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Friday, May 27, 2011

School...of Good Hope

The other day few of us, parents, were talking about the cost of education in our times. It ranged from free, to Rs 15 per month to Rs 30 per month. How the times have changed… educational institutions are now synonymous with money……"expense” to most and “making more” to some select few. Today the Mexican grass on the school lawn, the exotic food in the canteen is advertised to impress parents to empty their pockets. And guess what, it actually works!

I was talking yesterday with a former principal of a school and in a matter of time I was telling her my short experience with teaching seven years back and how frustrated I feel about the education scenario. I was telling her what I feel is required to better the situation and discussed the economics of incorporating it.

That economics should not be important in the education field cannot be justified in today's context; as Money is a priority for all private enterprises and THAT cannot be changed and better be accepted. And yet some of the consumerism plaguing schools should be removed as it goes against the very things schools are to teach like "reducing resource wastage"!. In olden times there was optimum resource utilization  In today's times Bags, Uniform, 'Adidas' white shoes, stationary and books have to be brought from the school every year.Often after giving a bag, the school wants the parent to buy smaller bags for the little kid so no one questions the load they carry! That's one time I have felt the house is full of bags; like from old schools, new school and bags as promotional gifts from consumers stores but not one to carry to school. I also wonder if there is still the concept of using old books of the elder sibling or senior students in a posh school? How many trees are we cutting, and how much resources are we wasting  to write "SAVE TREES, DON'T WASTE RESOURCES"?

 Now more on the current filthy scenario

1. Education today is not focused on bettering the standards of education but rather is focused on making money for the private owners of the institution.

a. Schools are often marketed very well but it all turns out to be a flashy crust over a highly rotting inners where a teacher in a class does not even last for more than three months (yup despite the one year bonds). One teacher lasting one year has become rare in most schools, then what can be assured about the teaching standards of a school where there are not even good, experienced, stable teachers to show off? Is the expensive grass on the lawn and the canteen food enough for the child’s development?

c. Freshers into the teaching field are loaded with as many classes possible and even classteachership (associated are meaningless paper works and record keeping) when it is well understood that loading thus would lead to lesser preparation time for each class. .(Believe me even with four hours of sleep a fresh teacher cant spare an average of 20 minutes of preparation time per period a day under the above scenario) "Teaching well" definitely does not seem to be the aim when "preparation" time is not given importance while assigning the load! The aim rather seems to be to squeeze the very life out of the teacher for the expense she is incurring on the institution in the name of a comparative pittance of a salary. And I am not much wrong in generalizing this to most schools as I confirmed from the discussion with the former principal. This is true for most schools and things are no better today than seven years back.

c. Teachers are loaded like a donkey but compared to their work their pay stays unremarkable (also compared to other less stressful professions). There was long back an article in a paper that most of the heart patients admitted in hospitals are teachers. I can believe that. My short tryst with teaching left me convinced that only someone who has no better option would want to teach under the current load scenario.

2. Bettering options for the scenario without causing a dent in the money making. Money is important agreed, but there are also possible ways of earning it by first just aiming to make for a happy teacher

a. A fresh teacher should be given less classes and facilitate a scenario where the teacher can devote atleast two hours of preparation time for each 45 minute or one hour class. When the teacher has perfected her basic subject and arrived at an appropriate teaching style in the first year, she can be slowly assigned other frill and froth work like classteachership or even more classes. The economics of this is that more breathing space would make for contented teachers who don’t run away breaking even the one year bond and thus save the school the stress of teacher hunting after every two months.

b. Facilitating the appropriate environment to hone teaching skills in the first year of a fresh teacher and making for contented teachers would lead to stable experienced teachers in a school and a good name for the school without the need for expensive marketing strategies and loads of lies. A little bit of freedom and flexibility should be allowed to the teacher, rather than deciding how the teacher should do the job (directions like -the teacher should make notes and dictate the notes, finish course by October, revise in the remaining months, apart from this,of course do what u want in the class…!!REALLY? Where now remains the time per class to do what the teacher may want to do? In fact all the inflexible directions mentioned,are a pressure to ensure conforming rather than allow creative teaching) There can be deadlines and directions but there should not be inflexibility and absolute lack of trust in the teacher's own discretion and decisions.

c. In the end having contented teachers would mean requiring more teachers per subject or even class, but I don’t think it would mean more expense to the institution over time for the institution as in the long run it has to be good bargain with a good name that requires no expensive marketing and lesser stress and expense of recruiting teachers all through the year which I feel could add up to the same increment in expense as incurred to the institution by salary increments to a stable teacher over the years. (Expense in advertising for new teachers and possibly having to offer better pay scale to draw in a good teacher after every other term or year)

The former principal realized how frustrated I felt.  She agreed that my points had base but her question was who will bell the cat? Only someone who would stick the neck out and start a school because it is not the principal who decides how the school runs but the management. Moreover why would the Management try out this change when the old system is working very well in getting in the Moolah.

Maybe somebody someday would have time and patience to try out, calculate and confirm what I am suspecting…that it would be more economical if the above changes are incorporated. Till someone with enterprise does actually bell the cat, there is still something we can do as Parents to encourage good schools. That is, as parents, do not fall for advertising gimmicks-Old School, Reputed School, Flashy attractive school prospectus. (Yes, keep in mind-almost every lofty thing fanned in front of you about a school can be ascribed to mere gimmicks) So look for schools which though may be bad in their marketing, do have stable teachers who are also known to be the best and try getting kids into such schools first before trying for any other. Another thing we fall for is the belief that higher the fee of the school, the better it is, and schools cash in on that delusion. Rich and middle class parents should avoid falling into this trap and all of us should encourage the schools of substance rather than those with well bred marketing strategies. This if practiced by all who have an excess of cash to spend, in the long run could force school managements to change their tactics and bring change 'where it matters' to draw the money minters. Till someone within the institution does bell the cat…, it's for now up to all rich parents out there to bring the change we want for our kids. They deserve a better view of schools as we had...A view we miss so badly today


FherYmas said...

yes you're right education shouldn't be "expenses" but an "investment"...

Jovy Thomas said...

Now I understood the pressure that most teachers are facing today. As you said when the target demands meeting the deadlines, creative teaching will be affected. The options you say here are worth trying for sure.

Jerly said...

Glad u agree with it. Thanks

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