September 10, 2008
A System That Does Neither Students nor Lecturers Any Good
I REFER to the letter "Lecturers just not up to par" (NST, Sept 4) from I.T. of Kuala Lumpur.
I was a lecturer in a local private university for a few years, and would like to shed some light on how things worked at my former workplace.
During my tenure, not once was I given any formal training on how to teach. There were workshops on critical thinking skills and statistical tools, but I never attended one on teaching skills.
Lecturers were given a course title and expected to come up with the entire syllabus. There was no one to vet the course content and many of us had to burn the midnight oil to come up with our own content within a short time frame.
Also, to maximise the use of human resources, we were dumped with courses that we were not even eligible to teach. And we had no say in this.
If we even dared to complain, we were given threats such as "you can work someplace else" by the university's president.
Lecturers were also made to teach classes that went on till 10pm. This is because the university wanted to offer as many courses as possible every semester to maximise profit.
The lecturers became the victims. Students, too, were tired of this schedule but they had no choice, or else they would not be able to graduate on time.
Lecturers were also given absurd deadlines when it came to marking examination scripts. Some of us had to mark 350 or even more exam scripts within two weeks or less. How do we ensure quality in marking exam scripts this way?
The university boasts of having an ISO (an international standard) and Sirim accreditation. But we lecturers know what it is like.
Having a proper filing system for procedures does not guarantee the quality of education. It merely shows that I have done A, B or C. How well I have carried out the three tasks is never known.
One of the requirements by Sirim is that lecturers must have a teaching permit.
It was amusing when my teaching permit finally arrived on my desk in a frame, a day before the Sirim audit, after years of having taught students without a permit.
ISO and Sirim also do not vet the accuracy of marking scripts, which is questionable as only a limited time is given for lecturers to correct them.
In short, I believe that the Higher Education Ministry should look into these issues.
Lecturers' feedback is especially important, but no one seems to bother about what we have to say as long as those from the higher management are friendly with the ministry's people.
Many lecturers are disgruntled from being overworked and this is passed down to the students. It is an unhealthy trend which causes students to lose out in the end.
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