highly developed as compared with courses of similar institutions in the sub-region.

  • Financial Resources
    There are financial constraints demanding donor support in the areas of cooperation.

                                           ----------------------

References

1.  KEEGAN, D.  (1990)  Foundation of Distance Education, Biddies Ltd. 
     and Guldford and Kings's Lynn.

2.  MCDE, Statistical Bulletin 1993.

3.  MCDE Prospectus, 1993/94.

4.  PERRATION, HILARY (Edt), Alternative routes to formal education, 
     World Bank, Baltimore, 1982.

5.  BEEBY, C.E.  The Quality of Education on Developing Countries, 1965.

6.  MCDE, Monthly Enrolment Returns January-July 1994.

7.  EDINGTON, A.D. A Report of an Evaluation study of Schools 
     Broadcasting in  Malawi 1976.

8.  MUWOWO, B.G.  MCDE Progress:  Past, Present and Future challenges, 
     November 1994.

9.  PRIORITY:  AFRICA, News Bulletin (UNESCO)  No. 1-July, 1990. 

         

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