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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Ministerial Impulse to Investigate Teachers’ Workload

The wick of hard work and commitment of our teachers against all odds have helped the Kingdom realize healthy Net Primary Enrolment and Millennium Development Goals of achieving the Universal Primary Education. Their persistent perseverance have secured our children to perpetually endow education with the standards of an international parity and of course to mature with the skills and confidence necessary to survive in the 21st century mode of living.
Understanding the significant role played by the teachers in investing the future of a nation, the new Education Minister has commissioned a team to study the teacher workload. This study is timely that it has taken place amidst the period of unrelenting societal hue and cry on the decline of quality of education which has still been not fully pacified.  
One as a parent also need to share equal dividend of worry because none of us would prefer to allow our children being taught by someone who is disproportionately exhausted, drained and burdened to perform the duties satisfactorily.
The studies of similar kind has already been introduced in educationally advanced nations like the United Kingdom and New Zealand since 1994 and 2005 respectively. Since then, such robust educational endeavor had been an annual event in the UK owing to its significant impact in stimulating quality teaching-learning process. The findings generated from the study suggested that majority of teachers quit teaching predominantly because of an insurmountable workload they need to endure. In New Zealand, bizarrely almost 60% of the teachers committed to quit teaching when greener opportunities arise, for the reason that they need to shoulder hefty workload. Due to this reasons, teacher attrition is considered very seriously in such nations because failing to consider one would mean witnessing the exodus from teaching profession as more of a ritualistic episode.          
Nevertheless in any essence, when we debate about ‘workload’ of any profession, a comprehensive understanding on its delineation has to be gathered. Or else, without having the definition of workload clearly defined, it would be sophisticated to measure and calibrate the precise intensity of workload shouldered by the individual. With respect to teaching in particular, those factors and assorted managerial duties that interrupts teachers to accomplish systematic teaching-learning process can be considered as ‘unnecessary’ workload.
While planning and preparation of lessons or assessments of students’ progress are some fundamental professional duties of a teacher, at times, an imperative of maintaining every details of the lesson that one teach becomes only as a feast to amuse those educational inspectors rather than making positive impact on student learning and outcomes. Because lesson planning and its organization largely depends on the level of teaching experience, understanding of the curriculum and materials or the strategies, imposing a rigid figure or design in making a lesson often becomes a punitive pedagogic taxation, and hence augment the workload.  
On a similar note, if one understands that educating our own child is a shared responsibility of both parents and teacher, then parents assisting their child to follow-up the written feedbacks by the teachers in their notebooks can largely ease the friction of teachers’ workload. This mostly doesn’t take place in our kind of situation because we are victimized with a myth that educating our child is completely a teacher’s work. 
The lion’s share of teachers’ time in the school is spent on assessing student progress using the strategies and materials present at one’s disposal. So those tasks that necessarily doesn’t raise the academic standards of pupil should be reduced or completely erased if at all possible from making the teachers to do it. A specific person can be employed to carry out those assorted activities like games and culture, scouting and mask dances, or any co-curricular activities so as to enrich the much espoused Quality Wholesome Education, while retaining only teaching to the teachers.
While the feasibility of such provisions is practically arguable, instituting one can certainly help in raising the standards of the students at least academically.
Nevertheless, with the institution of a task force by His Excellency comprising those celebrated Bhutanese scholars, we sincerely wish that their investigation will shed some practical insights and solutions to address the complex issues of unnecessary teacher workload. Or least, we anticipate those recommendations and changes to inhale some oxygen of reality, genuineness, credibility and pragmatism.
I sincerely wish the team a 'Good Luck".
“A teacher takes a hand, open a mind and touches the heart”- Anonymous

Friday, April 22, 2016

Shakespeare has Literally Died

While the world celebrates 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death (and April 23rd as his Birthday), some of our students don't even know who he was, let alone the literary contribution made by this literary don. 
In Bhutan, on the way to revamp the middle and higher secondary Bhutanese English curriculum, Shakespearean plays were weeded out from the literature garden some years ago from now, despite the assorted public response it suffered.    
The Bard’s plays, as far as I learned, were substituted with the series of contemporary literature on the grounds that it failed to impart all 4 skills of language viz. listening, speaking, reading and writing. Because it imparted only and more of listening skills, the students in consequence were unarguably transformed to a mechanical copyists of the notes prescribed by the teachers. The same notes were rote memorized and regurgitated for the assessments and semester exams. Also, for the reasons that it was strongly rooted to a mythical milieu and the plots it projected were intertwined predominantly with an unfamiliar ethos and difficult dictum, the plays written by the Bard of Avon were observed to be obsolescent and immaterial.  
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But for those of us who loosely caught up with the Shakespearean plays as a part of English literature during our secondary education can not only recall but even live the story itself. As some linguists put in, the Bard’s play were a rich amalgam of plots depicting almost all genres of tragedy, comedy or fiction - an engendered literary quality found in those contemporary writings.   
The learners of those times who studied Shakespeare often end up drawing a story using those pervasive characters, themes, world views or a plot mostly stolen from the Bard’s play. The characters in the plays were so intriguing that many of our friends sharing the similar taste of description got nicknamed. For instance, a friend of mine who was for most of the time observed intoxicated was effortlessly remembered more as Trinculo than by his actual name. Trinculo in The Tempest is characterized by his drunkenness. A girl from another class who was quarrelsome and ill-tempered earned Katherine, a character branded for its shrewdness.            
But sadly, these once-infectious characters of the Shakespeare are all gradually turning Greek to many of our students. Let alone quantifying their writings with the Shakespearean language, our children fail to realize that majority  of words they use in their writing are in fact mined from the Bard’s own language bank.
To argue whether they the English in our children has grown with its expected limbs of language after removal of Shakespeare is still uncertain, but one thing is almost definite; Students rarely or by no means appreciate the linguistic prowess of the Bard of Avon.  
A time is eventually witnessing Shakespeare literally being dead.   
“In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others”- Andre Maurois

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Essence of Competition

Enough ink has been spilled in whining and protesting in the form of words about unfair opportunities and perhaps I should compose no more about it.
As much as our survival is important to acclimatize with the ground realities of this fast changing world, competition for any opportunities in any essence is central to the accommodation of our life in this 21st century. So for that matter, in order to access for any limited opportunities or resources, competition within the same species (Intraspecific) or amongst different species (Interspecific) in human life is a rudimentary necessity.
Humans have thus far, invented a series of processes in locating and gauging the best that are fit for survival but only through competition mode.  
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But just as a bee die after it stings, at times humans tend to suffocate with the rubrics of our own survival proceedings. A competition system built with a noble intent of creating a better society by finding the deserving often gets dirtied by our very mind. And the very purpose of having a competition meets tragedy before it is born. That’s how we hear a story of opportunities knocking only to a person connected either through genes and blood or money or power. That’s also a time when we witness a magical metamorphosis of the sick and the diseased to an undeserving career comforts and probable career advantage after the touch by those hands that are already soiled. But as we are familiar with, when fishes are made to climb the trees, it neither can succeed nor live long. So live it that way.    
However, we fail to realize that when the system gets contaminated by the people who creates the system, it is never easy to sweep it clean. Competitions of any sort, be it intra or interspecific, to make it functional without any ailments of favoritism or nepotism or corruption, the hygiene and cleanliness of its modus operandi are the central aspects to be taken care of.
Or else, the sickness of such failures are enough to infect the minds of the present mass and such stories will relapse even after those wicked are vanished.  
“Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people”- Faqimi Fauzi


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