I got to know the expressions “academic supervision” first in a training called ESTEEM (Effective Schools through Enhanced Education Management) most probably in 2002. The training was designed based on six modules:
a. Introduction to school management
b. Managing the curriculum
c. Academic supervision
d. Working with the people in the school community
e. Managing information and finance
f. Planning school development
These are the indicators of successful running of a school. The school able to integrate and utilise these indicators in more efficient way is considered as better one. The most important module is the third one—-academic supervision. The others keep on going centring the third.
The importance of “academic supervision” is acknowledged appropriately since the early days. Anyway, the supervision methodology was not so systematic in those days. Even in the recent past it was not the same as it is today. Just for a glimpse here is an example from my own experience when I was at the primary level and I believe most of you had almost the same. So far I remember the visit of a School Inspector (Equivalent to Upozila Education Officer to today) only once in the five years of my schooling at the primary level. There was no post to assist the Inspector in those days. It was a pre-arranged visit. So there was enough time to get ready to welcome the glorious visit. The school premises and the classrooms were cleaned as much as possible. The students were asked to attire with the clean dress. Accordingly, on the auspicious day we welcomed the Inspector with floral wreaths along with singing and dancing.
Prior to the class visit, the teacherswere hurried to assemble relatively “smart and good” students of the whole school who were made earlier ready to satisfy the inspector’s query. To my utter surprise the so called“smart and good” students were distributed equally to all classes irrespective of their grade they actually belonged. I was distributed to a higher class. The very moment came. The Inspector asked to Sudeb (one of my elderly cousins), what the alternate word of tari (a Sanskrit word for a boat used in classical Bangla) was. Sudeb smartly replied, “tarkari (a word in Bangla for “curry”) sir!” As he was familiar with the word tari-tarkari, where tari is used as a prefix of the word tarkari, a synonym of vegetables in Bangla. Then the Inspector wanted to know his name. The instant answer was “Sudeb”. The Inspector was little annoyed to the boy and said, “well, “Su” means good and “deb” means a demi god. But this is not appropriate for you. So you are simply a “Su-gadha” meaning a good donkey (donkey is used as an idiom to express a stupid person in Bangla). I am not going to debate whether the Inspector was right or wrong. But in the real life that stupid boy turns to a successful business entrepreneur in our area, though he did not have any of formal certificate. That was the time when the academic supervision was directly under the care of the authorities like Inspectors and above. The Head teacher had nothing to do. There might have some weakness in the education system due to lack of proper academic supervision that made a way to school drop out of many students like Sudeb whose aptitude were not taken care of accurately. Now the government has an order that a Head teacher has to take at least two classes and to observe the taking of two classes by the other assistant teachers under his/her concern. The order is quite appropriate to ensure the quality of education. The Head teacher should have one class at the first period and the other at the last in any grade. The school routine should be arranged accordingly. So that S/he has to stay at the school for the whole working hour to conduct, monitor and deliver time to time directions as per required to rectify the existing faults in the system. In fact, the integration of these activities is designated as academic supervision.
Because only supervision without performing any jobs does not fit with the head of an organisation. The Head teacher has to own everything related to the school. Thus his/her professional skills and efficiency would increase. Therefore the academic supervision has immense importance to increase the professional skill and efficiency.
The head teachers are now on the driving seat of academic supervision. They are used to post their regular activities on the Facebook. It appears to me that they have taken the order in a very positive way. So I am thinking right now how to help these academic supervision activities through my experience from the ESTEEM.
In the academic supervision process, teachers could get the appropriate advice to help themselves in the every step of supervision. At the same time, their personal efficiency could be sharedwith the colleagues working around them. Thus academic supervision creates the opportunity of learning for all through give and take process.
The academic supervision is a triangular process. Teachers, students and observers are at the three peaks of a triangle. Everybody is sharing knowledge with each other through learning and teaching methods. Are the teachers learning from the students? Yes they are. It might sound strange to some of us. In fact, the teachers have to learn from the students of the elementary level. The teachers in fact, learn from their students to design their teaching method accordingly. So, student, teacher and observer, all are teachers in one sense and student in another sense. How do the students supervise their teachers’ in academic activities? I have some experiences when I was working as a primary head teacher at the beginning of my career. There was an obligation to write eight lines from a verse in the examination note sheet at that time. So the student has to memorise the verse. Even I have to recite the verse before the kids. Because they used to make fun with me asking whether I could recite the verse or not. Then they used to follow me. So a teacher naturally turns to a student to encounter a lot of queries of his/her students and the students to teacher. And the same with the observers also. So is the situation, then there should have a cordial relationship among the students, teachers and observers. Yes! There should not have any intention to intercept an ongoing school activities just in the name of observation by an observer. In fact, this creates an embarrassing situation for teacher and the student also. So it is better to inform the teachers ahead of the time to pay any visit for academic supervision/observation so that he/she could have enough time to prepare himself/herself before the observer. Because the objective of the academic supervision is to encourage the teachers in creative thinking so that they could had their duties properly, and get ready themselves to conduct their teaching activities creatively.
Many of the immediate higher authorities might have misunderstood the philosophy of the academic supervision due to the age-old service structure we inherited from the colonial government. The bureaucratic attitude still exists. Therefore, sometimes the teachers are harassed. But they are the driving force doing most for the improvement of the primary education. Vis-à-vis the academic supervisors are the helping hands. So the incident of harassment must be taken care of by the higher authorities. On the other hand, the teachers should have the sense of responsibility towards the improvement of the primary education. They have to show their skill and efficiency in lesson planning and teaching. They have to be aware of class management and the method of evaluation. The teacher and the supervisors both are to be well-acquainted with the rule 27 and 28 related to the UN Children Right Doctrine 1989 (Bangladesh signed the doctrine in 1990). The rule 27 says: the state has to ensure the physical, mental, moral and social right to the every child under its jurisdiction. Rule 28 is about the compulsory primary education for every child, easy access to the every kind (general, vocational, professional etc.) education, creating opportunity to establish in life etc. And the state is liable to make those opportunities available to every child. This doctrine also says that no children should be punished at home or at school. The Constitution of Bangladesh has also given importance of primary education in chapter 17.
There are not many hard and fast rules to be followed by the academic supervisors. The most important one is the supervision of an on-going class. An academic supervisor has to observe/supervise a class almost silently sitting behind the class. He/she should not make any comment during the class. He/she is supposed to observe and take note. After the observation, the teacher and the observer will have an open discussion, cordially, regarding the improvement of the learning activities. During the discussion, the teacher and the observer must be strategic in exchanging their views and thoughts.
However, teaching and learning in a classroom every day is really a difficult task. So a teacher might feel monotony in his activities. This feeling is neither good for a teacher nor a student. So the academic supervision should be guided in such a way to make this task systematic, joyful and effective. There is another concern related to the teachers nowadays. Most of them are kept busy with the works like making lists of stipend holders, updating voter lists, submission of electricity bill, frequenting the Upozila Education Office etc. The prime duty of the teachers (including the Head teachers) is to teach the students within the class, if necessary out of the class—- this universal truth must be conceived by the authorities.
Though all the higher officers from the Primary and Mass Education, local administrative authorities, members of the managing committee have the authority to supervise academic activities, but the Head teachers are the best fit to do the job. Because they are enriched with the theoretical and practical aspects the primary education. But they deservesome autonomy to performthe task assigned to them. They must not be given the other task during his academic supervision activity as I mentioned earlier. Beside this, the higher authorities should be cordial to help their work going smoothly. Unfortunately, the Head teachers are getting not much importance as they deserve due to their service hierarchy. Still they have to ring the school bell by themselves in many schools in Bangladesh. To conduct academic activities properly (record keeping, meeting with the teachers, planning etc.) there should have a room for the Head teacher equipped with all the facilities from human resource to administrative power. Even the status of the Head teachers could be upgraded to an honourable position compared to those of the other officers they have to deal with. The Head teachers are the centre of all activities, and only they are mostly liable to the authorities regarding the improvement of education at the grassroots level. Conversely, the higher authorities have the equal responsibility to extend their pleasant guidelines to the Head teachers so that they could utilise their experience more effectively. Thus, the quality education for all kids could be assured.
The writer is an Assistant Upozila Education Officer, Kapashia, Gazipur