THE traditional morning greeting Selamat Pagi Cikgu that is said in unison as a teacher enters her class is no longer as enthusiastic as it used to be. In fact, it no longer seems relevant to students. More often than not, a teacher walks in and out of classrooms without any greetings or pleasantries exchanged with her pupils. There is hardly any respect given to the teacher. Have teachers become so insignificant? Do students really think that they can pass all public exams like the UPSR, PMR, SPM, and STPM without stepping into a school?
If education has come to mean only exams, testing memory and low-level knowledge skills, then, we don’t really need teachers. Again, can teachers make a difference? I am prepared to say they should, but I am not sure if they do! The question is, do our teachers have the attributes to make that difference with the current generation of students, whose attitude and demands are worrying?
Many teachers would be quick to say that they are just doing their job, which is to teach and complete the syllabus, so that their students will have a fair chance in the exams.
Are our teachers consumed only by the demands of their superiors and parents, to ensure that their respective schools attain cemerlang (excellence) status?
Most teachers will not hold themselves accountable for the policies and decisions of the school and higher authorities. They will be quick to point out that many aspects of the system are not within their control. Teaching is their job and that is what they have been trained for.
So, what are teachers taught in teacher training colleges and universities?
To answer this question, we need to reflect on the qualities of excellence among teachers. What are the attributes of excellence?
If we can determine the position and extent of these boundaries, we then have the basis for developing ideal professional development programmes that will form the basis for teacher education programmes.
Relating to current needs
Do our current programmes truly have recognisable, quantifiable and justifiable processes in place? Do these correlate to the demands of new market places and careers for new types of learning spaces?
Do these cater to a global community that is now creating “knowledge producers” rather than “knowledge consumers”? This should form the basis for a renewed focus on change for our curriculum, especially in educating and evaluation methods. Teachers need to start making a difference in a world they are seemingly falling out of touch with.
Are our teacher education programmes in universities able to create teachers with personal attributes of the type we are seeking?
Our programmes must be able to develop and enhance the quality of education we offer to our pre-service teachers.
These include attributes such as enthusiasm in educating young minds; creativity in enhancing learning; energy and resourcefulness in facilitating learning; knowledge of current thinking in evaluating whether actual learning is taking place and; dedication and commitment to real world learning processes (this has other implications).
If the answer is “no”, then we must start thinking of revamping our programmes to instil professional attributes related to the area of inquiry, particularly in curriculum processes; teaching and learning; assessment and learning; professional learning; research and learning and dissemination of knowledge and skills through writing.
Teachers, especially those at the upper-secondary school level, ought to have strong content knowledge. Therefore teacher development programmes must produce teachers who are proficient in the subject matter. The teachers must also have a sound knowledge of current issues and new information, aware of changes in the subject, and incorporate them into their regular teaching sessions.
The programmes must also be able to give some meaning and purpose for the students. This can be done by providing relevance of knowledge to real-world industry.
Enhancing communication skills
To do this, teachers must be competent in enhancing language and communication skills, and have the ability to synthesise data, discuss and present thoughts and opinions across the curriculum.
They should also be competent in presenting multi-disciplinary and multi-perspective content in an integrated way to form coherent thoughts resulting in plans of action.
Only then will our teachers be able to provide understanding and relevance to students in the incorporation of appropriate cultural, moral and ethical values everyday, be it locally or globally.
When our programmes are able to bring out and instil the above attributes among our new breed of teachers, then we can expect them to make a difference to their students.
These teachers will then possess core skills in instruction and facilitation of knowledge.
The next great hurdle in a nutshell is evaluations.
My colleagues will elaborate on this in the next article. Teachers should be able to evaluate students in meaningful ways that focus on grasps of high-level strategic knowledge, as opposed to the testing of low-level declarative knowledge.
The new breed of teachers would be:
● proficient in the usage of technology and media tools in instruction;
● capable of planning and managing a classroom;
● competent in communication skills and understand the importance of developing personal skills;
● skilled in appreciating pupils’ difficulties and proficient in differentiated instructions and evaluations; and
● competent enough to address pupils with special needs and motivate and stimulate students’ appreciation for knowledge and lifelong learning.
The new programme is no longer a dream, but one that can become a reality.
The School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Penang, is going to start the Engage Programme – Education for Sustainable Global Futures, with a number of schools, institutions and stakeholders, at the varsity to formulate a curriculum for now and the future.
We strongly believe that the programme will produce teachers who can and will make a difference.
We ask that all Malaysians be involved in the Engage Programme that will hopefully be created for and by Malaysians.
This will eventually result in a call not for separate streams of schools, but for 1School that will create a globally relevant 1Malaysia.
Prof Abdul Rashid Mohamed is the dean of the School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. He is currently working with his colleagues on a proposal to transform the landscape of Malaysian schooling and higher education systems. He can be contacted at
by Prof Abdul Rashid Mohamed.
Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2010/2/7/education/5450297&sec=education