TTUTA writes a weekly column for the Newsday called TTUTA on Tuesday.
As we begin what all experts have been forecasting to be another economically challenging year, the education sector, undoubtedly, must acknowledge its part in the overall recovery process.
As teachers we must recognise the connection between what we do in school and its impact on the wider society. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to recognise that there are certain things that can be done at the school level to enhance the social and economic prospects of our country. Our role is critical and should not be abdicated to anyone else. Truth is teachers shape the future whether by admission or omission.
Our response to the current economic and political imperative must lead the way for other sectors of the country to follow. Our output, in and out of the classroom, must be under constant reflection to ensure that it is up to requisite standards and commensurate with the challenges of national development. The nature and purpose of education dictate that the needs of the country define the guiding operational principles of schools, beginning with curriculum and teachers’ modus operandi. Maturity as a professional body demands that constructive criticism from both internal and external sources are encouraged on a continuing basis.
Against that background, it is important to locate the lament that our country suffers from lower than acceptable productivity levels in the context of schooling and our capacity to produce citizens who do more than realise their maximum human potential; schools also need to produce citizens who can make tangible contributions to the national developmental thrust. It can be argued that ethical values of diligence and productivity as citizens are influenced by what children see and learn in school. In short, schooling experiences do a lot more than impart an academic curriculum.
In the school context it must be remembered that learning is not confined to the activities of the classroom, and thus behaviours that we desire as learning outcomes must be modelled in every sense of the word. The indirect encounters between teachers and students can produce some of the most powerful learning opportunities. These can and usually have life-impacting influences. As such these encounters must be calculated and deliberate on the part of teachers and is indeed the most significant aspect of our social contract. The current economic challenge facing our country is an opportunity for refinement and improvement of not just our practice but the enhancement of our education sector. While it is easy and natural for fingers of blame and responsibility to be pointed at others, it is our responsibility to locate ourselves in the equation in adherence to the dictum of not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country.
Output, or lack thereof, in the classroom has an impact on the country as a whole. Now is an ideal opportunity to renew levels of commitment and dedication to task, notwithstanding the challenges of inadequate resources, lack of parental support, overly centralised bureaucracy or student indiscipline. Self-regulation, being a hallmark of professional practice, dictates that motivation to improve practice is intrinsic and not contingent upon the actions of others. Client satisfaction must consistently be the driving force.
Indeed, everything that is done in the school must be in the context of improvement and enhancement of student-learning outcomes. Failure to adhere to this principle is an abdication of social responsibility, the consequences of which are not just grave for the country but for self. Commensurate levels of accountability must not be demanded by stakeholders but practiced as part of a professional obligation. The new education paradigm of less resources and increasing demand requires a renewal of commitment on both a personal and professional level.
While some may say the job of the teacher is becoming increasingly demanding, rising to the challenge is the only option. Failure to do so is an admission of incompetence as a citizen to do our part in the building of a fair and just society of which we can all be proud. As we look down the road of 2018 we must see opportunity for growth and development as a country rather than doom and despair.
We are by no means suggesting that we do not continue to hold our policy-makers and state actors accountable; they must also do their part – that is what will make the synergy work. However, of one thing we are sure — our work is certainly cut out for us.