THE Education Revamp Committee will deliberate on nine areas of our education system. "Teachers" is one of these areas.
The clarion call of today's teachers seems to be "Let Teachers Teach". Teachers lament that they are unable to concentrate on their teaching because too many non-teaching activities or responsibilities are thrust upon them.
There are the numerous analyses to do; reports to write; data to enter online; meetings, functions, seminars and workshops to attend; co-curricular activities to lead or guide; sports and games to coach; students to counsel; parents to engage or collaborate, and others.
Granted that some of these activities do have educational value that may indirectly contribute to classroom teaching effectiveness, teachers are not happy at the seemingly uncoordinated and inordinate manner by which they are called upon to be involved.
The contention is that much of the "paperwork" teachers are required to do served only the purposes of officials higher up.
Teachers do not see any direct or relevant benefits of these to their charges.
With all these distractions, the committed teachers are worried sick that they may labour in vain in their classroom teaching; or they have themselves burnt out. Others may have already insidiously thrown in the towel.
On the other hand, the less-than-responsible ones are enjoying the "outings" and "deviations" and unashamedly claim that teaching is after all an "easy" life. For the newly recruited teachers, this is indeed a confusing scenario.
Assuredly, there is a case for the ministry, state department and district offices of education to better coordinate and reassess the need for the loads of paperwork they are pouring down on schools and for the feedback to be uploaded usually in a maddeningly short time.
On the other hand, teachers must also recognise that some extracurricular activities are essential and, therefore, rightly become part and parcel of their duties.
Yet, with consent, approval and support from the authorities higher up, schools can do better. Here are my thoughts and suggestions.
A normal secondary day school with a student population of around 2,000 and running two sessions, will have a principal, three senior assistants, an afternoon supervisor, four heads of academic departments, five student counsellors and a teaching staff of about 120.
This means that the school has a total of 14 administrator-teachers, that is, about 12 per cent of the staff. Premier and other schools of acclaim are even better endowed in this respect. Smaller schools need no afternoon supervisors, have a proportionate number of counsellors while other positions are all intact.
These school administrators are called administrator-teachers because besides administering and managing their respective "office", they are required to also teach some (10 to 14) periods a week.
This may seem minimal compared with a normal teacher's load of 24 to 28 periods.
But consider the minds of these administrator-teachers. Their first concern must be that they administer well the "office" they have been promoted and assigned to. They must also realise that what they do and decide now affects more than their own classes. They are helping to administer the whole school.
Their teaching periods may average two per day. But the timetable could be such that it is one period in the early half of the day and the other period in the latter half of the day. Being conscientious and committed (why else are they promoted?), they are teachers who want to do excellently well in all their given tasks.
So, it is not just about going into classes for those 40 minutes per period. There must also be the necessary preparations to ensure that each lesson is enriching and benefiting to their charges. Even a two-period day has a full-day mental engagement for these committed administrator-teachers.
Usually, they are torn between the demands of their administrative offices and the teaching needs of their classes.
More often than not, our school structures and expectations being such, their administrative duties take precedence. To accommodate, the more experienced administrator-teachers opt to teach "less important" subjects and classes. This has resulted in their teaching becoming, much to their own chagrin, less than exemplary to their colleagues. And, worse, those less-than-responsible ones make comments and use this to justify their own lackadaisical demeanour.
This sad scenario begets the question: why not allow the administrator-teachers to be full-time administrators? They can then just focus and concentrate on the administrative tasks, take over much of the "paperwork" now being assigned to teachers, "represent" the teachers in many of those out-of-school activities and, most importantly, remove those burdens that are not teaching-centric from teachers.
After all, these administrator-teachers have to prove their efficiency and effectiveness in administration rather than teaching for their next career upward move. And, which officials in the district office, state department or Education Ministry are required to teach a few periods per week? They are all former teachers though.
So, we need a transformational change here. Would the ministry allow schools to be administered by full-time administrators who were teachers before?
We do not want to see a scenario as at present, where full-time teachers need to do part-time administrative work and appointed administrators have to be also part-time teachers. The present arrangement is certainly a "lose-lose" situation. Let's turn it around to be a win-win proposal.
Only then, I believe, would teachers' aspiration "Let Teachers Teach" be fully realised.
By Liong Kam Chong, Seremban, Negri Sembilan
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 24 April 2012