The research will investigate the effects of free primary education on learners with diverse needs in the main stream primary schools. (A case of Lilongwe Urban Schools) Identification of a sample of teachers, parents, pupils, schools. Distribution of questionnaires, conduct interviews, and observations. The Data will be conducted from four mainstream primary schools in Lilongwe district. 3. 0. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 3. 1. A statement of search method.
Many learners with special educational needs experience a number of challenges in the mainstream primary schools in which in some way or the other prevent them from receiving quality education. (Ministry of Education PIF Document on special needs, 2000) At a conference held at Salamanca in Spain 1994, it was declared that learners with special educational needs acquire education in their home schools. (World Declaration on Education For All, 1990).
This meant that they were to be included in the mainstream schools and the schools were supposed to accommodate these learners by providing them with specialized resources so that the children acquire quality education. The introduction of free primary education in Malawi in 1994 posed a threat towards the education of learners with special educational needs in their home schools, because much as it increased access to educational opportunities for all Malawians, it brought many challenges towards the education of learners with special educational needs in mainstream schools and to the ordinary learners as well.
(Ministry of Education PIF document 2000). One of the challenges emanating from the implementation of free primary education policy towards the education of learners with special educational needs is overcrowding in schools which lead to poor performance due to poor methods of teaching. Statistics indicates that in 1993, there were about 1. 6 million primary school students in Malawi. However, when free primary education was introduced in 1994, the number of students jumped to over three million (World Bank report 2004).
This created a lot of problems, overcrowding in classes made teachers not to consider the needs of learners with special educational needs because there was too much work load. Teachers use poor methods of teaching as a result of overcrowding in classes and lack of resources. Teachers are failing to practice the individualized education plan meant for learners with special educational needs due to increased enrollment rates. (Ministry of Education PIF Document). This results in poor performance, high repetition rates for both learners with special educational needs and the ordinary pupils.
It is thus of great importance to asses on how poor methods of teaching is a challenge to the education of learners with special educational needs. Some indications suggest that overcrowding in classrooms is pushing out pupils with special educational needs; an issue which the World Bank (2004) recommends that needs further research. Furthermore, due to overcrowding, survival rates for all learners (ordinary and those with special educational needs) have also been affected.
The double/triple shifts are also making it hard for schools to plan for remedial programmes for learners with special educational needs and teachers complain of increased pupil teacher ratios. (Ministry of Education, PIF Document, 2004). Thus, it is the interest of the researcher to further assess the effects of overcrowding in classrooms towards the education of learners with special educational needs. The shortage of teaching resources is also another problem that is making the education of learners with special educational needs difficult.
The shortages of teaching and learning aids worsened as a result of the implementation of free primary education. The number of pupils per text book was 2. 9 prior to Free Primary Education, declining to 7. 1 in 1994/5. Even more worrying is the fact that repetition rates are over 20%. (Riddel R. , 2003) What should be noted is that, learners with special educational needs require specialized resources for them to receive quality education. This is expensive and need expertise to use specialized materials.
In this case, if the government is failing to provide learning materials for ordinary learners, what more to the provision of teaching and learning materials to learners with special educational needs. The shortage of teachers and recruitment of unqualified and untrained teachers who did not have any knowledge on special needs education was also another recipe for disaster because the needs of learners with special educational needs were not given a priority. (Ministry of Education PIF document 2000).
Thus, it is reported by 1997, more than half the teachers were untrained, compared with 13% before the introduction of Free Primary Education. The World Bank Report on effects of free primary education (2004) states that this left learners with special educational needs to struggle to meet the needs of the school and not the schools meeting the needs of learners with special educational needs. As such it is to the interest of the researcher to assess on how this has led to low academic achievement to both learners with special educational needs and ordinary learners.
Poor infrastructure is also another area of concern, according to an article by Ligomeka. B. (2000), it is stated that the ambitious plan by the Malawi government to boost its education levels by offering free primary education backfired, largely because of the terrible poor conditions of the country’s primary schools. Ligomeka adds to say that conditions at schools remain terrible; there has been a shortage of classrooms for the pupils, resource centers, teacher’s houses, and toilets for over a decade.
The inaccessible physical environment makes it difficult for children with disabilities to survive. ( e. g. poor hygiene in toilets) Additionally, many of the preliminary surveys seem to show that the existing facilities make a mockery of the free education program. As a result, the situation of the teaching force in most of the districts is generally bad. On quality issues, the World Bank Report (2004) states that, the free primary education has produced unintended and unforeseen negative consequences.
The reforms that Malawi has come up with have produced some consequences including quality issues which are of concern in Malawi. Whilst the enrolment expansion has been remarkable, the quality of education – and many would say, even the ‘value’ of education – has deteriorated. The question might be; if ordinary pupils are complaining of quality issues, what about the quality of education being offered to learners with special needs? This puts in question for the quality of education being delivered and if the needs of learners with special needs are being met.
It is for this reason that the researcher would want to assess the quality of education being offered to learners with special educational needs in the mainstream primary schools with regards to the challenges emanating from the implementation of free primary education. Kadzamira and Rose (as cited at http//www. Introduction of free primary education in sub-Saharan Africa) point to the continued lack of access of some sub-groups (street children, out-of-school youth, those with special needs, orphans.
) who still face problems to meet some of their needs ( such as learning materials, food, accommodation, wheelchairs, hearing aids, and clothes) despite the education being free. As such, this has resulted in a lot of absenteeism, poor performance, a very high repetition rate and dropouts for learners with special educational needs, street children and orphans, because despite the education being free, they still have to meet other expenses such as stationary, uniforms, food, wheel chairs, and other specialized materials. (Ministry of Education PIF document 2000).
The researcher therefore, would like to investigate if the needs of the above mentioned subgroups are taken into consideration by the schools. Through the reports, articles and journals, it has been discovered that the effects of free primary education worsened the problems learners with special educational needs were facing in mainstream primary schools. These problems do not only affect learners with special needs but also those without, and this has made/created a lot of learners to fall under special educational needs because their needs are not being met by the education system.
In conclusion, there is evidence that free primary education brought challenges towards the education of learners with special educational needs, as such, it will be necessary to find out the extent to which the challenges are making the education of learners with special needs difficult in the mainstream primary schools, so that the feedback can be used to correct deficiencies in the schools. This research will be beneficial to teachers, schools even the researcher herself to diagnose barriers to inclusion hence coming up with strategies to reduce or eradicate the barriers. Definition of Key terms.
Mainstream refers to the integration of learners with special educational needs in general education settings (Heward, 2000) Special educational needs refer to learners who require specialized instruction and different levels of support if they are to realize their full human potential, or to facilitate their academic, social, and emotional development. It also includes those coming from poor socio-economic backgrounds. (Heward 2000) Inclusion is the process of accommodating learners with special needs in the general education settings, with support services provided by the school.
(Index for inclusion, 2002) Sub-questions What challenges do learners with special educational need face in the mainstream primary schools as a result of free primary education in Malawi? How do the challenges affect education provisions for learners with special educational needs? What support services are provided by parents towards the education of learners with special educational needs? 3. 2. RESEARCH METHODS The research shall be conducted using the survey strategy. 3. 3. Survey Studies Survey studies as pointed out by Cohen (2003) Is another way to get unique material.
It is regarded as one of the best tool for collection of data by many scholars. Cohen added that surveys take one or two forms, questionnaires or interviews. During a survey, a researcher can ask people questions in person or draw a written questionnaire, but in either case, it is advised that questions must be phrased carefully so that people can respond easily and clearly. A Gay L. R. etal (2009) state that surveys requires the collection of standardized, quantifiable information from all members of a population or of a sample.
It is from the above understanding that the researcher has seen it necessary to use this design, in the collection of data to examine on how the introduction of free primary education has affected the education of learners with special educational needs in terms of human resource, teaching and learning materials, and the quality of education being provided. 3. 4. SOURCES OF EVIDENCE The following instruments will be used for data collection: Questionnaires, interviews, and observations. 3. 4. 1Questionnaire.
A questionnaire is a written collection of survey questions to be answered by a selected group of research participants. (Gay L. R. etal). And it is a widely used and useful instrument for collecting survey information. However, Bell (1993) warns that one needs to ensure that the questionnaire is well designed in order to give the researcher the information needed, acceptable to subjects and that will not give problems at the analysis and interpretation stage. The questionnaire will contain both open ended questions and closed questions.
Among the advantages of a questionnaire is that it is cheap compared to interviews, and can be used to collect data from a large sample without the researchers presence, and one of the disadvantages is that respondents can delay information and could be difficult to make follow ups. (Cohen, 2003). To minimize errors, the researcher will make sure that questionnaires be taken for supervision before distribution to ensure that they are clear. The researcher shall follow guidelines for writing effective questions, such as avoiding complex questions, avoid irritating questions or instructions, just to mention a few.
Cohen (2003). And in this study, a sample of ten teachers and Primary School Education Advisor (PEA) will be given questionnaires. See appendix,( item number 2 a,2b). 3. 4. 2Focused Interviews Interviews are an oral, in person question and answer session between a researcher and an individual respondent. (Gay L. R. etal 2009) Here, the researcher will use focused interviews. Ary D. etal (2002), describes focused interviews as those where the researcher ask questions designed to draw out subjects’ responses on a topic of interest.
Subjects are free to answer in their own words rather than having to choose from pre-determined, open ended format, this permits greater flexibility and responsiveness to emerging issues for the participants. Among the advantages of interviews as pointed out by Donald etal (2002) is that, a researcher gets instant feedback, participants are able to ask for clarity, and the researcher probes participants where ever necessary. Donald adds to say that interviews enable an interviewer to get information concerning opinions, beliefs, attitudes and feelings in relation to certain questions.
Hence making a researcher acquire rich information from respondents which will make the research to be standard. Nevertheless, the disadvantage of interviews is that it could be time consuming to both the researcher and the participant; it is expensive in terms of travel costs and materials, besides it is also difficult for individuals to articulate their feelings in a one to one interview. As such focused interviews will be conducted with head teachers, experienced teachers (those with over 16 years experience), parents, ordinary learners, and learners with special educational needs.
The researcher shall prepare a list of standardized questions ahead of time and shall be taken for supervision to minimize errors. Furthermore, the researcher will make herself available at a time that is convenient for the respondents. The researcher shall begin by sending a letter of Identification, requesting an interview with the Primary School Education Advisor (PEA), head teachers, teachers, parents and pupils and specify the sort of information needed. See appendix ( item no. 1. a,1. b, 1. c, 1. d) 3. 4. 3Observations.
Cohen (2003), states that observation data are attractive as they afford the researcher the opportunity to gather “live” data from “live” situation. The researcher will observe, teaching methods, attitude of teachers and peers, classroom organization, and availability of resources. Cohen continues to say that observation makes data to be reliable and generalization can be made. Stringer (2004) also points out that observations principle purpose is to familiarize researchers with the context in which issues and events are played out, however, Gay R.L.
(2009) warns that researchers that when obtaining observations there should be objectives, unbiased and accurate in the sense that the observer has avoided influencing the behavior of respondents. The disadvantage of observation according to Alkins Encyclopedia of Education Research (1992) is that it more naturalistic and researchers are not constrained by what is in a checklist or rating scale. If an observation is well planned and carried out, it can give both qualitative and quantitative data.
Observation has limitations on bias to an extent that the individual perceptions and interpretations of the observer, influenced by previous experience, affect the recording of the behavior, (ibid p. 271). However, the researcher will be aware of this problem so that learners with special educational needs be observed thoroughly in order to detect their difficulties which they face in mainstream primary schools. Observations shall be carried out in all the primary schools. See appendix (item no. 3). 3. 5.
Population Sample This involves identification of a sample of schools, teachers, parents, and pupils, from the schools. Three mainstream primary schools in Lilongwe urban will be selected for the collection of data. Schools will be selected based on their experience in the education of learners with special educational needs. Teachers shall be selected according experience (those with more than 16 years experience prior to the introduction of free primary education). Pupils will be selected based on their age and class.
(Will start from standard 3 up to 8 and within the age range of 9-15) the Primary School Education Advisor will also be contacted to answer a few questions and parents will be selected based on proximity (those living around the school and available). A total of six Learners with special educational needs and six ordinary learners will be interviewed from each school, will al so be interviewed, a total of eight teachers will be given questionnaires and two teachers will be interviewed, all the head teachers will be interviewed, and Observations by the researcher will also be carried out in all schools.
The reason behind this sample is: To find out teacher perceptions on how free primary education has undermined the quality of education being offered to learners with special educational needs. To know how involved parents are in the education of their children. To find out from learners on the challenges they face in the classroom and how this is affecting their academic achievement. To find out from Primary school Education Advisor if the government is aware of such problems and necessary measures are taken to minimize the effects. 4. 5DATA ANALYSIS Data analysis is one of the things the prepared researcher needs to consider.
It involves filing and organizing data collected (Cohen 2003). Gay etal (2009) add to say that the planning of data analysis will need to consider the organization, accounting for and explaining the data; It indicates what needs to be done with the data when they have been collected and how will the data be processed and analyzed, additionally, it shows how the results of the analysis will be verified, cross-checked and validated. (Bell 1993). In analyzing data, the researcher will re- write notes as soon as possible after making a set of observation.
Full notes shall be typed and two copies of the notes shall be produced so that the other copy should act as a backup. The files shall be created in chronological order of events including notations of the dates and times they were made. Ultimately, observations shall be analyzed and interpreted to find the underlying meaning in the things observed. And the organization and filing of notes is the first step in discovering that meaning. (Donald A, etal 2002) All the results from different participants shall be analyzed and interpreted cordially, and data will be presented in the form of tables, type written text and charts.
3. 6Reliability and Validity According Kubiszyn T. etal (1996), reliability refers to an extent where similar results are obtained from different samples and after using different methods of data collection. Cohen (2003), states that validity is an important key to effective research, because if a piece of research is invalid then it is worthless. He further points out that that validity of research results refers to the extent where the research measures what it was intended to measure. The extent of triangulation is also another form of validity.
To ensure reliability, the researcher, will use different tools of data collection, use standardized questions in both questionnaires and interviews and will make sure that the questions should be in line with the research question to ensure validity. 3. 7 LIMITATIONS Ethical issues, travel cost and time will be taken as some of the barriers to this study, nevertheless, ways will be found to deal with these problems. To overcome the problem of travel costs, the researcher started saving money meant for this purpose, where there will be a shortage, it will be required to ask for funds from guardians.
To deal with ethical issues, the researcher will try by all means to be careful in the use of language so as not to harm participants psychologically because this might affect the outcome. The researcher will also take the interview and questionnaire questions for supervision to make sure that language used does not offend the participants. In the case of time, where the researcher will be on a short holiday and at the same time collecting data, appointments for interviews, observations and distribution of questionnaires. The researcher shall make herself available at a time convenient to the participants.
Prompts/follow up shall be made in the case of questionnaires so that all the data should be ready before the holiday ends. To avoid doubts from participants, a letter of identification shall be obtained from the Special Needs Department of the Catholic University of Malawi. People will be assured of privacy and the research shall seek parental/teacher consent before interviewing learners below the age of fifteen. REFERENCE Ary Donald. Lucy Cheser Jacobs. Asghar Razaviah. (2002), Introduction to Research in Education, Thomson Learning, Belmet.
Bell J (1993), Doing your Research Project. A guide for first research in Education and social science. Suffolk, st Edmunds bury press. Cohen L. etal (2003). Research Methods in Education. Prentice-hall Inc, New York. EFA Global Monitoring Report @ http:// www. EFA report @ unesco. org. Gay L. R. , Geoffrey E. Mills, Peter Airasian. (2009), Educational Research Competencies for Analysis and Applications. Pearson Education, Inc; New Jersey. Heward W. L. (2000). Exceptional Children: an introduction to special education. Prentice-hall, New York. (http://www. aft.
org/research/rel-site. htm) (http: //www. World Bank report on effects of free primary education. org. ) Riddell R. (2003) The introduction of Free Primary Education in Sub-Saharan Africa Report. Ministry of Education (PIF document on Special Needs Education in Malawi, 2000) IRINA MANJOMO CALENDAR FOR DESSERTATION MONTH & YEAR DATE ACTIVITY JUNE-2010 15-20 25-30 Writing letters to institutions where data will be corrected. Distribution of questionnaires for data collection and making appointments for interviews JULY -2010 Data collection, Data analysis and data entry.
AUGUST- 2010 1-17 Data analysis and entry. 18-23 Editing analysed data, & submission. 24-25 Meeting the supervisor 25-31 Literature Review SEPTEMBER-2010 3-13 Writing of chapter two (Lit. Review) begins & ends 14-15 Meeting the supervisor 16-19 corrections 22-29 Writing of chapter III & submission 29-30 Meeting the supervisor OCTOBER-2010 1-4 Corrections 7-14 Writing chapter IV & submission 15 Meeting the supervisor 15-17 Corrections 19-25 Writing Chapter V and VI & submission 26-27 Meeting the supervisor 28-30 Corrections NOVEMBER-2010 2-9 Writing Ch.
1 & submission 11-14 Meeting supervisor & corrections 16-21 22-23 Writing first Draft of Dissertation submission & corrections DECEMBER-2010 24-30 1-3 Writing 2nd Draft of Dissertation submission 5-7 Meeting supervisor JANUARY-2011 Making Corrections on the Dissertation draft FEBRUARY-2011 13-18 Defending the Dissertation 21-23 Making corrections & submission MARCH-2011 1-3 Meeting the supervisor 3-20 Making final corrections on the Dissertation Draft. APRIL- 2011 Writing the final copy of the Dissertation begins and ends. MAY-2011 16-23 submission to the supervisor