IN Zambia, teaching is a profession regulated through the Teaching Profession Act No. 5 of 2013. The Act defines a teacher as a person who is qualified, registered and teaches or instructs, a head of school, a principal or lecturer of a college of education, a technical education instructor, a head of department of education or an education unit at any other education institution, other than a University.
The Act also establishes the Teaching Council of Zambia whose functions include to: register teachers; regulate the professional conduct of teachers; accredit colleges of education; develop, maintain and improve appropriate standards of qualification in the teaching profession and promote continuing professional development amongst teachers etc.
Therefore, this week’s article focuses on how statistics is used in the teaching profession.
2.0 Uses of Statistics
In order to put the topic into context, let me start by listing some of the uses of statistics before zeroing-in on the specific uses in the teaching profession (a) Statistics helps in providing a better understanding of a phenomenon (b) Statistics helps in systematically inquiring into an issue. (c) Statistics helps in collecting appropriate data (d) Statistics helps in presenting complex data in a suitable tabular, visual form through charts and diagrams for easily understanding of the data (e) Statistics helps in understanding the nature and pattern of variability of a phenomenon through observations (f) Statistics helps in drawing valid conclusions (inferences).
3.0 Uses of Statistics in the Teaching Profession
Statistics is important to the teaching profession because it helps a teacher know when teaching has effectively been done. They can use them to determine if the class understands the material or if they need to cover more of it through administration assignments/homework, tests and examinations.
Statistics are important to teachers for several reasons, and not just for the obvious one of checking on students and their progress in school.
These reasons could include: ensuring the quality of education is being kept high; monitor student’s progress; monitor the teacher’s progress or success; and check the effectiveness of a subject.
Statistics are produced for the size of school or college; number of pupils or students enrolled by gender; composition of teachers by gender, age or qualification; Work load; Number of classes or periods taught per week; Trend analysis – enrolment, pass rates etc.
It is necessary that those involved in the provision of education at various levels have some of the statistical skills and reasoning necessary to interpret and use that information about institutions of learning (In this case schools, and colleges), teachers/lecturers, and pupils/students to improve the education system.
Statistics such as achievement trends over time, or comparison data for provinces and comparable systems can help them develop ways to improve student learning. There is need for the educators to have sufficient understanding of statistics to make use of them in the prevention of errors in decision-making.
3.1 Monitoring quality of education
The quality of education is heavily dependent on the performance of teachers. It is for this reason that the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) aims at ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Teachers can play a very important role in monitoring progress made towards achieving the goal but specifically with reference to a range of indicators.
The first and possible the most important reason why teachers use statistics is so that they are able to monitor pupils’/students’ progress throughout the term, semester or year. By giving pupils/students homework/assignments, tests and end of term/semester/year examinations, teachers are able to keep track of pupils’/students’ performance.
3.2 Guidance and Counselling
A teacher plays so many roles and one of these is guidance and counselling. This is a skill that every teacher must have as they are always involved in guiding and counselling pupils/students. There is a positive correlation between guidance and counselling and career decision-making. Effective guidance and counselling has a positive influence on students’ career decision-making. In order for this to happen, use of statistics is necessary.
3.3 School Attendance
Encouraging regular school attendance is one of the most powerful ways of preparing children for success both in school and in life. When you make school attendance a priority, you help your children get better grades, develop good life habits, and have a better chance of graduating from school/college. When students are absent for some days, their grades and numeracy and reading skills may be affected. Every teacher keeps a record of class attendance of his pupils/students. The attendance records are then analysed using statistics.
School Attendance Ratios can be calculated. Specifically, Net Attendance Ratio (NAR) and Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR) are often calculated. NAR indicates participation in primary schooling for the population age 7-13 and secondary schooling for the population age 14-18. The Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR) measures participation at each level of schooling among those of any age from 5 to 24 years. All these begin from a classroom.
3.4 Examination Results Analysis
Analysis of examination results requires use of statistics. For example, early this year it was announced that “54 schools scored a hundred percent pass rate. 2016 recorded an increased proportion of pupils obtaining school certificates with a 4.9 percent shoot up from 2015.
The percent of boys who obtained full certificates was higher than that of girls pegged at 63.95 percent and 59.57 percent respectively. Eastern Province recorded the highest proportion of candidates obtaining school certificates followed by Southern Province while Western and Copperbelt recorded the lowest.
The results indicate that grant aided schools topped the performance list followed by private and public schools.”
It is clear that in this examination results announcement, statistics were used to compare performance of pupils between 2015 and 2016, boys and girls, provincial performance, ownership of schools versus performance. Eastern Province was reported as having the highest proportion of school certificates, which implies that the statistical concepts of proportion and ranking were used. The use of proportion was to standardise the results in order to enable comparison since the number of pupils differed from one province to the other. This analysis can also be done at by teachers at class level.
3.5 Determination of Student: teacher/lecturer Ratio
Pupil/student:teacher/lecturer ratio expresses a relationship between the number of students enrolled in a course/subject, school, college, or university. For example, a course/subject with a student:teacher ratio of 30:1 indicates that there are 30 pupils/students for every one teacher/lecturer. Class size and student:teacher/lecturer ratios are much-discussed aspects of quality of education provision and, along with pupils’/students’ learning time.
Smaller classes are often seen as beneficial because they allow teachers/lecturers to focus more on the needs of individual pupils/students.
3.6 Teachers’/lecturers’ Records
Teachers/lecturers use statistics in keeping attendance registers, performance assessment results (assignments/homework, tests, and examinations). Statistics can be helpful to teachers and lecturers in any number of situations as they make it possible to analyse sets of data and come to informed conclusions about that data.
The benefits of statistics that are gathered by teachers and lecturers in classrooms can have great effects on education institutions and can provide a lot of improvements that will probably have been overlooked.
If these statistics are looked at and analysed properly then people will have the power to improve in the weak areas.
If this goes on every year, the quality of education will continue to improve every year.
The most important reason why teachers/lecturers using statistics is that they are able to monitor students’ progress throughout the school term, semester, or year. Statistics can also be used by education institutions in general to assess how good the students are doing in particular subject or course of study.
It can also show where there is possible room for improvement and by analysing this data; these improvements can be implemented as quickly as possible.
3.7 Education Attainment and School Attendance Ratios
Statistics are used in the calculation of education attainment school attendance ratios. In the Zambia Demographic and Health Survey, educational attainment is one of the variables considered in the background characteristics since it is believed that it is one of the most influential factors affecting people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours in various aspects of life. The education attainment is split into female and male for comparison.
3.8 Pupil/Student and Teacher/Lecturer Attrition
Student attrition is the number of students who leave a programme of study before it is finished. Teacher attrition is the number of teachers/lecturers who do not continue with their work.
Teachers/lecturers are being lost due to a number of reasons such as being assigned to non-teaching jobs, expiry of contract, resignation, dismissal, retirement and death. Statistics are very important in education in the policy formulation for decision-makers.
Statistics is playing an ever more important role in the day-to-day work in the teaching profession, and is being used in public debate on education issues such as pupil performance and competences. Raising statistical literacy in the teaching profession will address problems of interpretation and usage.
One does not need to be a statistician to use statistics in the teaching profession.
This should be part of the skills required in the training of teachers. Of course some of the uses are just unknowingly practiced. It is time to promote statistical literacy and understanding among all teachers in our country.