Cascading down or diluting down?

“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”


This quote from Abraham Lincoln emphasizes that inefficient tools waste our time and energy and it is better to spend most of our time finding and cultivating the best tools for any task.  Attending training programmes could be considered one of the ways through which we can keep our axe sharpened.  Perhaps that is why government of India, under National Training Policy, 2012 has made it mandatory for every department to spend 2.5 percent of its salary budget for training.  But interestingly, a couple of weeks ago, I learnt from the newspaper that union of school teachers organized a dharana  in Shimla to protest against teacher training!!  They believed that a lot of time and money are invested (read wasted!!) every year on teacher training and it has not helped at all in improving educational quality in the school. Incidentally, in a study conducted by the DIET of a district to ascertain perceived level of implementation of in service teacher training on a sample of 74 teachers, majority of the respondents reported the level as “low”.  A number of factors have been found responsible for poor transfer of training which include factors concerning the trainees, the trainers, planning of the training programme and organizational factors as well.  However, in this post I want to focus on the cascade model of training which does remain the most important model for in-service teacher training around the world.

The cascade model involves the delivery of training through layers of trainers until it reaches the final target group. So in this model, a team from Shimla would go to NCERT for seven day training programme. Upon returning back, this team would conduct a similar training programme for master trainers drawn from all the twelve districts of Himachal Pradesh.  These district teams would conduct a similar training programme for District Resource Group drawn from various blocks. Finally, these people are now expected to train teachers at the block level and these teachers are expected to translate training in to their classroom in their respective schools. Huh! Photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy!! How can we expect complete transfer of training?  At this juncture I am reminded of the ten percent law for the transfer of energy from one trophic level to the next which was introduced by Lindeman. The law states that during the transfer of energy from organic food from one trophic level to the next, only about ten percent of the energy from organic matter is stored as flesh. The remaining is lost during transfer. In am not sure how this analogy would translate in the theory of training transfer, nonetheless, it cannot be deemed counter-intuitive to say that much is lost in the process.  .

So, is there a problem in the model itself? After all how to reach large number of teachers spread in difficult and isolated locations with limited resources?  In fact, in this context, the cascade model of training has been  the best available strategy. Then why there is such a poor transfer of training?  Actually like any model, it works with certain assumptions. If associated assumptions are not met with, it is bound to fail. It assumes that the best people are selected as master trainers but in most situation only those people are deputed for training who could easily be ‘spared” or who could ‘manage’ heir deputation! The model further assumes that:  a proper training need analysis has been done;   all relevant inputs have been accommodated;  the training material is the best that can be prepared;   the language, content and teaching aids are “right”;  all information is provided early to all involved to enable proper preparation to take place; adult learning principles  have been followed;  training is interesting and participatory; adequate time have been given for thorough coverage of the material; a monitoring and evaluation mechanism is in place; quality standards are there and they are met with at every stage and so on and so forth.

So cascade model is not problematic in itself.  Actually it is the most cost defective strategy to reach remotely located teachers.  As said earlier, like any other model,  it makes certain assumptions. If those assumptions are not met with, the model is not likely to function effectively. So for training managers, there is no point cursing the method.

There is a Sanskrit saying:

नैष  स्थाणोरपराधः यदेनम  अंधः न पश्यति I

It means: it is not the fault of the stump (खूंटा) if a blind person stumbles upon it.  If we want to reach our destination safely, it is assumed that we need to steer ourselves clear off the stumps on the way. So dear training managers, government is spending hard earned money of the taxpayers for funding teacher training. Please ensure that the assumptions of the model are met with so that training is transferred and the notion of quality education just not remains a ‘notion’.

One thought on “Cascading down or diluting down?

  • Arti Chandel


    My personal opinion is that not only the training managers and trainers, but the trainees are also expected to get maximum out of what they are given. True that trainers must be the best and highly efficient in their area, but as a teacher, I know that it’s a two way process and listener/learner is equally, in fact more responsible for making teaching/training more effective and successful.

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