Thursday, June 01, 2006

Teachers Hold The Key

The New Sunday Times two weeks back carried an interview with Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad, a former education director-general. Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad is now the Chancellor for University College Sedaya International (UCSI). It was a fairly long interview which covered a few key issues in Malaysia's education sector, but one thing struck a major chord – teachers hold the key to our children's future.
His logic for placing the teaching profession above all others is simple. "How can the mediocre (teachers) produce the best (students)?"
Hence Abdul Rahman advocates a radical reform such that the teaching profession should be recognised as a separate and distinct profession from other civil servants. And one can achieve that "[b]y selecting only the best and paying them well... Make it so difficult yet attractive for one to enter the profession". I've written on “Quality Teachers” before and I completely agree with the statement.

Abdul Rahman also rightly argued that reform is required because the nature and role of modern day teachers have changed significantly, and particularly in recent years.
Modern-day teachers, Abdul Rahman stresses, can no longer be reservoirs of knowledge in the mould of their predecessors because of the information age in which individuals, children in particular, absorb knowledge in leaps and bounds. Hence, the need for a "new orientation of the mind" among teachers...
He also correctly noted that other successful countries “have invested enormously in attracting highly qualified candidates to join their teaching workforce which is responsible for nurturing their human capital.”

So, are our authorities listening? As written before, our retired civil servants seem to have found a voice in recent years, frequently advocating policy changes and reforms which are reasoned and pragmatic. And that's good, because the authorities are more likely to listen to them than the noisy bloggers like us :).

The reaction to date though, seems to be a tad mixed. Our Minister of Education had earlier talked about converting teacher training institutes into degree awarding colleges, which in my opinion is purely cosmetic in nature. However, on the same day the interview was published, our Minister of Education, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced that it will be more difficult to become a teacher from next year.
In an effort to upgrade the profession, the enrolment criteria for teaching courses in colleges and universities will be made more stringent... "We want teachers who are really committed."
Our Prime Minister who shared the stage with the Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Husein, commented that the teaching profession should be a profession of choice.
"If it is not your main career choice, then you won't be teaching sincerely or with passion. Hence, your teaching methods will not be of quality."
Hence from next year, teachers graduating from teacher training colleges would not be guaranteed jobs by the Government. Our Minister of Education claims that he will “not compromise” on this issue. Or will it be “same old, same old”?

As highlighted by Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Arshad, he has been “down the road before, Malaysia's education challenges are tough and constant policy pronouncements are easier made than delivered.” We need to be bold, we need to be brave. The authorities need to have the resolve to withstand short term pain and implement the policies they have advocated to benefit Malaysia in the medium long term.


Anonymous said...

It is alright to say about the children's future what about the teacher's future. With bad and low pay and poor terms and conditions some schools and colleges not even paying their salaries due to teachers what future does the teacher have nevertheless the children. Put the cart before the horse rather than the horse before the cart which is what I see being done. Secondly, teachers and lecturers are suppose to be quiet about their rights as employees but often they get exploited. Not part time teachers and doing the job of full time ones which have resigned due to poor working conditions. What hope does society have if this vicious cycle of mistreatment of teachers and lecturers keeps going on?

Anonymous said...

Treatment of teachers doesn't sound too good. Longer hours and less pay. What good is it becoming a teacher?

Anonymous said...

I don't really agree that teachers are under paid. I have friends who are teachers and their earning are almost the same as mine (plus minus 100), (we are both graduates, similar working years). Teaching is also a good profession for those who like to make extra income.They also enjoy long holidays and other benefits. The only thing that restrain me from becoming teacher is that I am not good with children.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the money isn't it? Teachers, doctors, lawyers they are all the same. Their main motivation is not their students. They're more concerned about their pay. They are not passionate about the job. They are not willing to make sacrifices. They keep grumbling and saying 'if you don't pay me more, to hell with the students, either I slack or I quit'. What is wrong with them? Doesn't seem like a noble profession to me. At least those black sheep who complain all day and give tonnes of unexceptable excuses not to teach properly portray it that way.

Anonymous said...

Please do you live on fresh air and sunshine?

Anonymous said...

why dont these very senior education officers make such comments when they were in a position to do so? Why make comments after leaving the services?
All these hypocrysies and pretendings make me sick!
I think the bloggers here make more positive comments about the education system than the ex director general of education...
Politics are everywhere..

Anonymous said...

I've been keeping up with this blog once in a while and found it very informative and stimulating. Bravo and thank you, at least there are so many people out there caring for the education of our nation. I agree wholeheartedly with the comment - how can mediocore teachers produce the best students?
We have pools of talents in Malaysia with regards to the teaching profession. Abdul Rahman is right in saying that we need to elevate the profession of teaching (after all, it really is a 'profession'). Weed out the ones are entering in because they can't do anything else (those who can't...go get other jobs). As for remuneration issues, I would say it is only fair that teachers get paid for all the stress they go through in school. Let me qualify that. I'm now lecturing in a private college (by the way, I only get annual leave days on par with any other private sector jobs - less than 15 days). Standing up in front of the class to lecture may seem easy, but take it as trying to give a presentation everyday sometimes for 8 hours where you're trying your best to engage the minds of a generation with short attention span and often spoonfed from over 17 years in our education system. Plus, preparation means crunching, digesting material and information and organizing the information in such a way that it'll be easily absorbed by the audience. Plus, handling exco-curricular activities on top of that, organizing and chasing deadlines for things to get done. Loads of mental strains on teachers. (I'm aware of the paperwork which I thankfully don't have too much of in my college, compared to government school teachers) Teachers need to upgrade their information too. Sure, they do have it easier after teaching the same old subject having all the notes they've made. That's when they need new input through training and updating their knowledge every now and then, learn new methodologies etc.
I understand how easily tempted I am to shut off and be lazy when it comes to giving my 100% in class, especially when faced with the task of motivating many students who think they're hopeless cases. Which brings me to the point that teaching requires tremendous mental strength to deal with the psychology of motivating students as well. It's much easier to shout, berate your students for being dumb (after all, it's easier to teach rather than to engage minds, it's much easier when they all shut up and listen too). Plus, we're also contending the changing fabric of society with more latch key children, emotionally neglected children going into all sorts of temptations out there.
I may not be eloquent right now in expressing my thoughts after a long day's work, but it's really crucial for our nation's future that the teaching profession be raised as a serious profession, to bring back its shine as a noble profession. Speaking about brain drains, isn't it true that the teaching profession within Malaysia is facing a brain drain with many bright, enthusiastic individuals being siphoned off to other more dignified, higher paid careers in medicine, law (that's another story about the high pay) engineering etc?

p.s. I've taught students from other Asian countries and in Vietnam, teachers are held second in esteem next to mothers as they're recognized as key in the area of nation-building, moulding moral characters, etc. Teachers are equally respected in Korea, Taiwan and China. What happened here?

a brain-drained lecturer :-)

Anonymous said...

..we understand you Sir.

They always say.."the hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which the authorities somehow does not see.."

signed by:


Anonymous said...

imagine if u r a teacher in a class where half of the number cant read and write properly and they are in the secondary school and an officer (the inspectorate) observing how u r teaching and managing the class.....

Anonymous said...

Dont worry if the Inspectorate is a member of BN, no problem! He will give you distinctions for exceptional teachings!

Anonymous said...

To the Teacher!
Be brave! Dont fear !be truthful! If you have to fail the students, fail them if they deserve it!
Let your conscience be the guide!

Anonymous said...

i am a teacher in india with nearly 15 years experience. i was one of the 16 teachers selected for an efl training in hamline university by the u s govt. last year. now iam thinking of relocating to another country where teachers are better paid. any suggestion

pnnz said...

since a lot of people here seem to know what they are talking about, I am curious to find out what do Malaysians mean when they talk about a "good teacher"?

I'm a teacher myself but often what I deem as good for my students is different from what parents want. Most parents care so much about how their children are performing academically that is, how they score in exams.

My definition of a good teacher and good teaching practices may differ with the parents'.

I don't mean to sound arrogant when I say I a teacher with an Education degree (a B. Ed. degree AND no, I'm not a KPLI teacher or a Dip. Ed. teacher who had only 1 year or so of training as a teacher), and I think I'd know a bit about education and the current needs of our children.

I am honestly curious because I face a dilemma everyday when working with my kids at school. Do i just prep them for their exams or do I do things with them that will help them develop into a more wholesome individuals? Do I do drills on exam papers with them or do I help them develop regardless whether their potential is academically inclined or not?

So, Malaysians. I'm asking a simple question. What do you mean by a 'good teacher'?

Anonymous said...

Almost all comments are annonymous. Fear of the Malaysian government for speaking the mind? Is there freedom with so much fear? Can education flourish with so much fear?