Thursday, May 12, 2005

Quality Teachers

In the Star today, our education minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has announced that in a bid to "enhance the quality of teachers in the country", "all teacher training colleges may soon be elevated to teacher education institutes (IPGs)".

Instead of providing a teacher training course at diploma level, IPGs would offer degree programmes to meet the target of having only graduate teachers in secondary schools and 50% graduate teachers in primary schools by 2010.
It is laudable that the Mininstry of Education (MOE) have identified the quality of teachers being one of the key factors in producing quality students and graduates from our education system. Some of the common remarks (although I've yet to see a detailed study) made with regards to teachers today are not very flattering. They have included being "very poor in English language", "disinterested in teaching" as well as being of poor quality because "the newer recruits are that of graduates who were not able to seek employment elsewhere".

However, MOE should note that a superficial change and rise in status of training colleges to IPGs, and awards of degree programs instead of diplomas will not solve the problems we face today. It is a similar problem faced by many "universities" today. Over the last 5-8 years, many polytechnics have been converted to universities in the country in a bid to improve the "quality of education" and increase the number of degree graduates. What the conversion has managed to do is to successfully increase the number of degree graduates but without being able to significantly improve the quality of education - hence you are getting diploma graduates masked as degree holders. Given that scenario, it's not surprising that the number of degree holders who are jobless have increased significantly. What I'd really be interested in, will be to find out which institutions have our jobless degree holders graduated from (if someone can provide me with these statistics, that'll be great!)

Given the above, it's to a certain extent comforting to hear our Education Minister outlined:

... four strategies to elevate the teaching profession – enhancing the selection of teacher trainees, improving the teaching environment, restoring regard for teachers in society and promoting pride in teachers.

“There have already been some positive developments, such as the new promotional opportunities for excellent principals and teachers to the Special Grade C (Jusa C) category."
Of the strategies outlined, I would regard "enhancing the selection of teacher trainees" as being the most important. For if the quality of recruits are high, these new teachers will perform credibly even in adverse circumstances for the other 3 factors mentioned. As highlighted by one of the comments on an earlier posting, there are many teachers who were of great quality and have produced brilliant students in the past, even though the facilities and environment are probably no where near what's available today. I'm a firm believer that if the new recruits to the teaching colleges are of poor quality (for e.g., diploma or degree graduates who can't find work in the private or even public sector), then the maxim of "rubbish in, rubbish out" will apply.

Hence, one of the key reforms that are required by our education system (and as highlighted briefly on my posting on model schools) is the wage structure for teachers in Malaysia. I am certain that not even the Malaysian MOE will doubt the quality of education in Singapore, and the number 1 lesson we should pick from them (if nothing else) is to remunerate our teachers near to private sector levels. Our quality fresh graduates are paid between RM1,600 to RM2,200 in the private sector today. The new teachers with at least a good second class upper degree (say, CGPA > 3.0), should be paid at least RM1,500, if not more at RM1,800. All the other factors such as " to improve the lot of teachers, the ministry has commissioned a review of teachers’ workload" are not significantly useful. To me, even if a new graduate has the potential to be a great teacher, and has strong interest in being a teacher, it seems obvious to me that 9 out of 10 such cases will opt for a private sector position paying RM2,000 as opposed to a teaching profession today paying in the region of RM1,200 (with insignificant increments as well!). I would strongly argue for the case of lifting more of our diesel and petrol subsidies, if these subsidies are then diverted to pay our teachers. I am certain some RM6.7 billion of funds is more than sufficient to attract quality teachers to the profession, and this investment will be priceless to our future.

The Minister has also stated that:

“I have noticed that only teachers who take pride in their profession will strive to produce champions."

I agree with the above statement by the Minister. And consistent with my argument above, attracting the higher quality graduates to be teachers will likely create a pool of teachers who will take more "pride" in their profession. Poorer quality recruits will understandably have less pride in their work (there's a reason why they are "poorer"). The Minister has added:

“It is my hope that our education system will continue to be blessed with such teachers"
Yes, we all hope so too. :)

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Changing name = improvement of quality?

Seems simplicity to me.

Cindy