I READ with interest the front-page report "Degree a must for new teachers by 2020" (NST, June 6). It was heartening to read about the Education Ministry's Interim Strategic Education Plan 2011-2020 to improve the overall quality of teaching.
The report had cleared my concern over the selection and training of teachers and lectures raised in my letter "Revamp teacher training" (NST, May 30).
The report mentioned about rethinking the selection, recruitment, training and development of teachers and lecturers.
However, equally important is the knowledge, skills and attitude the teachers must possess in order to teach effectively. The mandatory pre-service training should impart and develop teachers' professional characteristics, knowledge, pedagogical and communication skills.
Upon completion of their training, these traits should be ingrained in teachers' souls. Hence, a significant component of preparing future teachers is to equip them with professional and personal qualities as teachers.
Teachers must possess the basic disposition and behaviour needed to be members of this profession.
One must become a teacher by choice and not by default. Teachers must possess the basic disposition and behaviour needed to be members of this profession.
One of the basic dispositions is a passion for teaching. Teachers with a passion for teaching are those who are committed, enthusiastic, and intellectually and emotionally energetic in their work with children, young people and adults. Additionally, they have acquired a set of professional competencies during courses and fieldwork.
The report also stated that the ministry would conduct pre-screenings to identify excellent teachers as early as the selection process itself. This implies that there is a need for rigorous standards for entry.
Teachers do not merely deliver the curriculum, but it is what they think, what they believe and what they do in classrooms that ultimately shape the kind of learning that pupils experience.
Therefore, only those who are enthusiastic about being a teacher and willing to accept the goals, values and demands of the profession, should be selected.
The introduction of MTest -- Malaysian Teachers Selection Test -- by the ministry in the selection process of candidates for training in teacher education institutes is a positive step to ensure only the best and suitable candidates are selected.
Elements in the selection tests and interview schedules should also cover interest in the profession, attitude, aptitude, intelligent quotient and emotional quotient tests, and work-related personality.
This ensures that only those who are seen as a good fit and have the passion for teaching are selected. Furthermore, with so many applicants and limited places in the teacher education institutes, the Teacher Education Division has the luxury of selecting the creme de la creme and not the crumbs.
Similarly, the introduction of MEdSI -- Malaysian Educators Selection Inventory -- by the Higher Education Ministry to select candidates for the Bachelor of Education programme in public universities is also the right step in selecting the best and most suitable candidates to become teachers.
The selection and recruitment processes undertaken by both ministries will ensure that only those who have the enthusiasm, interest, and passion for the job are selected and recruited.
The success of our education system depends on the qualifications and ability of the teaching profession generally, and on the human, pedagogical, and technical qualities of an individual teacher.
For example, pedagogical knowledge and teaching skills should not only be necessary, but given a heavier dose of it during their training so that teachers have a solid understanding of them and apply them in their teaching.
Therefore, preparation programmes for teachers must be concerned with how to make the knowledge of a teacher serve the needs of a learner.
Thus, the professional preparations of teachers for their jobs and the attainment of the prescribed competencies as qualified teachers have to be met.
These competencies should include knowledge and understanding of subject matter; planning, teaching, and classroom management; and monitoring, assessment, reporting and accountability.
Ultimately, they should always have in mind what they teach, how they teach and why they teach in the classroom and be able to make a difference to the learning and achievement of their pupils.
By Dr Dzulkiflee Abdullah, Bau, Sarawak
Source: New Straits Times Education Letters to the Editors 14 June 2012