EDUCATION Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin nipped in the bud a proposal to have nine-hour workdays for teachers ("Pioneer project on nine hour work day for teachers dropped" -- NST, Nov 19). It is a wise and considerate decision.
There are, however, other well- intentioned but poorly thought out proposals that have been turned into action plans.
One such case is a directive from a state Education Department that requires its teachers and headmasters to read at least six books in six months.
The teachers are also required to summarise the books in report cards which would then be submitted to the district education officers who would go through them and send copies to the state education director.
The intention to get the school populace to read is most laudable. I can understand if the ministry, state education departments, district education offices and schools promote and enforce the reading habit among students. Indeed, reading needs discipline and the habit needs cultivation. We have to start them young, enforcing it if need to.
But, to enforce reading at the teacher and even headmaster level is way off track and mind boggling. To the teachers, and headmasters especially, it is akin to belittling them at best and demoralising them at worse.
Firstly, reading is part and parcel of the teaching profession. Teachers, and more so headmasters, are not only supposed to read habitually but they are also expected to be role models for reading.
Reading defines and complements the teaching profession. It is an expected trait of all teachers, more so for headmasters.
Potential teachers sit for aptitude tests before they are recruited for training; headmasters and principals are selected from teachers who have performed exceptionally well.
If you have teachers and even headmasters who have to be forced to read, it reflects very badly on our selection processes for both teachers and school administrators.
It does not compute if teachers don't find the need to read. Why are they teachers? Why are they selected to be teachers, even headmasters, in the first place?
Secondly, the state directive requires teachers and headmasters to methodically submit their reading report cards to the district education officers.
We are looking at reading reports numbering at six times the number of teachers and headmasters in the district. It is a huge amount of words and pages, even to glance through.
Would the district officers concerned have the time to read through all those reports? Your guess is as good as mine. In any case, why do the officers need or want to read those summaries? How interesting and beneficial would these reports be to the officers anyway? It would be a futile exercise.
Thirdly, true-bred teachers and headmasters would read, whether there are directives or not. Do not burden them with having to write summaries of their reading. Isn't there already enough paperwork for teachers?
The "black sheep" in the teaching profession would not read even if there is a directive. They will find the easy way out to write that required summary or report.
And, I can assure you that this is not difficult with all the help from the computer and Internet. The district officers will be made to look like fools if they studiously read through all those summaries.
"Black sheep" teachers pose a bigger problem in schools. District and state education officers should bravely solve the real problem.
Would the state Education Department concerned be wise and considerate enough to withdraw the directive on reading to teachers and headmasters?
By Liong Kam Chong, Seremban, Negri Sembilan firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: TEACHING PROFESSION: Withdraw directive on reading - Letters to the Editor - New Straits Times 5 November 2011