Our columnist talks about the need for teachers to be more forthright and honest in their assessment of all matters pertaining to school lessons and activities.
IT IS never easy or perhaps not even possible when you are smack in the middle of a situation or experience to be able to think objectively about it.
Yet, sometimes it may be the most necessary thing to do - to step outside a problem or conundrum for a while, to draw a breath of fresh air that is not tainted by the atmosphere of the situation, or simply to disentangle long enough to put some distance between you and the problem, and then from that vantage point of view, take stock of everything, weigh, and strategise.
|Is there integrity in our education system ?
What about in IPG ?
Teachers would certainly be familiar with the strategic, tactical and operational planning documents or forms they are often called to prepare and their associated acronyms.
Although the preparation of documents such as these and others should be the result of concentrated discussion, honest reflection and deep thinking, more often than not they are just regarded as something to be done for filing purposes and because someone who is higher up on the educational hierarchy requires it.
So what takes precedence over absolute honesty in this case and other cases where forms and documents reflecting school performances need to be filled, is the perceived need for something to look good on paper even if it does not represent the entire truth.
Formats, fonts and presentation supersede meaning and sincere unbiased openness.
So year after year we see the same entries being made, the same things being written with a little bit of tweaking to accommodate current figures.
We have become so good at presenting or reporting what is expected of us rather than what actually is that at times we can rattle off answers to certain questions before they are even asked.
At times certain “adjustments” need to be made to actual data to maintain the status quo or to provide “evidence” of progress.
We are completely aware of the actual state of affairs, we know how many students turn up for co-curricular activities, how many of them can actually score an A in a subject, how certain projects were actually managed and yet because of the need to look good on paper, we need to accessorise our reports and make careful additions or omissions where necessary.
After the less than satisfactory results achieved by Malaysian students in international assessment rankings, a kind of alarm was set off in educational circles throughout the nation.
Special task force teams were created to look into methods of improvement in subject mastery with emphasis on skills which involve a higher order thinking like evaluation and analysis, many of which were found to be sadly lacking among our students.
Many of these initiatives are already being implemented throughout the country and involve teachers having to make strategic changes in teaching and assessment methods.
The proposed changes are laudable and considerable amounts of money have been spent in the effort to making these projects work. Despite the criticisms levelled at some of these changes there is a fair amount of optimism that given time, there will be real positive outcomes even if it is not in the measure that has been targeted.
And yet there is this niggling feeling behind it all that something that is so vital, so crucial, the link that can actually hold all this together, has not been given the needed emphasis or, perhaps been ignored altogether – the need for personal integrity.
Author, educator and activist Parker J. Palmer in his book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life says that “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher”.
When it comes down to brass tacks really no amount of training in methodology, funds allocated, glorious documentation or sophisticated equipment will make any real positive change without the presence of teaching integrity.
In the end everything comes down to the teacher in class who will have to implement these changes.
It will also depend on her level of conviction or faith in these programmes and her integrity in fulfilling the requirements.
The reason perhaps that personal and professional integrity has never been top of the list during training and development programmes among teachers is simply because it cannot be addressed this way.
Teachers who have been around a long time are familiar with the many ways directives can be adhered to without actually adhering.
We may have become so adept at this that at times we don’t stop to think twice about the rationale behind something we have been directed to do as long as we fulfil the requirements of those above us.
And those above us do likewise just to satisfy those above them and so ad infinitum.
Meanwhile the dust under the carpet gets thicker and the essence and meaning of education becomes increasingly diluted.
If there was more integrity in the entire system then most of its problems would be solved.
We will not need to keep cramming new programmes and new methods down to unwilling, uninspired, overworked teachers who in the end are left a little staggered and bewildered at what actually is expected of them.
If there was integrity, then our teachers and school leaders would be able to sit down and think and decide for themselves what it is their students need and how best to fulfil the need.
They would not need so many documents to decide and whatever reports or records they do produce on a student’s performance or needs would be authentic, truthful and accurate.
If there was integrity in the system, then all our teachers would have knowledge, substance and passion because it is we who have produced ourselves and we cannot create anything better than we ourselves are.
If there was integrity among all school heads, their priority would not be school rankings but the welfare of the students and making sure they receive an education in the true sense of the word.
Teachers who know their inadequacies in any area would because of personal integrity, seek to improve by honing their skills, research or through professional development.
At times it seems almost as if “integrity” has become just nominal in the education scene, a moral value that needs to be memorised for exam purposes or to be included in speeches but with very little meaning attached to it.
And yet the need for integrity is possibly never more essential than in the current education scene with so many planned changes.
But when you really think about it, it is not so much a change in methods or an influx of programmes that we need, as plain wholesome integrity unembellished by high-sounding labels or fancy acronyms.
As former US educator and senator Alan Simpson once said: If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.The STAR Home News Education 19/01/2014