October 6, 2008

Rekindling the Passion

THE noble profession is no longer looked upon with the respect it once commanded. It is sad but true that most parents pass disparaging remarks about teachers, particularly the lack of passion. National Parent-Teacher Collaborative Council president Associate Professor Datuk Mohamad Ali Hasan echoes public sentiment when he says teachers today lack dedication. Realising the dire consequences to future generations, the Education Ministry is upgrading the training curriculum, with special emphasis on English communication skills. Education Ministry director-general Datuk Alimuddin Mohd Dom also assures a more stringent selection process to ensure only the best are admitted into teacher training institutions. It is wonderful news indeed. The move to redress the imbalance in gender and race in the intake at these institutions is also to be welcomed. It certainly shows the government is listening.

In assessing teacher-trainee applicants, the Education Ministry would do well to give equal importance to character and propensity, not just academic qualifications. If the applicant has no love for learning, if the applicant does not like teaching or handling children, then she should be advised to look elsewhere for a job. For, a teacher's purpose is not simply to teach but to inspire a desire for learning. The teacher must not only be able to impart knowledge, she must do so in a stimulating manner. This is where, it appears, our current crop of teachers fail.

The goal of education is to produce an educated person. And what is an educated person? According to educationist and principal of King Edward VII School, Taiping, from 1931 to 1939, R.P.S. Walker, an educated man is one who "has been taught the use of the powers that are in him: that he has the ability to learn, an understanding of method and discipline in its widest senses, and... to see life clearly, and see it whole. It is the duty of the school to build, not clerks, not technical experts, not optimists who expect fruits without labour, but men". He adds: "It is not the school in your life that matters, but the life in your school. The teacher is the school and the school the teacher."

The ministry would do well to remind teacher-trainees and teachers of this. The ministry would also do well to first get quality trainers to fire up the teacher-trainees so that they will, in turn, inspire their students. For, being the profession that teaches all other professions, the noble profession deserves nothing less than quality teachers with a passion for teaching.

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