Monday, September 3, 2012

Can we weed out 100,000 poorly performing teachers?

Education Policy needs a rethink. That is an understatement. It is the most important review that is needed if Sri Lanka is to compete in the Global Marketplace. The innate intelligence of our Human Resource is not in doubt, when the performance of people of Sri Lankan origin in other countries is considered. The shaping of this intelligence into skills and productivity, and further into creativity and thinking has been a dismal failure as reflected in the output of the free education sector.

As we start the new term this morning with a couple of million students going to school throughout this country, I ask are we actually better off sending them to school, or should we keep them home, as they may learn more from staying at home rather than going to school. The contention is that the teachers we have actually stifle and suppress the desire for creativity, and discovery of our young minds by their incompetence!

The IUSF and FUTA are barking up the wrong tree in so much as they continue to advocate free education for all, in the absence of private education. It is not by merely dumping 6% of GDP that education will improve. Much of money given to the state to spend be it in Agriculture, Education and Health is just wasted. Accountability in the public sector is poor and is not the most productive spend of the hard to find tax rupees.

The ACTU teachers union led by Josef Stalin will not like it, but of the 230K teachers in the State Sector a full 100K should not be there, his members! In short incompetent. He will defend them to the hilt, but a non-political inspectorate is required in the Education Department to weed out these non-performing teachers and then to ensure standards of competence by flying visits to schools. There is already a system of school visits by the Education ministry, and that is confined to the visual and external cleanliness, rather than the quality of the teaching carder.

An article in 2nd Sept. Telegraph, pointed out to me by a reader in earlier comment illustrates the point. Note the link to the webpage here.
It makes for interesting reading and is worth a visit for the person with a general interest in the subject of how we in Sri Lanka can improve the quality of our education. In essence it advocates constant evaluation and surprise visits to schools and to gradually weed out incompetent teachers and also only give performance bonuses to competent ones. It is being implemented in the UK without delay starting from tomorrow. We should take a leaf out of measures taken in other countries to improve their education and perhaps fashion ours from taking the best of them.

Consider this contention. Sri Lanka has thousands of vacancies for teaching staff in core subjects. We must concentrate on first filling these vacancies with qualified teachers with an aptitude for teaching as a call of duty and a vocation, not merely a job. Teachers in the public sector are transferred after 10 years. I believe that policy needs to be reviewed, as some good teachers leave and join the private sector if they are not happy with the new posting. Many go into teaching just for a job!! That is bad.

The teacher training schools MUST become ELITE with a battle to get in. 25% of places to be scholarship based on A level results, degree as well as aptitude tests that test competencies. The balance should be by way of a subsidized tuition. This will only ensure that the most dedicated come into the profession. Anything completely free is usually not appreciated and therefore a student loan system or other must accompany it. There are massive amounts of overseas funding through international agencies for teacher training. It is considered key to the education genie.

Included in the certificate must be a period of teaching in rural schools, say for a year, to ensure these schools at least get a modicum of quality teachers, and the teachers get awareness of what kind of contribution to society they can give to people who are less privileged.

Incentives should be given to teach in rural schools to improve the quality and identify genuinely bright kids for future special attention. Most importantly the guaranteed salaries must be sufficiently high to attract and retain, but after a minimum period of bond, be allowed to leave and join the private sector or go overseas if they so wish. This does not force anyone to do anything they do not wish, but they should be given the best chance to be of service to their country.

Priority must be given to an immediate direction of resources to increase the intake into the Colleges of Education, and also for Universities to offer degrees in Education allied with other subjects that give some kind of fast tracking to students to then get their higher qualification in the Teacher Training Schools. I am convinced that the resources allocated here is the best bang for the spending rupee of the Government.

No Govt. will change this priority. It is a shame for the Education Dept. to have all Teacher Training Colleges without permanent heads, an indication of lack of concern in this ‘core area for resource allocation’.

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