Future leaders of every sector of a country are usually prepared in the classrooms; and teachers play a very vital role inside the classrooms. The quality of education mostly depends on the quality of the teaching staff. When such a great responsibility of preparing the future leaders lies mostly on the teachers, it is quite difficult and sometimes impossible to attain quality of education in the country without improving the quality and status of teachers. Teaching is all about changing the life and changing the society. Unless teachers are well educated and well groomed, how will they contribute to the changes? How many of the teachers themselves have accepted the changes in the field of education? How many of teachers have taken teaching by choice? How many are acting as teachers (!) for not getting other jobs? Why teaching could not be made one of the high choice professions? How many of the practising teachers are motivated to contribute to affective and intellectual growth of learners?
There are many similar questions which do not have any satisfactory answers. Whether the answer is known or not, one answer is clearly known to all that ‘affective’ changes are not happening that much in our educational institutions; and without quality teachers, quality education will always remain far away. Then the question is – how can we get quality teachers for quality education in Bangladesh?
The answer to the question is not that easy. The first step to achieve that is making teaching a lucrative profession. If teaching at all levels is highly paid, many meritorious and innovative graduates may be willing to join as teachers; then the education authority may choose the best ones from them. Selection of teachers may be based on academic qualifications and results; results of the recruitment test; performance in the viva voce; motivation level; teaching performances in schools or colleges (teaching skills testing); taking report from an expert panel and students who observed and took part in the teaching sessions. If the recruited teachers are without degree or diploma in Education, they should be first sent to the Teachers’ Training Colleges for Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) training and then to schools and colleges for starting teaching.
After the deployment of the teachers, the just joined teachers should be put under a subject specialist experienced teacher who will work as a mentor to guide the new teacher(s). That mentor will be a senior member in the school or college and has name and fame in teaching; and play a leadership role in the field of education. Although finding this type of mentors would be difficult in many cases, the newly recruited teachers need to be put under a mentor because the mentors are able to explain the curriculum, curriculum implementation process, service rules, service ethics, institution policies; share methods and techniques of teaching, tell about the available resources; help solve problems in teaching and learning; provide personal and professional support; and can lead to the intellectual and moral growth of the new teachers through reflection, collaboration, and shared inquiry (Feiman-Nemser and Parker, 1992). Guiding the new teachers is important as teaching is a challenging profession. Only subject knowledge is not enough here to deal with the learners; a single teacher has to deal with many different ability, mentality, and edu-culture background students. In the first world countries, mentoring has become an integral part of the education system for teacher development; in some institutions, there are professional development units that assess the need of professional development of the staff and take necessary actions. Even in Singapore, there is career plan of the government regarding what training would be provided to teachers and after how many days. Professional development is a continuous process; and there should be provision for engaging in professional development activities throughout one’s professional life.
Although there are recruitment rules, Bangladesh education system does not have well-spelt-out teacher development policy; or there is almost no built-in career development plan for teachers in Bangladesh. There are some projects which provide training on different school and college teaching subjects and on Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The life of a project short and when a project comes to an end, it becomes uncertain how the already-started activities would continue. However, these trained teachers are not sure when they would receive the next training and teachers without training are not sure when they would be invited for training; or they are not even sure whether they would have the opportunity or not. But it is known that, in many countries, there are plans of the education authority about the pre-service and in-service training of the teachers; after how long they would undergo the second/third/fourth training program and what would be the subject-matter of the future training. Of course, there are some teachers who take professional development initiatives on their own. They start reading books and journals; browse Internet; reflect on the performed action; think to do things alternatively; achieve more qualifications such as additional Master degree/M.Phil./Ph.D., etc. There are some proactive teachers who learn to operate computer to be able to use digital contents in classroom teaching.
Some other initiatives may develop teacher quality in the country. Banning guide books use by the teachers and students; preparing tests for their school or college examinations; provision of preparing lesson plans; collecting, preparing and using teaching aids in every lesson; making the environment teaching-learning friendly, and unthreatening; there must be incentive for the better performers in the form of promotion, salary rise, reward, appreciation for good work; teacher student ratio must be reasonable so that teachers can take individual care of each and every students. This may also exonerate us from the curse of private tuition and private coaching. The mentioned are the expected steps to be taken by the education authority but if the teachers are not made motivated; nothing can bring quality in education. Professor Kaniz Syeda Benta Sabah, Principal of TTC Dhaka, very often tells the practising and would-be teachers in different programmes, “If you do not love students and do not have passion for teaching, just quit the profession. If you join teaching, you will have to take teaching as a vocation.”
Why should we try for teacher development? Because our beloved students and future leaders deserve the best teachers; they deserve the best education; education that will transform them as humanized human beings. When we buy dresses for our children, we buy the best and the costliest ones. We do not find peace in mind unless we can buy the best foods and dresses for our beloved children. How do we become happy with the education that does not make our children better human beings? We believe that for better education, many factors such as good curriculum, better textbooks and teaching learning materials; infrastructure, modern furniture, up to date technology, and other physical resources are required. However, even though all other resources are present, only the absence of quality teachers can ruin everything. On the contrary, if there is a bunch of quality teachers, with or without all other factors mentioned, better education can be possible. A powerful locomotive (train engine) can take the dilapidated compartments of a train to the destination but if the locomotive itself is weaker, it cannot reach the goal even though all the compartments are high quality.
Teaching is a process of facilitating people to understand and analyses problems, providing experiences; affecting emotionally; enabling them to learn how to learn; and differentiate between good and evil, etc. Unless the operatives in the field of education are sound in every respect, the outcomes cannot be good, although output may be extraordinary. Outcomes and outputs are different things; outputs refer to, for example, the quantity of pass and how many students achieved the higher grades. On the other hand, outcomes refer to what learners do and can do after a certain level of education or an intervention. What do we want – output or outcome? If we are happy with the first, then our education is fine; our system is producing a lot of seemingly educated people with higher degrees. However, if we look for outcomes, we must aim at the performance of the passed out population. Are the passed out students positively motivated? Do they have integrity? Are most of the highly educated people really better human beings? Are they humanized? Do they care for others? If the answers are ‘no’, what are the purposes of education? I am not saying that it is possible to change cent per cent people affectively but it should be able to transform most who go through the school, college, and university education.
We need to develop teachers and establish them in the society for the sake of our nation. We do not send our beloved children to be taught by incompetent and unskilled teachers; they may teach poorly and these teachers may not be able to satisfy the needs of our children. In that case learners may lose respect for teachers and interest in learning; and in years to come, these poorly groomed children may run the sectors poorly they will be in charge of. In order to get rid of this kind of situation, we must think about teacher development.
A billion dollar question is, “How can we develop teachers?” First of all we can stop recruiting teachers without degree/diploma/Master in Education. Under no circumstances, poorly educated candidates should be recruited for teaching. If we are compelled to recruit fresh graduates having no pedagogical and andragogic education, we can send them to Teachers’ Training Colleges (TTCs) or Institutes of Education and Research (IERs) for the mentioned degree or training. There they can be taught the teaching subject(s), subjects that the teachers teach in their institutions; learning theories; teaching aids collection, preparation, and use; methods and techniques of teaching; education policy and curriculum, ICT in education, and so on. Special training on pedagogy and andragogy can be arranged for those teachers having no pedagogical and andragogic knowledge. Training can be organized for teachers of all levels so that they are able to use technology in classroom teaching. Of course, a2i and TQI are running this kind of training for the school, college, and madrasa teachers. Induction program for the new teachers should be arranged so that they can know the preliminary ideas about curriculum, teaching and learning methods and techniques, assessment, co-curricular activities, service rules and ethics, etc.
There should be career map for all level teachers and the newly recruited teachers must be informed about what rights they would be entitled to enjoy in their service life and what the education authority expects from the teachers. There must be a policy clarifying what training a teacher must undergo and when in their total teaching life. However, if salary and promotion of teachers is based on their educational qualifications and performances, the teachers themselves may take some initiatives for upgrading their qualifications and qualities. If those initiatives by teachers are valued, teachers are likely to set high goals, work harder to reach the goals, use technology, take part in planning institution development strategies, practise higher order thinking skills, try to engage themselves in cooperative learning, try to manage classroom better, practises oft skills, share any professional issues with colleagues, and conduct action research.
Alongside training, as mentioned earlier, there should be mentoring in educational institutions. Although mentoring has been proved to be effective for teacher development in many institutional settings, importance has not been yet attached to mentoring in Bangladesh. If we plan to start mentoring, some valid questions arise: who will be the mentors? Will they come from outside or from the same institution? Is the Head Teacher or the Principal right person to mentor the different subject teachers? What are the desired qualities and qualifications of a mentor? Who will be the mentees? Of course, a mentor must be senior, experienced, leader in the field of education, softly-speaking, friendly, and equal to the mentee in terms of mentality. Of course, the mentees would be the comparatively younger teachers. If the situation allows or dictates, even a respectful junior colleague specialised in an area can be the mentor. Whoever the mentor is, they will observe and provide indirect and positive feedback to the mentees. Sometimes, they have to coach or train the mentee in a welcoming environment. In case of ICT use in teaching, younger teachers are more skilled and motivated than the older and experienced teachers. In this kind of situation, the juniors also can be the mentors. However, the junior colleagues must be soft in handling the senior colleagues.
In conclusion, it can be said that without honouring teachers, nothing good in the field of education can be achieved. The teachers as well as the education authority should unlearn the long-practised bad cultures, and should start doing things in a new way. Unless teachers are well developed and well prepared, the days are not very far when teachers will not find students to teach in the classrooms. Students may start rejecting the traditional schools and colleges and try to find a better alternative although we believe that no technology or nothing else can replace a good teacher. Therefore, it is high time we started thinking about the education of the country.
The writer is an Associate Professor at Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org