Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Do We Teach Values

We have Pendidikan Moral and Pendidikan Sivik dan Kenegaraan in the school timetable. Values and civic mindedness - how do we teach them? Students have been poking fun at Pendidikan Moral for years. A student is expected to memorize the definition for each moral value and identify the moral values in situations given. Anyone can tell you the right thing to do. But not everyone can do the right thing.

The funny thing is both subjects are supposed to provide that missing link to a holistic education, turn us into better citizens. And on the same vein, we have Pendidikan Islam for the Muslim students. All 3 subjects have one similarity. They are subjects that deal mainly with the building of good character; for this world and the hereafter. One edge that Pendidikan Islam has over Pendidikan Moral is it is an examinable subject in PMR. Because of that proper teaching takes place. But soon it'll be on equal footing with Pendidikan Moral with the abolishment of PMR.

I've seen over the years, the sham of Moral Studies in lower forms. Students are often asked to go to the library or computer lab where they will be asked to do their own things. Teachers teaching Pendidikan Sivik and Kenegeraan would often replace their lessons with library periods. Sometimes I think such teachers are basically getting paid for sitting around, not doing what they are paid to do. It is also for this reason that many school heads and administrators opt to teach such subjects. It gives them the freedom from conscience if they skip classes. Teachers who teach such subjects have it really easy, I feel.

I recently went out for dinner with an old university mate. She posed me a question whether teachers ought to be put on a time-based promotion and get paid so much. According to her, Associate Professors with postgraduate qualifications are on the DG52 scale and we teachers get there too on time-based. It made me think of the examples I mentioned up there.... of those I know whom I'd rather not be teaching my own kids. Because I see around me, examples which make me wonder whether conscience really exists. And the alarming thing is they are teaching subjects which are supposed to develop a conscience.

According to the data given out by the Minister in this year's Teacher's Day speech, 390 teachers were promoted from DG52 to DG54, 676 from DG48 to DG52 and 3938 from DG44 to DG48. The time taken from DG41 (where all trachers start) to DG44 is 8 years with 8, 6 and 3 for the subsequent time based promotion requirements. One only needs to do his Maths to see the financial implications in the longer run too for the county, I mean. If salary goes up without an equal increase in productivity, any economist will tell you that is bad for the country.

Yet time based promotion is good for the group of teachers who are capable yet get bypassed for promotions. In a system like ours where race comes into play also, apart from the usual office politics, where promotion is concerned, there are few opportunities cos skin colour will always be a feature. As a result we see a lot of under performing schools these days, mainly because of poor leadership. And these days, I think even capable Malays are being bypassed. Once the rot starts, it spreads.

There are plenty of teachers who deserve the acknowledgement but there is also a big number who treats their vocation as a right, that the country owes them a living and not the other way around. And why is that so? Ours is a system of benevolence, one that works on a dasar ketuanan which uses race as a right. And that mentality has seeped everywhere!

So how do we teach values when subjects where values which are supposed to get caught apart from being taught become the sandpit which buries them. Kids watch and catch the values from our actions. Head knowledge is mainly to get the A(s). It doesn't mean that they will be keeping them even though they are well versed. And having multiple systems, vernacular, national and now international schools does not help national integration. Nor does it ensure proper learning of English too because everyone is busy being chauvinistic, championing their myopic rights. It is divisive.

So, time based promotion? Every teacher wants it cos it involves more pay and perks. But if we really do some soul searching and come clean, many of us will not deny that there are many teachers who are basically just hitching a ride and getting a good life out of it. I think if we dig deeper, we'll probably find the same problem besetting subjects like Literasi Komputer, Pendidikan Jasmani dan Kesihatan too. Many PJK teachers sit and watch their students.... in class or from under the shade or just send them to the library too.

Declining values... It's already difficult as it is to impart good values. But having poor examples as role models? I wonder. Listen when the kids talk about their school and teachers and you'll know what I mean. They're not as ignorant as we'd like to think of them. We can teach values but if we fail to show those values in our lives, they are noted by our learners and then ignored too. They learn by watching, remember?

Take a look around us... we now have political leaders who act as if they are above the law. Yesterday's news about the government suing the Bersih Steering Committee for losses is unbelievable too. For demanding a clean election process, we first had a court order to prevent a supposedly peaceful protest, followed by barb wires to keep the people out. And then there were the tear gas and chemical water sprays, police beatings, shutting down of the LRT stations to prevent people from leaving and then burger stalls and butt exercise outside the house of only one of the Steering Committee heads, who also happens to be a lady and an Indian. It should make us think why only Ambiga gets intimidated for demanding that we clean up our act.

Why not engage the Bersih demands? If a student comes to you with some grouses about the school about some things which he feels are unreasonable to the students, like being made to stand for assembly every morning. Do you engage him and discuss with him or do you come up with more punitive measures to shut him up? Do you go after the messenger and ignore the issue, especially if it's a valid issue. What do our actions imply about us then?

How did we ever arrive at this state? Did we teach our kids wrong? Didn't these people catch the right values from school? Whatever happened too to the religious teachings? Did it too get hijacked by the teachers? How did we ever end up with so many leaders who remain silent despite so many questionable incidents? Have we all been part of this 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine' culture. In recent years, we've had gua tolong lu, lu tolong gua becoming election catch phrases or baits to fish for more support. Well, however good some quarters may feel now, I think it will come back and hound us some day. As it is, bankruptcy may await us... but our journey there will also prove us bankrupt of morals and values too.

Teaching values... We teachers have to set ourselves right first too.

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