My son woke up this morning, nervous.
“What if I don’t do well, Ma?” he asked.
“Try your best. That is all you can do,” I said, trying to calm him down.
But he continued in an agitated state.
In the past few weeks, teachers at his school have been busy with PT3 examinations – including teachers responsible for the SPM students. Many classes were cancelled. Many chapters left unfinished. Much work left undone.
But this is nothing new.
Earlier this year, one of my son’s teachers took a few weeks off prior to her maternity leave. There was no substitute teacher. Even when she returned after her maternity leave, she was often absent.
Recently, upon realising the many chapters still to cover before the trial exams, she ordered compulsory after-school classes. Respecting the teacher’s eagerness to complete the examination syllabus, my son skipped his tuition classes only to be told the after-school classes had been cancelled.
Some ‘intelligent’ teachers think nothing of delegating their teaching responsibilities to the students themselves. One particular teacher divided my son’s class into a few groups. Each group was given a sub-topic of a certain chapter and instructed to research the content themselves and present it in the class later.
“It’s like the blind teaching the blind, Ma,” I remember my son saying. More shocking however was that this same teacher copied all the presentation slides for use in her future classes.
Recently, my son’s school came up with the ‘brilliant’ idea of holding after-school activities before school instead. Right after school assembly, students took to marching, running and engaging in other sporting activities that left them sweaty and tired. The teachers weren’t spared either – they were just as sweaty and tired as the students.
Not surprisingly, more classes got cancelled.
Every time there is a special event or festival, classes are cancelled – Merdeka Day celebrations, Hari Raya celebrations, Israk Mikraj ceramahs, the list goes on.
Once in a while, teachers organise ‘jamuan’ for themselves in the staffroom and yes, you guessed right – more classes were cancelled.
At least twice this year, my son’s classes were cancelled so private colleges could promote their higher learning packages. Classes were also cancelled so other institutes could promote seminars and SPM preparation workshops. Let’s not forget the school’s ridiculous decision to allow the promotion of books on origami and magic during school hours.
I asked my son a few weeks ago if all the subjects he was taking for his SPM trials had been completed. He said eight out of nine were. I was impressed for a moment until he told me how this had been achieved.
“My Physics teacher, Ma, completed one chapter with five sub-topics in less than one hour.”
“How did she do that?” I asked, almost afraid at what he was going to tell me.
“She read the paragraphs she thought were important and skipped most of the rest.”
“Doesn’t your principal take note of what happens in your school?” I wasn’t pleased with what I heard.
“The teacher once told us that the principal had queried her about why many of my classmates failed the Physics tests – and she told him we were not interested in Physics.”
For the past two years, I have been forking out almost one thousand ringgit every month in tuition fees for my son in preparation for this day – the SPM trials. Knowing my son’s academic weaknesses, I knew I had to do something. I could not solely depend on his school teachers whose scientific knowledge was questionable. When asked about black holes, one teacher told him there was no such thing.
I sometimes think it is teachers, not students, who should sit for annual examinations.
After attending tuition classes, my son got acquainted with all kinds of interesting facts about history, scientists and many other things he never spoke about before. In his free time, he browsed the Internet for information on world wars. And instead of Archie comic books, he now has his nose buried in Hawking’s ‘Physics of the Impossible.’
These are things I hoped my son would acquire from school but that was not to be.
In the past few days, instead of attending school, my son has been doing his revisions at home, with his tuition teachers on call, ever ready to assist him if he needs help, without even asking for extra payment. They do it because they are dedicated to their students.
Why aren’t our school teachers just as dedicated? It really upsets me how many students are unable to reach their full potential because they do not have the means to attend private classes (or private schools for that matter) like my son.
“Thank you for sending me to tuition, Ma,” my son said after finishing his bowl of breakfast cereal.
“Are you still nervous?” I smiled.
“I’ll be okay.”
“You sure will,” I said, giving him a peck on his forehead.