Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It is the quality of the Teachers stupid! Teachers please give me your input

No Education Policy can be implemented if the School Principal along with the teaching staff, do not work with one goal in mind to develop all the capacities of their charges so that they produce the ultimate product the country can be proud of.

It is just not the academic achievement of the child, but their moral well being. The example set by the teacher is one that is very powerful, and if the parents are found in want or lacking in some major department, the school teacher fill the void.

This is where the dedicated professional is worth more than the disinterested graduate housewife who today seems to be the major component of the teaching carder. To get the services of the dedicated professional, teaching MUST be elevated to the status of a Doctor at the very least in our society. In order to get that status a new class of teacher with a new name must be added with a different pay scale so the disinterested housewife also does not insist of getting the same higher wage.

It is important to understand that the teaching profession is seen by many as an easy means of income for a stay at home graduate women homemaker, once they have kids. She will get a pension, though the pay is not that great. She can conduct tuition classes at home and charge for them. She does not need to work excessively as their performance in not measured on results, so the pay is the same whether you are diligent or not. She finds an excuse as to why she does not need to help the students improve their knowledge or skills. I believe the criteria for entry into the profession has been wrong and it cannot be changed overnight. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule and I salute those teachers who are committed.

Each school I believe MUST have at least two “High Level” motivational teachers, preferably a Male and a Female. They have a huge responsibility. Initially due to the shortage of these professionals they may have to be assigned to all the major secondary schools that have more than 400 pupils and then to the 200+ size primary schools in the country. There must be a better system to measure the performance of these teachers, and reward them accordingly.

It is their responsibility to build the overall student, by instilling and assisting in discipline, motivation, vision, identity, creativity, intellectual curiosity, leadership, community service, and research that the student needs, also known as soft skills to develop the overall person so he or she knows how to get on in life after leaving school either at the O level stage or at A levels.
I turn to School Principals and the evaluation standards of the school. The Ministry of Education MUST change the way school performance is measured. First they should change from looking merely at the environment using 5 s scores to measure schools. A school in Ampara, where the Principal uses the students during school hours to clean up the school environment so that the school looks beautiful from the outside and so comes first, even when the students perform abysmally.

Performance measures can be set by using a base figure of a particular point say today, and then compare the improvement from that point. The buck stops with the principals and they MUST be more accountable. At the same time there must be some form of recognition of improvements to motivate others to perform.

It must never be forgotten that a school either Private or Public owes its success to the performance of the Principal. His part in building up the school through many odds that he has to face along with political interference for school admission and teacher transfers not-withstanding, is the mark of a top teaching professional. Good relationships with the local community will follow if his efforts are noticed by the parents. There are numerous instances one can quote where good schools fall of the map and are closed due to the change in Principals.

The trick is in being able to reward performance, without de-motivating those who do not come up to scratch. When a community realizes that a good school in their midst is valuable, as it increases property values and all round benefits begin to accrue then a need to improve and keep to a high standard will naturally happen.

Principals ask for items not provided by the Education Department. They can get these inadequacies from the community, who are likely to be more forthcoming when they see potential benefits. The TESP World Bank Aid Program, refers to community help in developing local schools. They acknowledge this synergy.

In addition there is a huge need for capital expenditure as the latest Budget allocates almost nothing for equipment like computers and teaching aids. The budget hopes that the Private Sector CSR programs will provide this shortfall. That will only happen in unusual circumstances. It will the exception rather than the rule. So more funds must be allocated for Capital Expenditure in Education as otherwise the goals of education will not be achieved no matter what other resources are provided to the running of the Department.

We MUST therefore concentrate on the above topics before any formal Education Policy is implemented. Otherwise it will fail.

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