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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 26| June 27, 2010|


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Teaching for business

Shayera Moula

THERE is a classic saying that those who don't do anything 'teach.' Peoplehere take this statement very seriously. For starters, teaching is hardly the first choice for the average literate bingos unless they want to hitch the line of PhD and research later on. How many children have you come across, especially boys, thrilled about being a teacher ?

Secondly, local laws have allowed anyone passing grade 12 eligible to teach in primary schools. That's insane considering the lengthy procedures people have to follow to get their teaching license in most parts around the world. More importantly, someone in their late teens who can't even figure out their own life in progress has been made responsible to educate the fundamentals of life to your clueless toddler! I would be very scared as a parent here.

The debate of teaching being an innate quality - you are born teacher and cannot be moulded into one - have been part of a global discussion for a long time now. America's failure to stand number one in the worldwide education system has had its share of the blame-game tossed around from poor parenting skills to too much video games toying with the child's concentration to an exposure to an ocean of perverse media. But recently all arrows have pointed down to one element only - the quality of teaching.

What makes a good teacher a good teacher? A graduate-school degree? A high CGPA? An extroverted personality? Confidence? Passing the teacher-certification exam on the first try? Bill Gates announced that his foundation was investing millions to improve teaching quality in US but he couldn't help add: "Unfortunately, it seems the field doesn't have a clear view of what characterises good teaching," Gates said. "I'm personally very curious."

A bangla saying highlights on how teachers come right after parents when celebrating the students success. So then why does the average child in Bangladesh have to drag a bag double his/ her bodyweight all the way to school to her private tutors home to the coaching centre and back home almost every day? The failure of the teacher's teaching methods within the classroom is never a point of discussion as much as the hair-pulling worry over how much money will be spent over junior's third new mathematics tutor.

The solution, as infested through articles published in Newsweek,
states that the key to improving education is in keeping good teachers and firing the bad ones. In the article "Why we must fire bad teachers?" Writers Evan Thomas and Pat Wingert says: "What really makes a difference, what matters more than the class size or the textbook, the teaching method or the technology is the quality of the teacher […] The best way to deal with underperforming teachers is to fire them."

That in itself isn't really the easiest of solutions. For starters it is time consuming to find a proper replacement, there is also a loss of finance added with time, and readjusting the whole situation is a frustrating process. A bill had been passed for firing underperforming teachers in New York City, where Chancellor Joel Klein invested $1 million a year to attorneys with this sole task. "In the two years the project has gone on so far, the city only fired three teachers charged with incompetence," (Newsweek) That only meant more money down the drain. We can't even imagine spending more money for firing teachers considering how we can't even pay their salaries a from time to time.

In Bangladesh teaching has also become a business where the size of your coaching centre determines the size of your wallet, the number of students that plan to oil up the teacher with compliments determines the score on their grade sheets and quoting the teacher or memorising their lecture assures brainless efforts to doing well. This doesn't apply to all educational institutions, but a general trend in "memorising" for learning is still an encouraged classroom habit almost everywhere.

Teachers, they say, need to have that third eye in the back of their heads and not only to send more students into detention, but also to be able to understand them individually. A good teacher must be patient with the students and is able to scale up and down with the variation of IQs sitting around, most of whom are fervently waiting to get out of class. A mere reason why most students admire English teachers and anthropologists is because both understand the complications of human attention span! Also they acknowledge whole heartedly that no two people are alike and more importantly there is no right and wrong - no "one" individual is better than the "other."

We spend a huge chunk of our time within a classroom and a great deal of our construction of the world around us is based on the teacher's own model of our surroundings. If we then rely on underperforming teachers, who either fail to pass down knowledge or later drag you to extra hours in coaching centres, to show us the way forward, we are bound to sit back and watch the nation produce a larger backdated and overworked population.

(The writer is a Sub-Editor, Editorial and Op-Ed, The Daily Star)

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