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Monday, 5 March 2012

Learn to ‘sow to reap’

TRANSFORMATION is the catchword in schools nowadays. Every headmaster and principal seems to be enthusiastically talking about transformational change.

They aspire to see their schools attain better grades and higher rankings in public examinations, gain more medals and awards in sports and co-curricular activities, and own a well disciplined student populace.

All these are very well and good. The Education Ministry deserves commendations for having thus inspired the schools.

While the objectives for school improvement and advancement are noble, the same nevertheless cannot be said of the means and ways by which some school heads use to arrive at them.

To achieve higher and more, some heads think it right to just do more and more of what they have been doing all along.

So, to secure more and better grades, they direct more/extra holiday classes, more workbook exercises/homework, more trial exams/tests, more scores/exam analyses, more motivational seminars/workshops, and etc.

To gain more and greater sporting medals, awards and honours, they want to see more training/practice sessions, more trial runs, more friendly matches and more competitions.

To improve discipline, they want school rules and regulations more stringently followed and enforced. And, if the need arises, new rules and regulations are introduced and implemented. More teacher “power” is also deployed to catch and punish the culprits.

This “doing more of the same” approach seems to be the understanding of these heads and their application of transformational change. While their putting in more efforts does drive results upwards to a certain extent, their advocacy of the “doing more of the same” culture has certainly driven their charges up the wall.

Doing more of the same, even more efficiently, is merely managing a cause. Schools will go forth all right, but very much stereotypically. It is not transformed. It experiences no innovation, no creativity, no paradigm shift; it is, in fact, still in the same old band of performance.

To execute transformation, school heads must play the role of both manager and leader. It is not just about managing efficiently; it is more about leading effectively.

School heads must come out of their comfort zone of doing the same old and routine things right, even if it is with greater intensity and frequency.

They must begin to think of new, innovative and creative approaches to doing the right things. It’s then and only then that their schools will truly move forward, reach new heights and acquire a new, more enriching learning culture.

I have seen schools that had gone all-out to achieve better grades in exams using the “doing more of the same” approach, having their results moved up by a certain percentage point for a year or two, and then dropping again in the following year(s).

The results behaved like a yo-yo within a fixed range of percentages. These schools were not really out of the deep, so to say. The year’s results depend very much on the available crop, with the schools’ efforts making an insignificant difference.

Instead of just focusing on teaching students how to study to get better grades in exams, school heads should encourage their teachers to impart upon students the importance and the know-how of learning effectively and efficiently.

I always believe that when a child wants to learn, his/her grades will take care of themselves. Of course, it is more difficult to teach learning for the sake of acquiring knowledge than to teach studying for the sake of scoring in exams. Here indeed lies the essence and the challenges of transformational change.

There is much truth in the cultural proverb “Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character”.

School heads need to initiate activities that will facilitate sowing. It is wrong simply to prioritise and busy themselves with drafting and establishing new rules and regulations to restrict and constrict further, and to catch and punish undisciplined students.

A mind that is made to conform by “laws, rules and regulations” is not going to be transformed. “Sowing to reap” is a leader’s calling; the essence and challenge of transformational change.

Transformation is not about doing more of the same.

Some school heads need to reassess and reorganise their approach to transforming their schools lest their teachers be unjustly and overly burdened.


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