IN schools, teachers teach and students learn. That is as basic as it gets, but sometimes, the most fundamental of things are the hardest to do.
In reality, there are many instances when teachers and students are not in classrooms, and when they are, there are plenty that can disrupt the transfer of knowledge.
These hurdles to teaching and learning can be as simple and seemingly harmless as announcements over the public address system, or the teachers being away for non-academic matters.
Other obstacles can be severe problems such as absenteeism and indiscipline.
Wave 1 of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 is geared towards turning around the education system by supporting teachers and focusing on core skills.
This is essentially a move to get back to basics, and that means a renewed emphasis on teaching and learning.
This includes raising professional standards among teachers and improving their support systems and working environments.
But as the Blueprint points out, good teachers alone are not enough.
“The international evidence clearly shows that strong school leadership is also required to produce significant improvement in student achievement,” it adds.
“In high-performing school systems, principals are more than just administrative leaders – they are instructional leaders who focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning in their schools.”
This is why a few years ago, the Education Ministry introduced an initiative called Protecting Instructional Time. It is meant to help the education authorities, school heads and teachers focus on efforts to optimise the time spent on teaching and learning.
But it appears that there is a need to again remind the schools about the importance of concentrating on classroom activities.
On Friday, The Star reported that all government schools have been told to go easy on the pomp and protocol when organising events.
This way, teachers can have more time with students in classrooms and less money spent on these events.
In a recent written directive, Education Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Ahmad Tajudin Jab pointed out that some events at schools involved excessive protocol and celebrations.
This has to stop.
He said an opening or closing ceremony, for example, should not stretch beyond two hours. The same goes for visits by the minister, his deputies or other senior ministry staff.
Whenever possible, such events should be held during co-curricular hours so that they will not affect study periods.
The number of students involved in the greeting of VIPs should be minimised. And those who do get roped in should not be asked to attend lengthy rehearsals.
“Schools should instead focus on their core activity, which is to be a centre of learning and teaching,” said Ahmad Tajudin, who added that these measures would also ensure optimum returns for government spending on education.
Hopefully, this message will sink in, and not just among the school heads and teachers. The VIPs can help tremendously by making it clear that they do not need elaborate receptions and ceremonies when they visit schools.The STAR Home > Opinion > Columnists
The Star Says Sunday, 2 October 2016