Wednesday, 19 June 2013
One dead, two critical - in Mabura trail mishap » THE police are investigating a fatal accident that...
Several opened mails found at home of Berbice pos... » POLICE in Berbice are investigating the discovery ...
At Berbice Assizes… Pharmacist accused of rape f... » AN ACCUSED rapist was freed also of indecent assau...
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To ensure higher level of service… $158.4M Polic... » COMMANDER-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President ...
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|MoE National Consultation…|
Teachers vocal as Manickchand adopts listen-and-learn approach
By Leroy Smith
A TEAM of Education Ministry officials headed by Education Minister, Priya Manickchand met yesterday with teachers of Region 4 at the Diamond Secondary School, East Bank Demerara as part of the national consultation on grade retention, repetition, automatic promotion and corporal punishment. These consultations are being held to hear the views of the public, but a special hearing must be given to teachers as the people who deal with the issue on a daily basis. As such, yesterday’s discussion was held with the teachers.
The teachers were encouraged by Education Minister, Priya Manickchand to be frank and open in their concerns, and they embraced the opportunity to bring the minister up to speed with some of the issues they face. The minister confessed to having heard some of what was raised at the meeting.
Minister Manickchand assured that teachers’ views would in no way be sanctioned, as her aim was to reach them and find ways of addressing all the issues affecting the education system. The minister also registered her view that teachers ought to be celebrated for their hard work and dedication.
Meanwhile, the Principal Education Officer of the Secondary Division of the Education Ministry, Ms Melcita Bovell, in her address to the teachers, disclosed that the Education Ministry had a neutral approach to the issues being discussed, because the ministry intended at the end of the consultations to have its knowledge increased and allow teachers to make decisions on the issues from an informed position.
On the issue of corporal punishment, the minister said it remains her personal view that no child should be flogged in school. However, the oath she took when sworn in as minister mandates her to serve in the interest of the people of Guyana, and thus the consultations are geared at hearing from those she serves, since the will of the ministry is not to impose corporal punishment.
Among alternative methods the minister suggested are making a child do several things, such as facing the wall, no talking, sit on a quiet chair, and rewriting words repeatedly.
The minister told the gathering that the alternatives to corporal punishment are many, and these should be explored. She said that hitting children is dangerous and could be considered unhealthy.
According to her, at the end of the consultations, a report will be submitted to the minister, and the way forward will be based on the outcomes and expressions at the consultations.
Meanwhile, as teachers and some members of parent teachers associations stood to make their point, views varied. Some teachers expressed a view that the practice of corporal punishment should be abolished, while others felt that the whipping of children is necessary in schools. There was also the view that the system should remain the way it is; that is: Should a child require discipline in the form of corporal punishment, he or she should be taken to the head teacher of the school, who will flog that child or instruct a senior teacher to do same, but this must be documented.
One teacher spoke of a case in which a student came running to her and held onto her clothing crying. She then saw a fellow teacher heading towards her, and he slapped the child. When she enquired why the male teacher had so done, the teacher said that that student did not want to write.
The woman mentioned that that case, coupled with one in which she had flogged a child whose finger became swollen, caused her to stop beating children. She cautioned her fellow teachers to do the same.
The same teacher is now the head teacher of a school in Region 4. She reminded teachers that they should treat the children as if they were their own precious children, and refuse to flog them in at any whim, and should even be against anyone who hits them in the school system.
She also stressed that the system was in a sorry state and needed to be addressed. The head teacher was referring to the children who continue to be disruptive in the classrooms and refuse to learn. There is a need for them to have remedial classes, among other programmes, to engage them especially if they are not academically inclined.
A member from one of the schools’ PTAs expressed his views that taking a child to a head teacher before corporal punishment can be meted out gives the child the impression that the class teacher is incapable of dealing with him or her, and as such the disrespect begins there, because the teacher is seen as powerless.
However, there had to be some clarification among the teachers, as some of them were of the impression that a child needed to be taken to the HM for every transgression. It was at that point that the Education Minister questioned teachers about their alternatives to corporal punishment in the classrooms.
The response by most of the teachers repeated the very methods listed by the minister earlier as some of the methods that are being explored.
Minister Manickchand asked the teachers if the methods were working, and they responded in the negative. One teacher questioned the ability of the teacher to protect the rest of the students in a class when corporal punishment is not allowed to be used as discipline for children who become a constant bother for others. The teacher cautioned that Guyana must not be fooled into following the rest of the world with all their policies, because, in most cases, physical discipline was still very much in existence in those countries.
One teacher from the Dora Secondary School told his colleagues that there is a difference between the words “use” and “abuse”. He made that point to tell teachers that he believes teachers must be given the privilege to flog students in classrooms, but this liberty must not be abused. He called on the ministry to understand that corporal punishment has a place in society, and called on the policymakers and his fellow teachers to take their logic further. He added that respecting a child’s rights or giving children their rights without giving them responsibilities is dangerous.
Chairperson of the Diamond Secondary School Board, Debra Jack, expressed the view that should corporal punishment be totally abandoned in the school system, other measures needed to be put in place.
She pointed to the lack of councillors, including welfare officers, which she said is offering no help to the school system. She also pointed to the growing instances of abuse and other forms of violation against teachers, and to the many other issues which affect children.
Addressing the issue of automatic promotion, Minister Manickchand reminded teachers that the system applied only to secondary schools. Before getting into the discussion on the promotion issues, the minister reminded the teachers that she had been at the helm of the education sector for only about six months, and her only guidance at the moment are reports in black and white, and information related to her by her officers.
The minister told the teachers that it was now their turn to let her know of how these systems have been working in the classrooms, and added that whatever other issues were bothering them, she would entertain them if they write her directly, or even forward those letters through the union.
She questioned the teachers, based on their assessment and direct contact with the children, if the automatic promotion was doing any good for the children or the education system at large. Minister Manickchand asked teachers if they were able to ascertain if keeping the children back for a term or two has helped them to perform better. That questioned got an almost one hundred percent response in the affirmative that the children are able to do better, but the majority are asked to repeat a class or two.
Minister Manickchand said that reports she reviewed in relation to the “no child left behind policy” and automatic promotion state that some reasons for children not doing well in school were inadequate attention from teachers, children being blamed for their bad performances, and other factors. As such, the policy was introduced.
While it was not raised by the teachers, the minister questioned why is it that children seem to be doing exceedingly well in grades one and two, and when they reach to grade three, something goes awfully wrong with their performance, as reflected in the grade four and ultimately six assessments. The minister pointed to a case where a friend of hers related that her child does very well at answering questions and finding the right answers to questions and assignments when the questions are read to him.
She added that the friend also explained that when the child is left to read and find the answer by himself, it becomes a challenge.
One teacher explained that this is so because teachers are in the habit of reading questions for children for several reasons, one is that the lesson plan comes with several long questions which the children are not able to comprehend, so they tend to have a better understanding when the teachers read them.
The other reason given was the fact that teachers are failing to toughen up on children in terms of allowing them to do reading at an early grade, and thus the reading assistance goes all the way to grade two.
The teacher said that when the children go to write the exams, there is no one there to read the questions to them; they end up ‘messing up’ at the exams, and the trend continues and is reflected at the grade six assessment examination.
One teacher questioned the logic of sending students to sit an examination that they, as the teachers, know that the children would not succeed in. The teacher described such a system as pushing the children through the system, and giving them no hope for the future. She recommended remedial classes instead.
Another teacher commented that automatic promotion in the school systems gives the teachers a sense of demotivation as they see their efforts at working with a child for success as flogging a dead horse. The teacher explained that when a teacher has to teach a child who is reluctant to be present at his classes and fails to show any interest in getting the grades required to move on to a next class, the teacher then becomes disgusted and fed-up, and develops a laid back attitude.
In picking up where that teacher left off, a colleague said that the automatic promotion is damaging the student, as it affects the children; as against allowing the child to see what he or she can cope with, and, where necessary, if the child portrays the inability to cope with academics, then technical vocational training can be the next alternative. The teacher further said that the system, and by extension the nation, was failing the students with the automatic promotion system. That system is regarded as being responsible for a lot of the problems in the school system, and those problems would eventually find their way into society.
Touching on the issue of inclusive education for children with disabilities, in response to a teacher who described the education as rotten, Minister Manickchand said that had Guyana not adopted an inclusive approach for disabled children and made provisions for them to be apart of the public school system, that would have been a reason to describe the system as rotten.
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