Wednesday, August 10, 2011

School Is....

School is boring.... to many kids. But I think that doesn't mean that there is no fun at all, either. I think the fun is in getting together with friends, the socializing that takes place, the opportunity to just be around people. But where lessons a concerned, I think our pedagogical approaches are archaic. The demands are beyond many kids that they are not able to cope.

School used to be fun for me. There were co-curricular activities which I enjoyed tremendously, like the band, badminton, athletics and some of the society competitions. Then, of course there was the MYF, which kept us occupied, challenged us, basically making sure we stayed on the path. So, the confines of the four walls of a classroom were quite bearable. Then again, maybe I was lucky. I had a good school with great teachers!

Recently one of my classes was shifted into another room which was also a resource room. I walked in and the first thing I noticed was bird droppings everywhere! And the students had already cleaned it up somewhat! Then as I proceeded to teach, a few birds perched themselves at the ventilation windows and chirped away. They were so noisy, so I took a broom and banged on the windows. Yup! They flew away, but only momentarily. They came back, even noisier. I gave up trying to out-voice them. The class was hot. It's uncomfortable. By 10.00 a.m., what more with the fasting month, the boys were off to Zzzzland. Somehow, it's always the boys who give in. Is that why they grow up into men with less self discipline that women have to be garbed extra so that they avoid sinning? Global temperature has gone up. Generally, the surrounding is hotter these days cos we keep chopping down be trees. And uniform materials are not exactly the most comfortable for this tropical weather.

Academic subjects... there are just too many of them. At 16, it's important that we realize we either have to channel them to fields that interest them or they'll just drift away. If things hold no meaning or purpose, it's hard to jut plod on for these marginal minds. For many, that's what happens cos they cannot cope. You cannot expect kids who cannot do something even mediocrely well to be interested at all in lessons!

Classroom size is still big. I'm considered more fortunate. My average per class is 30. There are some schools (especially Chinese schools) which need to grapple with 40+ students per class! But with three quarter of more not able to make sense of lessons, it feels like a hopeless cause. So, if a kid cannot cope, how can you expect him to be interested? I have 2 Fourth Formers who did not sit for their PMR. They missed school for months when they were in Form 3! They came back to school for their own reasons. But being too long away... they're just too far gone. Vocational training might have been a viable alternative. But some smart alec of a Minister of Education took that out long time ago... so these kids continue to exist in the school system, unable to cope.

These days many schools offer one vocational subject as an elective. But with discipline and willpower cracking everywhere, even that one vocational subject does not help much, what with the attitude sinking into an abyss of their own making.

Too much emphasis on religion at school. I notice many seem to think that religion is a cure all for behavioral ailments. So we organize one ceramah after another, hold session after session of prayers, invite speakers to give religious talks, hold religious activities, pray before every lesson... use religion to chide them for misbehaviors.... the list goes on. Well, guess what? The kids aren't getting any better. If what I see is to be a yardstick, morality seems to be on the decline. Unwanted pregnancies, blatant show of semi nudity via mobiles and social networks, drugs, smoking, disciplinary problems... having a religion labelled to a race or name does not make one good. Good attitude are inculcated, not preached only. There are no short cuts or quick ways. Good attitude is also caught by watching.... and these days, good role models are rare species too.

I had a father coming to see me one day. He was wrought with worries about his son and bewildered too cos he had just taken his son to perform the umrah in Mecca, hoping that his boy would change and turn over a new leaf. Now this is a boy who has the brains to study but he has been failing. He couldn't understand why his son was not touched by 'his experience with God' in the Holy Land. I've learned it from raising my own kids. Faith and convictions do not come by attendance or presence. It comes by watching those around us practicing it. We have leaders who are reportedly buying 24 million ring or living lavishly. Take the church raid for example. What we are teaching the youngsters is it's okay to be a big bully, just as long as you think you are right. In our saner moments, I'm sure everyone of us knows how unreliable we can be because we go into an emo state too. Emo people are highly unstable and make poor judgements. People given the authority; we're not getting many good role models from there too.

Or a teacher who is always missing in action during her classes. Or one who doesn't bat an eye lid when ethics be damned. What kind of role models do they make? Teachers who purportedly 'give' out questions to the students to practice before tests. Yet we find more of these dubious characters in schools today. School has become a place where the subtle lessons seem to be how to lead a double life. Kids will cheat. Man will cheat. It's trying to stay straight or walk that narrower path that needs effort.

Sadly too, many religious teachers seem to exhibit actions which are deemed unacceptable; like sleeping in the staffroom or worse still, classrooms. And what if an agama teacher also 'leaks' out test questions to students for trial runs? What values are we passing on? Teachers conduct businesses at school. Over the years, I've overhead snide remarks about the Staff Room being a pasar malam. Faith by watching... tell me, aren't we teaching hypocrisy?

Textbooks are boring! We use the same textbooks for umpteen years. It's time we go digital. Instead of the 1Malaysia Netbook which is a waste of taxpayers' money, we should be developing digital textbooks, equipping schools with tools such as iPads or one of those Android based tablets. Instead we waste our resources because some politicians need to dole out goodies to score points. The 1Malaysia Netbook was rampantly abused. Teachers' children who are not supposed to get them (because they would not have qualified if family income is more than 3K) got them. The people entrusted to distribute abuse that trust too. And they are teachers! Else how did the teachers' children end up getting the computers? It's hard to find graduate teachers earning less than 3K, especially if their kids are already secondary school going. The students are neither blind nor stupid. They learn their lessons by watching those around them. School is where the crisis is now... a crisis which ripple effects are felt socially too.

So while we read news making big hoo-hahs over things that are haram or halal, we have so many haram actions and deeds going on. Makes you wonder if at all those hoos and hahs are only made when the intention is to create a 'you' verses 'we' mentality or perhaps related to the almighty RM or we're just plain lazy to work hard...... cos the right state of mind will tell us that right or wrong. Most of the time, they're pretty clear.

More technologically advance, more sophisticated, better lifestyle, more wealth, better facilities.... yet we seem to be regressing. Or maybe I'm just one of those flers who like to lament about the good old days.

2 comments:

Thomas C B Chua said...

AJ 7, so sad, no change since I left.What the nonsense I read about "Sekolah Cemerlang," " Sekolah Harapan" etc etc ?

AJ7 said...

Slogans? Phrases to make us feel that we are cemerlang, when we might be falling short. Pulling wool over our eyes? More of everything, but not necessarily better.