WITH reference to Abdul Malik Omar’s letter ‘Improve SPN21 by reviving components of earlier system’, which was published in the Borneo Bulletin Opinion page on April 29, I would like to share my views on some of his points regarding the current National Education System for 21st Century (SPN21).
In the letter, the writer touched on three strategic points in education – (1) Student promotion; (2) Teacher’s main responsibility; and (3) School empowerment.
In education, objective evaluation of students’ progress, be it through formal public examinations or in-house school assessments, is a mandatory requirement. How else would schools know if their students under their tutelage are making any progress?
Indeed real and substantive progress is the basic criterion normally used to promote a student from one stage of education to another.
Education is all about making progress from pedagogy, mainly in cognition.
In any system of education, making an objective assessment of students’ progress is a systemic component of school accountability. This can never ever become a point of contention. However, what is easily becoming a controversy is whether such an assessment, whether a formal examination or informal teacher’s assessment or any other type, is being carried out objectively, effectively and strictly within the requisite curriculum or work programme.
When it comes to educating our children, it is a known fact that schools, homes and communities all have their respective parts to play.
But it is also a known phenomenon that teachers as a professional group are charged to instruct, guide, teach, inform, enlighten, discipline, drill, coach or assess their students.
In any school, teachers are collectively a core group of professionals who will determine the standard and value of their students.
Teachers through their integrity, responsibility, accountability and dedication can make a big difference to the progress of their charge.
So in the field of pedagogy, teachers can invariably be put under a microscope and be scrutinised for their quality, dedication, integrity and accountability. The onus of educating is mainly placed on teachers.
On the topic of pedagogy, teachers are the best people to know how much educating has been imparted to their charge and how much success they have in fulfilling their responsibilities.
If there is any disparity in performance between students, which may be attributed to many different factors, teachers through their professional training are equipped with the know-how of taking measures to remedy this.
However, I am of the view that the gap in standards has been widening dramatically within and between schools. Yet schools and their teachers have been tended to be less focused and incisive in their diagnosis and remedial measures to arrest any deteriorating situation. At times, they tend to be myopic in their assessment by forgetting the most basic and fundamental aspect – their pedagogical integrity.
Blame can easily be laid on the fact that teachers were distracted by non-teaching requirements, specifically administrative ones at the expense of their main teaching responsibility. This type of argument seems credible; although in real professional context, this sadly offers more of an excuse.
For reasons known to teachers themselves, teaching is a highly organised job that not only involves imparting knowledge per se but also an ability to manage time, organise people, handle emotions and psychology, prepare lessons, make reports, prepare and decipher statistics, diagnose and offer remedial measures and responding to queries by parents and school management about their charge performance. Thus in their training, teachers are systematically exposed to sociology, psychology, administration, moral education, philosophy and class management beyond pedagogy.
It is essential that teachers welcome non-teaching responsibilities over and above their main teaching roles. Through such exposure, only then would teachers be equipped to shoulder bigger responsibilities – say for example, becoming a principal or executive. It is only more appropriate that experienced teachers as bona fide practitioners, as opposed to inexperienced academicians albeit with PhDs, should manage education at various executive levels.
In the face of more growing problems in education, it would be ominous that real practitioners are within the top executive circle.
I am of the view that more sympathy (attention) should be given to the issue of school empowerment.
Each school is a microcosm of the world of education.
Each school should have its own core body of professionals capable of providing education, looking after the welfare of its students and be fully accountable for their progress.
In this regard, a school can be empowered if it is in control of its performance targets, manage their resources effectively and efficiently and readily answerable to both parents and education authorities.
A school needs a reliable head who manages his/her staff well, command respect from teachers, students and parents alike, secure teachers’ accountability to achieve performance targets and stand up to challenges. A school is also fully responsible for both the foundation and continuing education of its charge.
It is not uncommon that some students are appallingly not up to the mark, not able to read or understand language or do simple arithmetic. This is a case of weakness in foundation in the first place.
If a school and its teachers fail in securing this foundation, it is a breakdown in pedagogical integrity.
If this happens, there is no argument under the sun to absolve teachers from their inability to provide the basics. For sure weakness in foundation is the cause of subsequent failures in children’s education.
Teachers should therefore be seeing and talking more of their dedication, responsibility and accountability in guiding their charge up the mark.
Whether we have a public examination or internal teacher’s assessment prior to any promotion, the main issue for either one is that teachers need to be true to their responsibilities.
They are the ones who will see their charge through. If they think they have not done enough, they themselves should be doing more within the ambit of their professionalism.