I HAD the opportunity to attend the National Dialogue on National Education in Kuching on May 26. During the dialogue which was moderated by Tan Sri Dr Wan Mohd Zahid Wan Nordin, I had a chance to voice my views on the selection and training of teachers, their workload, and the changes in our education system.
Those who came forward to air their opinions and proposals represented PTAs, public universities, teachers' unions, school heads, teacher education institutes, non-governmental organisations and teachers.
Such a dialogue is timely and a wise move by the Education Ministry.
I am sure all those involved as participants in these dialogues wish to see a point-to-point response from the Education Ministry to the justifiable proposals.
One of my concerns is the selection and training of teachers and the competence of teacher educators.
As reported in the New Sunday Times (May 27), among the proposals mooted by participants of the ongoing dialogues is improving teacher quality.
Since teachers play a major role in the education of children, their own education becomes a matter of vital concern.
Elements like professional ethics, professional skills, commitment, communication skills, pedagogical knowledge, and competencies on subject matter should be integrated in the teacher training curriculum in much greater magnitude to make them feel professionally empowered.
The duration for the compulsory teaching practicum or "internship" for pre-service teachers should be lengthened so as to adequately prepare them to become competent teachers.
The longer practicum period for pre-service teachers would enable them to have enough guided, supervised, and evaluated internship in schools before they are given certification as teachers.
This would provide them with a strong professional and career framework as newly qualified teachers.
What remains to be answered is how effective and competent teacher educators or lecturers in all the teacher education institutes or teacher training agencies are and their ability to train and educate the teachers to be effective and competent teachers.
The professional qualities and competencies of teacher educators or lecturers will determine the quality of the training of teachers.
This concern also calls for a rethinking regarding recruitment policies for teacher educators or lecturers and well-planned programmes of education for teacher educators or lecturers that corresponds to teacher preparation programmes.
Definitely, we do not want teachers to recall their teacher education courses with dismay. It would be worse if teachers said that important areas of knowledge were not made available to them or that they had had insufficient training such that they had to learn teaching skills on their own through trial and error.
A more rigorous accreditation standard for teacher education should be developed. Teacher educators or lecturers in the teacher education institutes and universities must have an adequate knowledge of three basics of schooling: curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.
Teacher preparation programmes should not only be academic in nature but must be adequately professional in content.
This will result in the acquisition of a higher level of teaching competency. Research on teaching and teacher effectiveness has provided many clues about how subject-matter preparation, pedagogical preparation, and opportunities for supervised internships or practicum influence teacher abilities.
Most importantly, the teacher preparation programmes in the teacher education institutes and universities should not be too far disconnected from the actual practices in schools.
As such, there is a need also for a review and revamp of teacher education as a whole, encompassing the teacher training curriculum and selection of teacher educators in our teacher education institutes.
Dr Dzulkiflee Abdullah, Bau, Sarawak
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 30 May 2012