TEACHING is more than a noble calling.
For an education system to thrive and produce the kind of future the nation hopes for, this fact needs to be recognised and acted upon accordingly. For far too long, the teacher's contribution to national development has often been blindsided by a focus on economic growth and an emphasis on riding the fast track.
In recent years, given the abundance of grouses, it has become clear that respect and appreciation due to the profession must be restored so that the national education system does not suffer. The announcement by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the promises of 2012 Budget to teachers are being kept is testimony that the government is listening and responding appropriately to ensure the delivery of quality human capital.
In Malaysia's drive to make the quantum leap to a status that had taken the developed world several centuries, the teaching profession is being given a boost. Firstly, the aim is to make it more economically attractive to the next generation as remuneration packages are revised upwards and workloads streamlined. Secondly, the job should be relieved of time-consuming and soul-destroying drudgery.
Thus, for example, data entry should be clerical and not professional. Time would thereby be released for the core competency of attending to students and pupils, as well as for self-improvement, an area which has become crucial. For example, teachers cannot resign themselves to being less computer literate than their charges, which takes us to the third point: the proposed condition of a university degree for entry into the profession from the lowest level. Accordingly, teaching the higher classes will require even better qualifications.
However, much has been said about students in local universities not having the desired intellectual wherewithal and blame is squarely laid at the door of school teachers. But schoolchildren are products of homes, too. Parents cannot shirk their responsibility.
They must give their children the home environment that would complement the efforts of teachers. Homes and schools should find the right balance so that those who have deigned to prepare young minds will not be left facing an uphill battle.
After all, good teaching is an art and, yes, a good teacher can bring out the best in their charges under most conditions, but the numbers needed nationally cannot but force a reliance on teachers whose teaching methods are mechanical. Nevertheless, if the profession is given due recognition, Teachers Day notwithstanding, even this latter group will be motivated to earn the rewards and esteem given.