Teaching was the hardest work I have ever done, and it remains the hardest work I’ve done to date - Ann Richards
I CAME across the above phrase by the late Ann Richards, who taught at a high school long after which she entered politics and became the Governor of Texas (1991 - 1995) in the United States.
It reflects my own thoughts about the noble profession.
Teaching has become a field that is seeing new development because of the ongoing changes to the nation’s education policies.
Education symbolises the cultural identity of a nation as it embodies its people’s attitude, values and knowledge.
To begin with, the success of any education policy begins with the teachers as they impart knowledge to the students.
Being a teacher, I have gone through some challenges in adapting to the many changes of the policies in question and most recently, the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2013-2025).
It is indeed a struggle for teachers to have a full understanding of policies and the “shifts” and “areas of reform” in the blueprint.
For a start, having instruction manuals and training might help teachers since changes do not happen overnight.
It will take some time for any teacher to grasp and have a good understanding of any new policy introduced.
This causes frustration because teachers and students will need to adopt and adapt to new changes and the evaluation of the success of a policy will at least take five to six years.
One of the problems teachers face is the limited time that they have in preparing a comprehensive lesson plan.
The school-based assessment (PBS) system has caused much havoc to the teacher’s daily routine.
Subject teachers haven’t the time to spend on teaching as their time is taken up keying online the details of their students.
The data includes the grades and the learning outcomes of every student.
More often than not, the servers are faulty and keying data of say, five students can take up to two hours!
Let me point out that while the assessment system may work well in other countries, it may not be a good idea to blindly follow such practices here as each country is unique in itself.
In many developed countries, each class has about 20 students compared to Malaysian classrooms where there can be up to 40 students or more!
There needs to be a win-win situation for both the ministry and teachers to minimise the teachers’ workload.
How can there be dynamic teachers when they are burdened with non-teaching chores?
Teachers are trained to their fullest potential and to be dynamic teachers.
Policies should be put in place to teach students and mould them with positive values.
We cannot produce students of calibre if the time spent between the teacher and their charges is inadequate.
Teachers want to deliver the best in the classroom as the success of a student reflects the ability of a teacher.
We need to stress that teaching is our core business and the new changes in the system has led to many of us suffering in silence.
Let me give you a little insight of what a classroom lesson is all about. Teaching a bunch of 40 to 45 energetic students can be a challenge.
Teaching is not as easy as many people think. Students have learning abilities and skills but they are not of the same level.
On any given day, a teacher has to prepare a lesson plan that caters to a classful of students with different learning abilities.
It is no easy task and a dedicated teacher needs to come up with an effective plan.
The input of the teacher is very crucial here as this will help to facilitate successful classroom learning.
Teachers need to focus on the topic and skills and prepare worksheets according to the students’ ability in the classroom.
Teachers have to in many instances simplify tasks for the development of a positive young mind.
Imagine a teacher preparing five different worksheets just for one class.
A teacher teaches four to five classes comprising 45 students per class. That’s not all — exercise books and workbooks have to be marked and homework which is an ongoing process has to be carried out and checked.
These tasks are ongoing as teachers continue to prepare lessons for the next day and the next, including worksheets and props for the teaching lesson.
Apart from lesson plans, teachers need to interact with their charges and spend quality time so as to know how young minds think and act.
The interaction is of utmost importance as there is no way students can give their best without the input and attention of their mentors.
Teachers like other stake holders are keen to facilitate and provide positive learning outcomes to students which in turn will produce holistic individuals.
We have the capacity to produce good and excellent students, but there are other underlying academic issues that need to be addressed.
Teachers are between cross-roads and cannot go against any education policy. They are often criticised and dragged in on all matters relating to the development of education in Malaysia.
Many of the issues are exaggerated and without any detailed findings.
This causes a lot of anxiety among teachers since they are blamed for matters that may be out of their scope.
There may also be other underlying issues that could be out of their jurisdiction.
While some policies may work in other countries, local officers formulating education policies must not be easily convinced by foreign experts.
What works well in another country may not necessarily work wonders in the local school system and ministry officials must take note of this crucial point.
These officials must take into consideration only the views of Malaysian scholars, teachers and academicians when coming up with policies instead of allowing the decisions to be politically motivated.
We could adapt and adopt other policies from other nations but remember any new policy must first look into local and national needs and existing factors.
We have our plus points and our limitations and that cannot be ignored.
Do not make the teachers and the students the scapegoats or the subject of research and experiment.
Education is not a political weapon. The rise and fall of a nation depends on an education system that nurtures young minds.
ANNE MALAR SELVARAJ The STAR Home News Education 09/03/2014