Quality Education through Quality Teachers: How to Bring Intelligent Individuals into the Teaching Profession?
*Laxmi Prasad Ojha
I was talking to a group of students in a reputed private school last month and asked them what their professional goal was. Most of them expressed their wish to be doctors, engineers and bankers. As a teacher and teacher educator myself, I was expecting some of them to mention that they wanted to be a teacher in the future. I was taken aback by their responses and started thinking why youths these days do not consider joining teaching as their career. This also reminded me of my post-SLC days when I decided to join faculty of education to be a teacher in the future. Unlike most of my friends and against my family members’ suggestion, I had chosen to pursue my higher education in a teacher education college. This did not make them happy at all as they thought that I could enter teaching profession any time in the future and, therefore, should try other disciplines like science and management. Two of my other classmates who had also got first division in the SLC examination with me chose other disciplines, as per the trend.
Most of the ‘bright’ students in Nepal these days do not consider entering teaching as their career. This has severely affected the ‘supply’ of quality teachers to the job market. If someone gets first division or higher in the SLC examination or Higher Secondary Level, s/he thinks of joining science or management. They rarely think of joining faculty of education. Even if these ‘smart’ students join this noble profession in the beginning, they are always looking for a ‘better’ job – may be one in the government offices or at least in I/NGOs with lucrative salary and facilities. In the paragraphs that follow, I have attempted to discuss the reasons behind this apathy of the intelligent students towards teaching profession?
The conceptual problem: Anyone can do it!
Teaching is not considered as a ‘profession’ in Nepalese society mainly because there is a strong belief among people that one doesn’t require anything else besides having a formal college degree to enter into this profession. If we analyze the practice adopted by schools (both government and private) in Nepal, this fact seems to be true. Most of the schools recruit the individuals in their relation or those who are ready to work in a low salary. The principals and management committee think that if a person has a bachelor’s of Masters’ degree, s/he can easily teach in their school/college. This has resulted in poor classroom activities ultimately affecting the learning outcomes of the students.
Poor input: Poor output
In the recent years, even the individuals with a teacher education degree have failed to perform well in their teaching profession. This is the result of our defective education system. The basic fault lies in the way we prepare, recruit and deploy the teachers in our schools. It is important for the government to realize that unless the bright students or the high achievers are attracted and brought to the field of teaching, the much awaited facelift in the field of education is a far cry. It is the responsibility of the universities and teacher education colleges to ensure that they attract, enroll graduate individuals with sound knowledge and skills to teach the children.
Although the government claims to hire competent people through Teacher Service Commission examinations, the standard of teaching and learning in our schools has fallen sharply in recent years. Moreover, no formal training is required to be a teacher in most of the schools. They just hire anyone who has formal degrees from the universities without considering their skills in teaching. This shows that schools have shown a character of sheer negligence not paying attention on the human resource they employ to educate the young kids.
The facilities and appraisal system
Many people cite financial reason for leaving teaching and choosing other profession. Therefore, one way the government can use to attract bright students into teaching is to pay teacher little higher than the other profession. Although financial gains alone may not guarantee a flow of capable youths into teaching, this can be a strong reason for them to join it. If teachers are financially sound and have good economic status, they may also gain some respect in the society. This will stop them from thinking to quit this profession.
The government hardly have the system of valuing the quality teachers on the basis of their level of commitment and quality of classroom teaching. The present system compensates all the teachers the same pay neglecting the criteria of merit and performance. Teachers’ pay should be based on the quality of the work they deliver and the positive results they bring in the school and learning outcome of the students, not just on the years they have served. This will also encourage and push the teachers to perform better in the schools.
Many schools in remote districts lack teachers to teach subjects like English, Mathematics and Science. The government should try to attract teachers to go and serve in those far flung communities to improve the status of education there. Like in other professions like medical science, opportunities for promotion and further education should be provided to teachers who go and serve in the rural and remote areas for a certain period. This will help the schools in the remote areas get the required qualified teachers ultimately uplifting the quality of education throughout the country not just in a few cities.
Although teaching is a demanding profession, it is not much respected profession in our society. This attitude discourages the bright students with interest in teaching divert their mind in other professions. Some of the reasons for the apathy towards this job are can lack of respect in the society, discrimination in facilities provided in comparison to other government jobs, lack of vertical promotion like in other administrative jobs, etc. The policy makers need to think – is this job rewarding and joyful enough for the people entering it? Since the future of any country rests on the excellence of education it provides to the children, we need to think about education seriously more than ever. We need to have good physical infrastructure and other facilities too, but human resource is the most important component to provide quality education. We need to understand that the quality of education delivered to these children is mostly determined by the quality of teachers teaching them. Therefore, bright students should be attracted, trained and supported to join and continue teaching profession. We should create appropriate environment to attract, train, support and reward excellence in this noble profession.
(Mr. Laxmi Praad Ojha teaches at Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)