Mentoring: a Powerful Tool for Professional Development of Student Teachers
Distance education has emerged as a panacea for some of the burning problems in the education systems of developing countries. In relation to the Sri Lankan context, it was expected that Distance Education would give an answer to the shortage of qualified and experienced teaches in the school system. Therefore, from the inception, the Open University of Sri Lanka and the National Institute of Education offered programmes through the distance mode aiming at improving professional competences of teachers. These programmes were popular among teachers due to some inherent characteristics such as the flexible nature, regional outreach and opportunities provided to complete the programmes while remaining in their work places. However, it is questionable whether these programmes encourage sufficient interactions among teachers and students and students and students which must be the core of any professional training programme. // Quality of teaching will depend on the quality of teachers in the system. Therefore, in some countries, teaching appointments are renewed on the basis of the training programmes participated and the new qualifications acquired by the respective teachers. However, in Sri Lanka it is highly unlikely that teachers will get a second chance in their life time to update their professional competencies. Therefore, it is prime important that all the teacher training programmes conducted using face-to-face, distance and other modes or offered in full time or part time basis, should fulfill the requirements of the teachers as well as the training needs of the schools. // In line with the above need, the Faculty of Education of the Open University of Sri Lanka has introduced a number of strategies such as interactive day schools and workshops, practical assignments, school based mentoring system and school based projects to improve the quality of the training provided for teachers using distance mode. This paper focuses on the school mentoring system introduced in 2009 to strengthen the school support and to provide a close supervision and guidance to student teachers who are following the PGDE Programme which is one of the most popular programmes in the University.