Thursday, March 21, 2013

Perhaps this reminder will console teachers!

By Editor, 20th March 2013


Mass failures of students in decisive examinations in Tanzania have for years now left education stakeholders, among them parents, both worried and stunned.
There is still no consensus over what can be done to improve academic and professional performance in our schools and colleges.
Teaching is one of the oldest of professions, and has several definitions. In our case, we could perhaps settle on the one which says it as an activity performed by a more experienced and knowledgeable person and aimed at helping the less experienced person to learn.
Activities involved this profession include talking and chalking, marking pupils’ work, listening to pupils and reinforcing their behaviour, arranging classroom materials, encouraging and motivating pupils to carry out their work and helping weak ones, explaining questions and organising pupils in smaller groups.
Going by this definition, teaching requires special training and skills to be able to guide or assist learners, pupils or students to perform creditably in examinations and other problem-solving tasks in and outside the classroom.
“But just how do we prepare our teachers both in theoretical training and in practice so that they may be adequately equipped to render the services fixed in the international and modern standard teaching practices?” That’s the all-important question.
This comes in the wake of challenges in teaching and the education system as a whole chiefly owing to social, economic and technological changes as well as other political forces.
Arguably the most significant changes include shifts in population demographics, cultural diversity of the population, changing patterns of learning and education system, increased consumer expectations and the high cost of education financing.
It is in part because of these challenges that the government has kept revising the national education policy, often with a view to accommodating demand due to a rise in the intake of teachers and upgrading the teachers training institutions and expanding teaching degrees programmes in universities.
Some of these decisions were meant to better prepare newly trained teachers to meet the demands of modern trends in the profession.
Constant monitoring of changes in international teaching standards should be considered if our teachers are to become competitive enough. This is possible if they are equipped with good communication skills and they generally become genuine professionals.
Like all other professionals, teachers would benefit from constant upgrading through advanced training, refresher courses in such fields as ICT and research methods. Similarly, we have to ensure they have enough quality working tools and they are constantly visited by supervisors from bona fide inspectorate boards.
Teachers need to understand that every teaching action they take and every behaviour they demonstrate, be it in a classroom setting or elsewhere, has a direct bearing on their presume image as role models.
Thus, while they may be justified in crusading for better salaries and working conditions, they would hardly ever attract public sympathy by failing to deliver as expected.
So, however tough things may be, teachers need to exercise patience and show unqualified discipline, attributes whose importance is underscored in teachers colleges. Society knows only too well that they are also human and would surely value them for that, in turn sympathizing with them and generally supporting their cause.

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