Head teachers’ expectations of a quality teacher produced through distance education
Distance education has been viewed internationally as a viable option for improving access to, and the equity and quality of basic education in various settings (McQuaide, 2009). It is a way to educate people who would otherwise get no education and a tool to support and supplement conventional educational programmes (Perraton, 2000). The quality of open and distance learning (ODL) varies, like any other form of education as result of a variety of factors, both internal and external to an ODL organization for example, the levels of skills and expertise of the staff, the amount of resources available, weak or strong leadership, efficiency of its administrative systems, or the communications infrastructure in a country (Robinson 1995). Quality is not value free as it is a social and political construct. // Robinson (2008) says the goal of teacher quality is proving difficulty to achieve in many countries, especially in rural and remote areas which face such problems as shortages of advanced Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Gulati (2008) observes that in developing countries, traditional technologies such as print media, radio, and television remain more effective because the high cost of information technology service prevents poor people from accessing it. The Zimbabwe Open University, like other institutions in developing countries faces similar shortages and yet must produce professionals who will compete on the global market. // The content of teacher training is also an important issue. Chinese scholars argue that the key for developing appropriate course materials lies in changes to the way courses are produced. Li (2007) argues that course content should be drawn from the experience and setting of the country, and experts and teachers from rural regions should be involved in designing courses. Yu and Wang (2006) argue for a grassroots approach in which relevant stakeholders are involved. This research sought grassroots opinion so that the teacher produced by the ZOU University meets the quality constructions of the heads that work with the teacher on a day-to-day basis. // The School Leadership Capabilities (2003) research suggested the characteristics of highly effective leading teachers as passion for teaching and learning, taking initiative, achievement focus, ability to influence others, analytical thinking and management of self (School Leadership Capabilities 2003:11). Even though these characteristics of a quality teacher are from the perspectives of a developed country, they are still relevant to a developing country like Zimbabwe. // Petty (2004) argues that a teacher’s attitude and approach is crucial. A teacher must see her/ himself as a learning facilitator or learning manager, and encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. This shows respect for the learner and develops their self-belief, autonomy and resourcefulness. // Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU), the only university in Zimbabwe dedicated to open and distanceteaching was established by an act of Parliament, the Zimbabwe Open University Act (1999). It started in 1993 as a College of the University of Zimbabwe initially to train teachers and heads of schools in educational management. Now with an enrolment of about 21 000 students, it is the second biggest university in Southern Africa. The university offers various programmes of learning in four faculties, one of which, the Faculty of Arts and Education, offers teacher education programmes.
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