August 19, 2016

Time to wake up, teachers!

All citizens will welcome the news in the local newspapers that 100,000 more teachers are to be recruited as primary teachers in the 2016-2017 financial year, as education plays a pivotal role in the country’s development, more so, in the defining moments of transition to democracy, development and decentralization.
Those familiar with the tasks of the education sector will know that there are five main areas in the sector: teacher, student, administrator, curriculum and courses, and facilities.  As a former teacher, among them, I regard teachers as being the most important. No matter how weak the students are, no matter how backward the curriculum and courses are, no matter how inefficient and slow to take action the administrators are, and no matter how poor the facilities are, weak students can become inspired to become good learners by a skilled teacher; an outdated curriculum and courses can be updated in the hands of a teacher with progressive ideas; the short comings of administrators can be remedied by the dynamism of the teacher; and the poor quality of facilities can be improved with the creative efforts of the teacher.  On the other hand, no matter how capable the students are, no matter how high the quality of the curriculum and learning materials are, and no matter how modern the learning facilities are, they mean little, if teachers do not put in the necessary efforts, or do not keep learning.
It must be pointed out that however highly developed a country is, not all persons who want to join the teaching profession will possess the intellectual capacity, the determination, the motivation, or the spirit of sacrifice to improve themselves, or the teaching-learning situation demanded by the profession. In my opinion, the key to success in education is that those who want to become teachers must enter the profession with open eyes and are fully aware of the many roles expected of them, and the sacrifices they have to make, so that, in the long run, they are not overwhelmed by the multifaceted demands of the job, and become disappointed with the work, and unfulfilled expectations. They should join the profession fully aware that, teaching involves a lot more than explaining things to students, and that it entails a variety of sacrifices regarding time, money, health, family interest and personal ambitions.
Persons who have the ambition to become teachers should also know that if they become teachers, they will have to behave impeccably, as they are regarded by Myanmar society as models of honesty, morality, humility and industriousness. One of the worst acts of money-grubbing teachers is luring their students to their tuition classes with promises of access to question papers and high position in the examination results.  Instead of improving the ability of students, school-teachers-cum-tuition-teachers turn their tuition students into parrots by making them memorize the answers to tests. What is even worse is that they mistreat those students who do not, or cannot attend their tuition classes.
Those who intend to become teachers need to also know that they have to give more time than the designated working hours for lesson preparation, correction, remedial teaching, and helping solve the many academic and personal problems faced by their students. At school, every minute counts in training students to become healthy, capable, young persons who will not only be of credit to their families, but also to their society.
The would-be teachers should also know that teachers need to have a certain level of intelligence because they need to not only teach students academic subjects but also a variety of areas, such as ethics, life skills which includes knowledge about the world around them, healthy living, nutrition, conserving the environment, and how to face natural disasters, and social skills in order to learn how to interact in different situations and how to get along with people in order to nurture well-rounded persons. Therefore, so that they will be able to keep themselves abreast with new trends and be able to provide the latest knowledge to their students, teachers need to keep pace with new developments, in the academic as well as other relevant fields by reading extensively and attending training programmes whenever the opportunity arises. In addition, they must appreciate that for the sake of their students, they must be able to keep changing themselves and be adaptable, and prove wrong the prevailing belief that teachers are the most difficult persons to change.  If teachers do not have the capacity to change, how can they provide fresh knowledge, new skills and new experiences to their students, so that these young people have the capacity to satisfy the demands of an ever-changing world?
What has been presented above is a synopsis of the multifaceted responsibilities of teachers which, if they fail to carry out effectively, will affect not only the ability of current and future generations but also the ability of the country to be competitive in the this very challenging era. In addition to blaming the education sector for the declining standards, lack of necessary knowledge and skills, critical and problem solving thinking skills, and lack of a sound foundation to pursue further studies after completing school and higher education, many people are also putting the blame on the education sector for all the ills and lacks of society such as increase in horrifying crimes, deterioration in moral, religious and cultural values, lack of respect for fellow human beings, rude behaviour, rise in lack of consideration for others, poor communication skills,  and decline in attention to one’s surroundings.  It may not be fair to put the blame on the education sector for all the prevailing social ills, but the general opinion that education is responsible in building so many skills and improving the mindset of young people shows the high regard society has for the power of education.
Hence, at this important juncture in the history of our nation, when we are on the verge of ushering in a just, equal, peaceful, united, and dynamic society, both those who are about to join the profession, and those already in the profession must be fully aware of the important responsibility thrust on their shoulders. They must therefore
1.    be fully aware of the responsibility that society has entrusted to them regarding the nurturing of young people and the development of human resource for the country,
2.    pursue libelong learning to develop all the necessary qualities of a good teacher,
3.    make good use of the time when taking a class and not waste the precious time of students by coming to class unprepared and uninterested,
4.    stop exploiting their students to become rich, and stop using the rote learning methodology that impedes the development of independent learning, creativity and realization of the full potential of students, and
5.     together with other citizens, make the necessary sacrifices at this historic moment, so that the country will catch up with the rest of the world quickly
On the part of education authorities, they must
1.    provide teachers with a salary that is in commensurate with their work, the hardship they face, and the responsibilities entrusted to them by society, and create a fair and transparent system for reward, promotion and transfer,
2.    create a better welfare system for teachers regarding health care, housing and transportation,
3.    provide quality pre-service and in-service training programmes to improve teaching  skills, knowledge and attitude,
4.    ensure effective and fair leadership at schools and higher education institutions by appointing qualified and dynamic persons as heads and not simply bassing appointments and promotions on seniority, and
5.    show that inefficiency and corruption will not be tolerated and take legal action against teachers who infringe the rules and regulations of the ministry, especially those who are enriching themselves by exploiting their students and weakening the education system.
Those who are seeking to safeguard the rights of teachers must also strive for the rights of students to have proper and well-prepared instruction, as the large majority of students come from poor families and are wholly dependent on the teachers at school to receive quality education. It must also be pointed out that in all aspects of the education sector including teachers, quantity has to go hand in hand with quality, for the achievement of true progress. No nation and no sector can leapfrog out of long-standing negligence, poor management, corruption, backwardness, poverty and disunity, if every citizen does not join in and make the necessary sacrifices. Since it is now time for all citizens to work extra hard, it is also time for all teachers to wake up from their long slumber and fulfill the wishes of students and parents and perform their responsibilities effectively, as their sector, the education sector, plays a leading role in working for prosperity and emergence of a nation that can stand shoulder to shoulder with other nations.


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