Editor’s Note: Adult learners are usually more dedicated and more able to manage their own learning based on opportunities presented to them. Distance learning provides access to large numbers of students who could not otherwise participate in the higher-education experience. This study shows how access, learning, and retention can be enhanced through a well-designed distance learning program.
Access, Success Rate and Learner Characteristics of the Holiday Diploma in Teaching Program (Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan) Student Teachers in Malaysia
Helen Khoo Chooi Sim
This paper discusses the access, success rate and learner characteristics of the Holiday Diploma in Teaching Program (Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan) student teachers at Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Pulau Pinang, Malaysia. The findings are based on the responses of 24 student teachers enrolled in this program. Quantitative and qualitative methods were employed in this study. Results from this study denoted that the access to teacher education is given to all teachers from religious school across the country and the success rate is 100%. At the end of the program, 66.7% of the student teachers graduated with excellent grades. This success rate is attributed to the constant and consistent hours spent by the respondents in their learning i.e. between 1 to 5 hours per day. All of the respondents are proponents of lifelong learning and perceived that learning is important to them and also professed that they personally wanted to learn. The reasons for them to pursue their education is to increase their self-confidence, to have higher qualification and to develop new skills. Respondents of this study opined that they have achieved the program objectives and the contents of the program is relevant to them as teachers. They also indicated that the instructional design for the program namely self-instructional study materials (course modules) and face-to-face interaction with lecturers assisted them in their learning. Respondents of this study are more confident as teachers after attending this program. This is a good indicator on the success of this program to produce qualified teachers to uplift the educational standards in Malaysia.
Keywords: Adult learners, lifelong learners, distance education, instructional design, face-to-face interaction, self-instructional study materials, success rate, Malaysia
In the globalization era, education occupies the center stage in issues of world concern in educating of the young to take their rightful places as leaders and shapers of the future. In this respect, teachers have a crucial role to play to prepare the young to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In Malaysia, educational efforts are fully accord with teacher education practices in attempting to provide the highest quality preparation and training for pre-service teachers and in-service teachers to enable them to realize the aims of achieving developed-nation status by the year 2020.
The vision statement of teacher education in Malaysia focuses on the need to develop a system of teacher education that is comparable with world standards, and one that endeavors to produce teachers who are dynamic, constantly innovating and striving for excellence; and diligently working towards fulfilling the aspirations of the Nation. Teachers play important role to produce future citizens who are holistically developed in terms of their intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical growth, who have a firm belief in God, who possess high moral standards and who are capable of effectively contributing to the family, the society and the Nation. It is imperative that teachers as adult learners to be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to face the challenges of globalization. This calls for them to be lifelong learners to keep abreast with the developments in the teaching profession.
Holiday Diploma in Teaching Program (Kursus Diploma Perguruan Malaysia – Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan (SABK)
Education in Malaysia is designed to produce citizens who are knowledgeable and competent, who possess high moral standards, and who are responsible and capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being as well as contributing to the betterment of society and the nation at large (Ministry of Education, Malaysia, 1987). In order to realize its aims, more qualified and competent teachers are needed to produce the future citizens as aspired. This is in tandem with the second strategic thrust in National Education Blueprint (PIPP) i.e. Development of human capital aimed at uplifting the educational standards in Malaysia. Thus, it is imperative to raise the quality and status of the teachers and teaching profession. The Malaysian government aimed to produce teachers who are competent and qualified to teach in all schools in the country. The Teacher Education Programs planned by the Ministry of Education are in keeping with national aims of achieving developed-nation status by the year 2020.
The Malaysian Diploma in Teaching (MDT) for the SABK program is a three and a half year program for the training of teachers for non-trained primary and secondary school teachers from government-aided religious schools in Malaysia. The MDT is awarded on successful completion of five levels of interaction and practicum, which is the duration of the whole program. In each level the student teachers are required to pass the coursework as well as the examination, which are mandatory in order to proceed to the next level.
Besides coursework assessment and formal written examinations, practical examinations are also conducted for subjects such as Science and Music, oral examinations for languages, and assessment of teaching practice or practicum. Student teachers undertake practical experience in teaching, which is the Practicum, twice during their course namely Practicum Phase One and Practicum Phase II. Trainees were also provided with self-instructional study materials (modules) and they have to attend face-to-face interactions at Teacher Education Institutions registered during the school holidays.
Characteristics of Student Teachers as Lifelong Learners
The 21st century has been characterized by globalization and technological advances. These trends are likely to have long-term consequences on the Malaysian society. Nowadays, it is imperative for teachers to be lifelong learners because there are constant development and changes in the educational arena. Despite the primary, secondary and tertiary education that one would undertake, the knowledge and skills acquired during that period are usually not sufficient for the rapid development in information and technology arena in this globalized era.
In this era, lifelong learning has become a part of teachers’ life and professionalism. This is to keep abreast with the new development in the globalized world. For the education organization to survive and progress, learning in the organization has got to be greater or at least equal to the degree of change (Garratt, 1990). Undeniably, teachers constitute the most important component or the education organization and in the teaching and learning process. This role deems more important when teachers become agents of change (Vaughn, Wang & Dytman, 1996). Thus, teachers who are the important personal and leaders of education organization should be lifelong learners. It is imperative that educators are lifelong learners.
Lifelong learning is also often used as a synonym with adult education, permanent education and or continuing education. It refers to education throughout one’s lifetime which encompasses formal, non-formal and informal education (Theo, et. al., 2005). Lifelong learning has opened up new opportunities for learners especially adult learners to further their education. Therefore, adult learners nowadays seek to further their learning in order to enhance their knowledge, skills, competency and professional development. Adult learners fall into the category of nontraditional students, whom the National Center for Education Statistics (2010) defines as meeting at least one of the following seven criteria:
Delays enrollment (does not enter postsecondary education in the same calendar year that he or she finished high school).
1. Attends part time for at least part of the academic year.
2. Works full time (35 hours or more per week) while enrolled.
3. Is considered financially independent for purposes of determining eligibility for
4. Has dependents other than a spouse (usually children, but sometimes others).
5. Is a single parent (either not married or married but separated and has dependents).
6. Does not have a high school diploma (completed high school with a GED or other high school completion certificate or did not finish high school).
According to Cross (1981), children and adult learners are different from two aspects namely, personal characteristics and situational characteristics. Personal characteristics include physical, psychological, social, and cultural aspects of the learner. These are all areas of growth as an individual develops from child to adult. Situational characteristics include part-time versus full-time participation in schooling, and voluntary versus compulsory participation. Thus, adult educators should utilize the experience of the participants (adult learners), to adapt to the physiological aging limitations of participants, to challenge learners in the area of personal development, and to provide high levels of choice for the learner.
The major differences between adult learners when compared to school-age children are in the degree of motivation, the amount of previous experience, the level of engagement in the learning process, and how the learning is applied. Adult learners have other social roles than that of a traditional student and that educating them is fundamentally different from educating children and adolescent (Knowles, 1990). This calls for adult educators to assess the level of these traits and the readiness to learn should be included each time a teaching experience is being planned.
Adult learners have a variety of needs especially for an adult (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 1997). As adults are experience individuals, they bring to the learning experience preconceived thoughts and feelings. All adults come to courses with a variety and range of experiences, both in terms of their working life and educational backgrounds. This impacts on how and why they participate in learning (Wynne, 2011). Adult learners tend to be self-directing, to use their experience in learning, to identify their own readiness to learn, and organize their learning around life problem increase from infancy to preadolescence, and then increase rapidly during adolescence.
In order to assist adults in their learning, adult educators need to be able to identify the learner characteristics. Adult educators should use multiple modes of presentation, such as visual, verbal, and auditory to cater to the different learning styles of their learners. Adult learning programs should place a high priority on developing the students’ confidence, comfort, and participation in the learning process.
There are many reasons that encouraged adults to be lifelong learners. The reasons most adults enter any learning experience is to create change. This could encompass a change in (a) their skills, (b) behavior, (c) knowledge level, or (d) even their attitudes about things (Adult Education Centre, 2005). Thus, educators who are aware of the needs of their adult learners are able to provide them with the guidance needed.
According to Rogers (1969), the adult-learning process is facilitated when:
§ The learner participates completely in the learning process and has control over its nature and direction.
§ It is primarily based upon direct confrontation with practical, social, or personal problems.
§ Self-evaluation is the principal method of assessing the progress or success.
Thus, it is important to engage the adult learner and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills needed. This calls for detailed planning and implementation of the adult learning strategies to achieve the learning objectives identified.
Adult learners usually approach learning differently than younger learners. They are more self-guided in their learning. In addition, they bring more, and expect to bring more, to a learning situation because of their wider experience. In addition, they require learning "to make sense" so that they can perform the learning activity successfully. This calls for studies to be conducted regarding the characteristics of lifelong or adult learners so that teaching and learning can be successfully imparted to adult learners.
Objectives of Study
The Holiday Diploma in Teaching Program (Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan) for non-trained primary school teachers from government-aided religious schools in Malaysia started at Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Pulau Pinang (IPGKPP) in December 2006. 24 teachers from various religious schools throughout Malaysia enrolled in this program for the duration of 3½ years with 18 of them majoring in Mathematics and 6 students majoring in Science (First Cohort – SABK1). This program employed the Holiday Course Modus Operandi (Kursus Dalam Cuti). The instructional design for this program uses modules, face-to-face interaction, assignment and examination. Face-to-face interactions were conducted during the semester holidays at Teacher Education Institutions throughout Malaysia.
The objectives of this study are to elicit information for the following:
§ Access and relevance of the program to learner needs and expectations;
§ Success rates, academic achievement and the study habits of enrolled student teachers
§ Lifelong learners characteristics of the respondents
Significance of the Study
The participation in learning activities by adult learners has increased in recent years. This trend will continue as the government is encouraging the population especially teachers to seek better education in all aspects. Studies on adult learners are important to enhance the quality of adult or lifelong education. This study is important for improving the program conducted for adult learners at teacher institutions. Results of the study will add to the body of knowledge surrounding the Holiday Diploma in Teaching Program. Results of the investigation can be used to enhance and augment the planning and implementation of the program conducted at various teacher education institutions across the country. The researcher hopes to identify the adult learners’ characteristics that exist as well to make recommendations, modifications and changes so as to improve the implementation of the program. The findings gathered will be used to make recommendations about how best to plan and execute the holiday teaching diploma program so that the objectives of the program is achieved and that optimal learning takes place. This will result in improvement in adult learners’ learning and achievement, and thus ensure that quality teachers are produced to teach in religious schools throughout the country.
The following methods were adopted to carry out this study:
§ Records, document, and database analysis: Institutional data, documents, and records were used to source information on student teachers’ enrolment and their academic performance.
§ Surveys: Questionnaire was used to probe the variables and trends emerging from aspects of academic achievement and lifelong learning characteristics such as the respondents’ study habits, reasons for pursuing their studies and obstacles that prevented them from becoming lifelong learners. Feedback was obtained through questionnaires (structured, semi-structured, and open-ended). Participants were surveyed using an instrument designed to measure, using Likert scales from 0 to 4 with “strongly agree” designated as a 4, “agree” as a 3, “disagree” as a 2, “strongly disagree” as 1.
A pilot test was conducted prior to the actual study to test the reliability of the questionnaire. The overall Cronbach’s Alpha coefficient of 0.76 was recorded. The coefficient indicated that the questionnaire was reliable.
The sample for this study was SABK student teachers of IPGKPP enrolled in November 2006. The questionnaires were distributed to all 24 student teachers in June 2010 that is during the last face-to-face interaction of the program (before their final examination). The researcher used a relatively purposive sample due to the nature of the study. The questionnaires were distributed in person by the researcher and the completed questionnaires were collected at a specific time agreed to by both parties. Data analysis was conducted using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences version 16.0. Data were collected and analyzed with quantitative and qualitative methods. Results generated included percentages and means and provided information about the central tendency of the identified groups.
Results and Discussion
Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies were employed to evaluate the Holiday Course Teaching Diploma Program (Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan). Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to report the results of the study.
a. Student teachers’ Profile
As depicted in Table 1, a significant majority of 19 student teachers (79.2%) were females and only 5 student teachers (20.8%) were males. The learner composition of this program reflects the dominance of the female gender in program. It also signified the dominance of the female gender in the Malaysian teaching profession.
The basic characteristics of 24 respondents revealed that all of them are over 26 years of age. This indicates that all the respondents are adult learners. 75% of the respondents are over the age of 31 years. In addition, a large majority of them i.e. 79.2% are married with families. This indicated that they are matured learners and hold various responsibilities of an adult and family person. As adult learners, they are responsible for their own learning.
The demographic data also revealed that the respondents are experienced teachers. 20 respondents (83.4%) have more than 6 years of teaching experiences with only 4 student teachers (16.7%) who have less than 5 years of teaching experiences. In terms of academic qualification, 25% of the respondents possessed the Malaysian Certificate of Education qualification; 16.7% with the Higher School Certificate qualification and more than half of the respondents are Diploma holders (58.3%).
Demographic Information of Respondents
b. Access and relevance of program to student teachers’ expectations and needs
Results from this study indicated that the access to teacher education is given to all teachers from religious school across the country. As depicted in Table 2, respondents from this study opined that they have achieved the program objectives (mean=3.38) and the content of the program is relevant to them as teachers (mean=3.50). They also indicated that the instructional design for the program namely, self-instructional study materials (course modules), face-to-face interaction with lecturers, assignments and examination are suitable. Thus, is can be said that the instructional design of the program is suitable facilitating and in assisting students’ learning.
Respondents of this study opined that they are more confident as teachers after attending this program and it recorded a high means of 3.71. This is a good indicator on the success of this program. The respondents are satisfied as learners of this program (mean=3.39) and they are confident as a lifelong learner (mean=3.46). In addition, this program has also instill positive attitude in the respondents as lifelong learners because they opined that they will continue to study to obtain a first degree in education (mean=3.42). They also opined that they will recommend this program to other friends (mean=3.50).
Program relevance to learner expectations and needs
The results of this study indicated that the respondents have positive attitude and found that the program is relevant to their needs and expectations. This findings of this study indicated that this program is successful in realizing the aims of producing more qualified and competent teachers in line with the second strategic thrust in National Education Blueprint (PIPP). It has produced qualified and competent teachers as aspired by the Ministry of Education.
c. Success Rate, Academic Achievement and Study habits of Student teachers
i. Success and retention rates of enrolled student teachers
The success rates, retention rates, and performances of student teachers are important indicators of the acceptability and sustainability of a program. At the end of this Diploma in Teaching Program, the success and retention rate were 100%, meaning that no learner left this program. This indicated that IPG Kampus Pulau Pinang is successful in creating opportunities for learning to student teachers of the program to complete the program successfully.
ii. Academic Achievement of Respondents
Results of the respondents
From the results of the examination as shown in Table 3, 100% student teachers were able to complete the program successfully. This is the final result of the respondents for 5 levels of interaction throughout a span of 3½ years, This is a good indicator as the attrition rate is 0% and that all the student teachers are able to complete the program successfully. Of these, 16 (66.7%) of the student teachers graduated with excellent grades and 8 (33.3%) of the student teachers graduated with credits. Obviously, this dispels the fear that adult students cannot be learn and complete a program successfully. The high success rate of student teachers has implications for the Institute to produce qualified and competent teachers.
iii. Study Time and Study Habits
To explore the reasons for the high success rates, learner responses on the time they devoted to their studies and on their study habits were examined. In view of their societal, familial, and personal commitments, student teachers invariably experience acute shortages of time. A frequently asked question concerned the number of hours student teachers must study everyday or in a week to successfully complete a program in the minimum time without compromising the quality of learning. This study showed that respondents spend between 1 to 5 hours per day to learn the contents of this program. The average spent per day is 1.67 hours and 7.72 hours per week. This indicated that consistent study habit is essential to be successful learners. The respondents of this study are conscientious learners and they are concern about their studies. They spent considerable number of hours in their studies everyday and eventually completed the program successfully.
Hours spend on learning per day and week
Regarding the time of day spend to study, majority of the respondents i.e. 87.5% of them indicated that they prefer to study at night, while 41.4% of the respondents indicated that they prefer to study in the morning and only 4.2% indicated that she prefers to study in the afternoon. The results of this study revealed that adult learners prefer to study at night when they have completed the day’s task. 75% of respondents of this study found that the modules provided helped them a lot in their studies. They gathered a lot of information from the modules. In addition, they also cited that the face-to-face interaction held during the semester holidays also helped them in their studies. Results from this study indicated that the instructional design for the program namely, self-instructional study materials (course modules), and face-to-face interaction with lecturers helped the respondents in their studies.
d. Lifelong Learner Characteristics
All of respondents (100%) of this study perceived that learning is important to them as shown in Table 5. Learning was viewed as very important by 95.8% of the respondents. Additionally, 95.8% of respondents agreed that it is important for teachers to be lifelong learners. All respondents professed that they personally want to learn. It is of utmost importance to instill lifelong learning culture amongst Malaysian citizens in accordance with the government’s policy to achieve the status of a developed nation. Teachers should be lifelong learners in order to update and upgrade themselves with the new development in the teaching arena.
Importance of learning
In this study, reasons to study for item ‘For promotion’ and ‘For enjoyment’ recorded the lowest mean of 2.91. This implied that the respondents do not view promotion as an outcome of their learning and that they do not view learning as for enjoyment. This is a good indicator and it implied that the respondents are conscientious learners and take the learning process seriously. This finding is also in congruent with the reasons cited for them to pursue their education namely to increase their self confidence, to have higher qualification and to develop new skills. This is proven by the respondents’ academic achievement shown in Table 3 whereby 66.7% of the student teachers obtained excellent grade in their studies.
Table 7 depicts the primary obstacle that prevented the respondents to be lifelong learners. The item ‘Not enough time’ is cited to be the main obstacle. This item recorded a mean of 2.84 out of a four Likert-scale of agreement (1=Strongly Disagree; 2=Disagree; 3=Agree and 4=Strongly Agree). This is followed by the item ‘Childcare commitments’ (mean=2.74) and ‘Working hours prevent it’ (mean=2.42). Although these three items recorded the highest mean out of the 11 items identified in this study, but all the three means are less than 3. This implied that these three items are not strong obstacles.
Reasons to study
The number of hours per day which is 24 hours is insufficient for working adults to complete all the errands and responsibilities that they hold. This is the main reason that prevented them from continuing their studies after their secondary school education. The results of this study also indicated that majority of them are married (79.2%). This means that most of them have additional role and responsibility as a father or mother besides their official role as untrained religious school teachers in their respective schools. Moreover, the demanding hours in religious schools which required them to work additional hours have prevented them from furthering their studies. This calls for more avenues given by the Ministry of Education, Malaysia to provide more opportunities for untrained teachers from religious and non-religious schools to pursue their education. More and better incentives or promotions should be given to lifelong learners who sacrifice their time, effort and energy to uplift the educational standards of the nation.
Obstacles to continue study
An interesting finding from this study was that the respondents of this study are adult and lifelong learners. As lifelong learners, they always seek to improve themselves in terms of skills and knowledge. The reason for the respondents to pursue their education is to increase their self-confidence, to have higher qualification and to develop new skills. This calls for adult learning programs and adult educators to place a high priority on developing the students’ confidence and skills. Adult educators should be competent in terms of knowledge and skills to lecture, tutor and facilitate their adult learners’ studies. Thus, it is recommended that all adult educators to consistently update and upgrade their knowledge and skills in accordance to the new development in the world of education.
The respondents opined that they have achieved the program objectives and the content of the program is relevant to them as teachers. This result indicated that the instructional design for the program namely, self-instructional study materials (course modules) and face-to-face interaction with lecturers is suitable and successful in assisting students’ learning. Thus, more emphasis should be given to these two methods to ensure the success of future holiday course programs implemented by the Ministry of Education. It is also recommended that studies to be conducted on the quality of course modules and the face-to-face interaction with lecturers.
As the study showed that the respondents perceived that learning is important and teachers should be lifelong learners, more opportunities should be provided by the Ministry of Education to enable the respondents to pursue their ambition as lifelong learners. The respondents also indicated that they would like to further their studies to obtain their first degree. Thus, it is recommended that the Ministry of Education should provide more opportunities and avenue for teachers to continuously develop their professionalism in all aspects related to the school and education environment. This will be a two-pronged strategy for it will be able to produce more qualified and competent teachers as aspired by the Ministry of Education and also to uplift the educational standard of Malaysian education. It is of paramount importance for ensuring that all Malaysian teachers are qualified and trained with pedagogical and psychological knowledge and skills to produce future leaders of the nation. All teachers whether trained or untrained should be given more opportunities to update and upgrade themselves in this globalization era. It is imperative of them to be lifelong learners seeking new information and skills to keep abreast with the new developments in the world.
In this age of rapid technological and economic change, life-long learning is becoming a way of life. As the population seeks more education, participation in learning activities by adult learners have also increased. There will continue to be an increase in the number of adult learners. Teachers who are adult learners should reinvigorate their educational knowledge, skills and competencies to uplift the educational standards in Malaysia. It has become crucial for teachers to increase one’s level of vocational competence. The respondents of this study were predominantly adult learners (teachers from religious schools), who lived far from the institution. IPGKPP has succeeded in providing access to teacher education for the non-trained primary school teachers from government-aided religious schools in Malaysia. A high retention and success rate have significant implications for future students, the program developers, and the Institute. It indicated that adult learners can be successful learners if they desired to do so. Self-instructional study materials and face-to-face interaction have helped the learners to complete the courses in the program successfully.
Respondents of this study are more confident as teachers after attending this program. This is a good indicator on the success of this program to produce qualified teachers to uplift the educational standards in Malaysia by having more qualified and competent teachers. In addition, the respondents of this study also opined that the objectives of this program have been achieved. They are satisfied as learners of this program and will recommend this program to other friends. This program has also produced lifelong learners who will continue to learn and develop their career paths. Lastly, teachers should be lifelong learners so as to be opened to new ideas, knowledge and skills that are constantly evolving in this globalised era.
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About the Author
Helen Khoo Chooi Sim, PhD., is a lecturer at the Malaysian Teacher Education Institute, Penang Campus (Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Pulau Pinang, Malaysia). She holds a PhD in the field of Distance Education Systems.
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