Tuesday, 24 April 2012

To teach or to manage?


The Education Ministry should come up with guidelines that strictly define the role of teachers who are assigned to carry out administrative tasks and those who teach.

HAVE teachers not enough to teach that they are crying out to be “allowed to teach”? Or, have teachers been so drawn away from their teaching duty that they are pleading hard to “get (back) to teach”? Sadly, it is the latter that is of concern.

Teachers lament that they are not able to concentrate on their teaching because too many non-teaching activities and responsibilities are thrust upon them. There are the numerous analyses to do, reports to write, data to enter online, meetings, functions, seminars and workshops to attend. They also complain that they have co-curricular activities and games to manage and students to counsel.

Granted that some of these activities do have educational value that may indirectly contribute to classroom teaching effectiveness, teachers are not happy at the seemingly uncoordinated and inordinate manner by which they are called upon to be involved.

The contention is that much of the “paper work” teachers are required to do serve only the purposes of officials higher up. Teachers do not see any benefits to their charges at all.

With all these distractions, the committed teachers are worried sick that they may labour in vain in their classroom teaching; or they may themselves be burnt out. Others may already have thrown in the towel.

On the other hand, the less-than-responsible ones are enjoying the “outings” and “deviations” and unashamedly claiming that teaching is after all an “easy” life.

For the newly recruited teachers, this is indeed a confusing scenario!

There is indeed a case for the Ministry and education authorities to better coordinate and reassess the true needs of the paper work given to schools and expecting their feedback to be uploaded usually within short notice.

On the other hand, teachers must also recognise that some extracurricular activities are essential and therefore rightly become part of their duties.

Yet, with consent, approval and support from the authorities higher up, schools can do better. Here are my thoughts and suggestions.

A normal secondary day school with a student population of around 2,000 and running two sessions will have a principal, three senior assistants, an afternoon supervisor, four heads of academic departments, five student counsellors and a teaching staff of about 120.

This means that the school has 14 administrator-teachers, that is 12% of the staff.

Premier and other schools of acclaim may even have more academic and administrative staff. Smaller schools need no afternoon supervisors, have a proportionate number of counsellors whilst other positions are all intact.

These school administrators are called administrator-teachers because besides administering and managing their respective “office”, they are required to also teach some (10 to 14) periods a week. This may seem minimal as compared to a normal teacher’s load of 24 to 28 periods.

But, consider the minds of these administrator-teachers. Their first concern must be that they administer well the “office” they have been promoted and assigned to. They must also realise that what they do and decide now affect more than their own classes. They are helping to administer the whole school.

Their teaching periods may average two per day. But the timetable could be such that it is one period in the early half and the other period in the latter half of the day. Being conscientious and committed, they are teachers who want to perform well in their given tasks.

So, it is not just about going into classes for 40 minutes per period. There must also be necessary preparations to ensure that each lesson is enriching and benefiting to their charges.

Usually, they are torn between the demands of their administrative offices and the teaching needs of their classes. More often than not, our school structures and expectations being such, their administrative duties take precedence.

To accommodate, the more experienced administrator-teachers opt to teach “less important” subjects and classes.

This has resulted in their teaching becoming, much to their own chagrin, less than exemplary to their colleagues. Worse, there are some teachers who use the situation to justify their own lackadaisical demeanour.

This sad scenario begets the question: Why not allow administrator-teachers to be full-time administrators? They can then focus on the administrative tasks, take over the paper work now being assigned to teachers, “represent” teachers in many out-of-school activities and most importantly reduce the burden from teachers who are not “teaching-centric”.

After all, these administrator-teachers have to prove their administrative prowess rather than teaching for their next career move.

And, may I point out that former teachers who have taken on administrative positions in the ministry or the various education departments are not required to teach at all?

So why should teachers carrying out adminstrative work be expected to teach even if its just a few periods a week?

We really need a transformational change here. Would the Education Ministry allow schools to be administered by full-time administrators who were teachers before?

By LIONG KAM CHONG

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