There are good and bad apples in the teaching profession but with complaints of them being ineffective and complacent, others step in to do a better job.
WHEN the 2014 school term started in January, I sent a message to a friend who is a Chemistry teacher in a secondary school in Ipoh, Perak.
I had enquired about his 16-year-old daughter and how she was faring in the Science stream. This girl had passed with flying colours in the PMR examination last year and was now in Form Four.
He responded by saying that she wasn’t happy with her teachers and that the standard of teaching had drastically dropped especially in the Science subjects.
When I called him up later, he told me that he had no choice but to seek private tutors for his daughter.
And, for that, he will turn to any experienced teacher who not only cares but has the wherewithal to do a good job! He is willing to pay even if it costs him a lot.
Here is another story. I was invited to a banana leaf lunch for Thaiponggal (the harvest festival celebrated by many Malaysian Indians), by a couple whom I had recently met in an economically-deprived neighbourhood.
I was introduced to their children — a daughter and son aged 14 and 12 respectively. While the man’s daughter was studying in an urban government school, the boy was in a Tamil vernacular school.
The girl’s mother asked me if I offered tuition lessons and told me how her daughter was ignored in class by some of her teachers because she could not speak English well.
Their 17 year-old neighbour rela-ted how three of her teachers had told her that she ought to stop school and “just be a housewife” because it was a “waste of their time” to teach a “weak” student like her.
I am a retired teacher and it pains me to hear such stories. Although I have offered private tuition, I am not keen to do so this year.
My question is why are we becoming so dependent on the tuition phenomenon?”
My friend in Ipoh is fortunate because the tuition Cikgu that he plans to seek out, does exist.
Be it in school or outside, this dedicated group of effective teachers are the ones who are the backbone of good teaching in this country.
When I speak of “shadow teaching”, I am referring to the teachers who give tuition in private centres or in their homes.
Retired or otherwise, young or old, newly qualified or seasoned hands — the ones most sought after are those who are confident, competent and teach well.
The best of them know the syllabus of the subjects they teach at the back of their hands.
While their teaching is primarily geared towards success in examinations, there are also those who go beyond the call of this simple responsibility.
I have a 50-year-old teacher friend in Malacca, who uses interesting YouTube videos to teach Science to Form One students.
She communicates with her students through social media avenues such as Facebook and Whatsapp.
In other words, she knows the importance of communication and is interested in helping her students by keeping up with the times.
Both in and out of the classroom, passionate teachers are in great demand. Last year, during my old school reunion, I met one of my former teachers.
Although this lady is 75, her love for teaching is so deep and spiritual that her face grew animated when she told me stories of her tuition students.
Her concern for their emotional well-being was so honest that it radiated from her whole being.
Let’s face it — many Malaysian parents depend on shadow teachers more than the ones who are actively teaching in schools.
These private tutors have begun to play such a major role in the lives of our students that it worries me when I think of parents who can’t afford to pay for them.
Rural parents and those from lower-income categories, for instance, cannot afford to look outside the school gates for effective teachers.
They have no recourse but to hope and pray that things work out for their children at school with the teachers allotted to teach them!
Incidentally, when I talk about the efficacy of shadow teachers, I am not talking about the bad hats – the selfish business types and the sub-standard greedy teachers, who stop at nothing to grab a handful of cash from their students.
Be careful — because these sharks are out there too.
Aware of the lucrative returns of private education, they will entice you with false promises but in the end, not live up to their side of the bargain!
I am talking here about the real Cikgu – the genuine article!
These individuals are those who have spent years to hone their craft or if they are younger, are instinctively good, caring teachers.
Today, they are a commendable, private, part-time work force — working in tuition centres, in their own homes or on a voluntary basis in centres run by good Samaritans.
In this country, it’s the contribution of such teachers which is largely generating all the good results you hear about in the newspapers!
When taught by weak teachers, our children are indeed being short-changed at school.
As my neighbour’s Form Four son, who attends a top secondary school in the city recently said: “You can depend on some of them (teachers) but not all of them.”
He speaks excellent English and describes his History teacher as “phenomenally lazy, does not budge from her table, talks in an irritating drone, and is a general nag!”
The teacher he respects most is his Mathematics teacher whom he describes as follows: “This lady puts in a huge amount of effort to make sure we get it right.
“She marks our books diligently and if we do not understand any concept, she will teach patiently over and over again, using different examples, until we do!”
His Physical Education teacher, “is a cool dude and awesome – you can talk to him about anything! And, I mean – anything!”
And at the end of it all, the quality of education always boils down to the teachers, doesn’t it?
The good ones have knowledge, skills, intelligence, the right attitude, an engaging personality and strength of character.
As for the rest, they take it easy because no one is about to kick them out of their jobs.
They are so complacent and even have the audacity to tell their students: “If you don’t like my teaching, you go for tuition-lah!”
While I tabik hormat (salute and respect) the real Cikgu who’s dedicated and passionate about the job, I think it is high time the Education Ministry has a “shape up or ship out” policy for non-performing teachers who can’t, won’t and don’t teach well.
NITHYA SIDHHU The STAR Online Home News Education 16/02/2014