Thursday, April 14, 2011


When I picked teaching to be a career, frankly speaking, I was attracted more by the working hours than anything. Back then, I was ambitious too and because of that was drawn to the corporate sector; in fact I secured a few job offers even before I sat for my last paper of my final term exam. I was that driven! LOL! While my friends were still busy trying to enjoy their last few months of their uni life, I started scouring the ads for jobs. I was in a hurry to go earn my own living so as not to be a burden to my parents.

But... there's always a but. I was also intending to get married. Somehow, that got me to pause a while. Dad told me to go back to uni and complete my Dip Ed and then consider my options again in a year. I took his advice. So after working for just 3 months, I quit my job and went back to school. And that's how I ended up being a teacher.

I enjoyed being a teacher almost immediately even though my first posting was to a rural area. I found that I was okay with teenagers. Even back then, my students would come over to our quarters in the evenings. My first batch of student had also been without an English teacher for 5 months before I reported for work. The passing percentage for PMR the preceding year was a mere 20 something percent. The school was desperate for a teacher. And so, that's how I, a young rookie with no experience, ended up teaching the whole Form 3 of 5 classes from May that year. I put my heart to the job... drawing from memory how my teachers taught me...

That year, the students surprised us... passing percentage went up by almost double. Almost half the students passed. I learned lots too from my 15-year-olds, being rather innocent back then. LOL! Some shocked me to the core! The students did well not because I had a magic formula but because I hardly missed classes with them.... I learned this early on. Teachers should minimize missing classes. Also, I did lots of written work. The effect of the work frequency showed cos by the end of the 6 months, some who could not write could manage comprehensible sentences. And I made sure I marked their work individually, often time, putting down my comments in their books. But I wasn't particularly close to them as I believed that there should always be a line drawn between a teacher and student. Today I still occasionally bump into some of these students, as I did not too long ago in Penang. The young lady had fond memories of those years when I taught them apparently....

Fast forward 2 decades... I still teach, though more and more I have entertained the idea of perhaps quitting. The problem is I haven't yet figured out what I want to do. Teaching the kids is still fun. I still enjoy it. But for me, I find the passing years showing lack of good leadership for our education. It's rather frustrating seeing all the imbalances, the inefficiency, the work ethics.... There is also a lack of imagination among policy planners.

Visions we have plenty but we seem to be feeling our way in semi-darkness. We don't seem to be empowering them to assume responsibility for their own learning. If anything is to go by, we spoon feed them and lull them into blissful complacency. Neither do we enable them to reach their maximum potential. And rarely do we engage them in the manner that would inspire them to develop deeper knowledge and skills in problem solving and creativity. We have mobile learning, online learning, digital aid, technology. Put it this way, education has never been this giddying. Social media is changing the landscape of education in ways I never imagined.

But the disappointing thing is what I perceive to be the deteriorating quality of teachers. Oh sure! Teachers today can do all sorts of things like decorating the halls, producing beautiful paperwork, etc, etc. But there seems to be this lack of imagination and substance in many of us. Education is supposed to be lifelong these days. We teachers are supposed to be at the forefront of this... to be practitioners of lifelong education. But most of us fall short. And these days, they say lifelong alone is not enough. It has also to go lifewide, which is learning in different spaces simultaneously as opposed to learning in different spaces of one's life. I think it basically refers to multi-tasking or multi-learning.

And racism... it's ever alive in teaching too. The number of teachers do not really reflect our racial composition any more. But I think I think this is not very important. What's important is we filled our vacancies with qualified (not just on paper) to teach and inspire. Cos as it is, promotions are hard to come by... even among the Malays. I see some of my Malay colleagues who are really capable and bold... they usually get bypassed by some others who can butter-up and answer 'yes' to the bosses. Your upward climb is based more on whether you can be a first class 'kaki bodek'. We lose many good potential leaders this way.

And so because of that, very often our core duties (teach, assess) are often overlooked. And we are constantly reminded that where teaching is concerned, everyone is the same. How is it possible? You can walk past a class and it would be noisy, with students walking all over even though the teacher is in. Or you can walk past the next class and find it quiet. Or you could open up an exercise book and find it marked mostly with a long tick or open up another one with detailed marking. But in the end it's the former who gets everything while the latter continues to run in one spot.

PM said meritocracy is the way to go. I say it's more crap than truth. The patronage system is still very much alive, albeit a smaller scale. But it's the kecil-kecil thing that causes birth to the bukit... hence the saying sikit-sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit. And I've not even touched on the curriculum yet.

As a result, at every tier now, you'll find them filled by the 'yes' (wo)man. To be that is good but sometimes we need the boldness to go against the tide especially when carrying out policies and programmes that do no better for the kids. And that unfortunately is something that's rare these days. Also, because we have many who are not well-read or exposed to the ever changing landscape of education, we get many directives which often look good on paper but are horrendously wasteful of our resources.

But then again what's there to improve. Our SPM results keep improving every year. This year we even leaped 1000+ candidates in terms of straight A(s). And countless others did very well too. The general perception is our graduates are lesser in many departments, but the results indicate otherwise... something is not giving somewhere.

1 comment:

PreciousPearl said...

careful... the grass is always greener on the other side, and the working hours can be debilitating for family life in the private sector if not carefully managed

my 2p for today :)