15 June 2010

Stakeholder Myths and Rethinking Education

Past Sunday's edition of THE HINDU (Newspaper published from Chennai) carried two very down to earth and thought provoking articles: "The six myths about Engineering you should know" by Arun Karuppaswamy (in the OPEN PAGE column) and "RETHINKING EDUCATION When less is more" by Aruna Sankaranarayanan (in the MAGAZINE section). Both articles seemed exceptional to me.

Arun Karuppaswamy lists 6 myths in the minds of parents, about Engineering as an academic discipline, and explains as to how this can hamper career prospects of their children, in simple English. He makes a very clear and valid point about the importance of basic science. Other myths that today's parents have, are as follows:

1. If knowledge is imparted to children at an earlier age, they learn better ("My kids begin writing alphabets    in Lower Kindergarten itself").
2. Private schools are always better than Government schools.
3. Schools which collect donations and exorbitant fees are better than other schools.
4. After-school coaching classes will equip children to face Board Exams in a better way.
5. Computer aided teaching is always very effective.
6. Value Education is not as important as Maths and English in the school curriculum.

Aruna Sankaranarayanan explains as to how our K-12 schools are pressurizing children to learn too much and too fast. She gives a snapshot account of what is happening in most of our schools in cities such as Chennai. Today it is the norm than exception for parents to send children to coaching classes after school hours so that they can acquire `rank' in the Board Exams. Schools can sort many of the problems outlined in her article out if they counsel parents.

Functioning on myths is not confined to parents. Many school managements also seem to run their schools based on myths as listed below (My points of view are given in brackets):

  1. Graduate teachers are not as efficient as Postgraduate teachers.
  2. Teachers who are near perfect in maintaining records and lesson plans are better than others (Actual teaching can never be evident from any lesson plan or other similar documents).
  3. Principals with MEd or PhD are better than principals with a BEd.
  4. Principals with MA or MSc are better than principals with BA or BSc.
  5. Principals need to spend all their time in administrative and mentoring activities without classroom teaching (I don't understand as to how a Principal can display teaching skills and act as a role model, if he/she does not teach).
  6. Principals who are young and look physically tough are relatively effective.
  7. Principals need to distance themselves from teachers always.
  8. Principals who are innovative and research oriented may not be effective in the long run.
  9. Principals who carry their homwork in datacards are not as efficient as principals who carry papers and files in their briefcases. 
  10. Retired principals and teachers cannot be active at work. (I can recall an incident that happened last year:  A Chennai based group of schools had advertised for the post of Principal.  I applied for it, as usual, after visiting the school's website.  As there was a conceptual mistake even in the website's homepage, I mentioned it along with the correct way of presenting the concept, when I emailed my application.  Although I did fulfill their eligiblity requirments, I did not even receive an acknowledgement of my email from them.  I was 59 years old at the time of application.  The Chairman of that Group of Schools was much older than me).
  11. Caucasian principals are more effective than others, in managing International Schools.
  12. Computer assisted learning is more effective than activity based learning.
  13. Coaching classes will enhance the popularity of the school.
  14. Teaching English in the formal way right from KG will enhance communicational skills of children.
  15. Good looking teachers are relatively effective. 
Textbook publishers should get away from the following myths:

1. Manuscripts written by experienced authors are always good.
2. Commissioning editor's selection of authors is always effective.
3. Glossy cover pages, color photographs and drawings make a book a better learning material.
4. Offering adds-on such as lesson plans can increase customer base irrespective of textbook quality and cost.
5. Number of pages in textbooks is more important than quality of content.

Although our syllabi and textbooks (Private as well as Government owned) in general, are not up to the mark in terms of quality, schools can make up for the deficiency by cutting down on quantity and concentrating on quality aspects within their own schools, at least up to the middle school level, so that children get a firm footing at the formative stage. But this requires effective school based curriculum development, teacher training and counseling to parents.

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About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a retired K-12 Education Management Professional. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.