Sunday, 28 June 2015

Quality Education Enhancement

I have a deep interest in developments in the education industry. The education industry, like all other established industries, has tried from time to time to reinvent itself. As such, we have witnessed changes in many aspects of educational enterprise. The following list is not exhaustive:

  1. the content of curricula
  2. the methodologies of delivering that content
  3. the job descriptions of teachers
  4. educational technologies
  5. the widespread privatisation of education in some areas
  6. the mode of government provision
  7. And we have seen the introduction of buzz words - the need for better school governance or the need to improve governance structures, or the need for effectiveness, efficiency and economy in the management of schools, or the need to improve the educational outcomes of students. ... you know them! But, for the most part these buzzwords have remained just that - buzz words, because the education industry seems to lack enough of the human resources who are capable of providing committed visionary leadership and who would be able to operationalise these terms to address the problems that policymakers believe need to be addressed with the implementation of their policies. 

Today, the focus in the education industry around the world is on quality education enhancement. This drive seems to be led by multilateral agencies (see UNESCO's website for much information on this subject), and has been accepted by local educational elites. However, I believe that the drive to implement and enhance quality education, however defined, should be guided by a philosophy of education that has its roots in the society that is trying to devise a quality education system for its learners. Afterwards, this country can incorporate elements of other education philosophies that it believes does not run counter to its own into its overall quality education enhancement plan.

However, whatever the guiding force for enhancing quality education, the leaders of this process should realise that this idea of enhancing quality education begs several questions and seek to answer them before they proceed:

  1. What is quality education? 
  2. For whom and to whose benefit is it being implemented?What constitutes quality education and who should determine this?
  3. Who should implement this quality education after it has been decided on and how should it be implemented? 

Let's answer the first two questions. Quality education seems to be education that policy makers employed by the public and private educational enterprises believe will influence learners in a particular way, so that the learners in turn will influence society in a particular way. This "particular way" should be visible in the attitude and behaviours of learners who these policymakers hope will become "good" citizens of their societies, however good citizenship is defined in these societies.

Some societies go further by claiming that the education that they provide for their learners will make them world citizens - a laudable goal since we are living in a globalised world. So, quality education seems to be for all learners in a society and is one that creates "good" citizens.

Now, let's examine question three. What exactly constitutes quality education and who determines this? Quality education seems to be defined by the range of subjects that educational stakeholders within a country and in the case of many countries, educational stakeholders from outside the country believe, that in combination, will create the ideal citizen. So, there are the STEM subjects along with some form of citizenship education, plus any other subjects that are deemed to be important by the policymakers.

Now, having decided on what this quality education looks like, the policymakers put it in the hands of teachers who now have the task of communicating the vision of the policymakers to learners by facilitating and assessing their learning. There are a slew of modern teaching methodologies and assessment tools, ancient and modern, that teachers are expected to draw on. However, the extent to which the teachers will help the policymakers to achieve their goal will be dependent on many factors, not least of which is the extent to which these teachers buy into this vision. So, let's assume that there is buy-in from teachers.

Having put in place quality education, how does a country enhance it? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, "to enhance" means "to increase in value, quality, desirability, attractiveness"; "to heighten"; "to make better". It's obvious then that whoever is doing this enhancement must consider their stakeholders and their reasons for carrying out this enhancement. Having determined this, here are 7 ways that the team that's in charge of this enhancement can go about doing this job.

  1. Since Quality Education Plans are derived from the perceived needs of society, those entrusted with their enhancements should continuously monitor all the changes that are occurring in society to ensure that the education that is being delivered to learners prepare them to cope with these changes. 
  2. Ensure that leadership at all levels of the education system that is committed and buys into the vision of what this quality education is intended to achieve and is capable of converting the vision to measurable goals to guide the process. 
  3. Ensure that the teachers who are entrusted with the task of delivering this quality education and those persons entrusted with the task of guiding the process possess the necessary tools to carry out their jobs. To do this, it will be necessary to offer targeted continuous professional development to (CPD), another buzz word, to these teachers.
  4. Focus on enhancing the critical thinking skills of the leadership, teachers and learners of all ages.
  5. Expand the content of the education offered beyond the village, the town, the city, the country, the region, so as to broaden the perspectives of learners.
  6. Provide learning opportunities for those persons outside of the formal education system who, for whatever reason, didn't manage to grasp much from their earlier schooling, because they have a role to play in their children's learning, a role that they will not be able to play well if they are not literate and numerate.
  7. Reward teachers with cash or kind. It's said that "encouragement sweetens labour". Teachers need reasons to care.

The educational industry at this time is focusing on achieving quality education and continuing to enhance it, and so it should! Some educational institutions at the Micro level - schools and colleges have bought into this idea and are now thinking of ways to enhance what they believe is the quality education that they now provide to learners. I've provided 7 ways that quality education may be enhanced. What would you add to this list? Sound off in the comments section below.

Afterwards, please browse through my book, "Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world" here and share the link with your friends. Thanks much!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Teachers: 6 ways to maintain a "good" relationship with your students

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You are in a noble profession, or so you've been told. Your job is very important. You are charged with moulding young and not so very young minds to accept and nurture what is "good" and so be a credit to society. Because, society needs "good" people if it is to surge upward in its development. 

You're supposed to achieve this noble goal, in spite of whatever resistance/challenge that you meet in the classroom - students who are aggressive, disrespectful, resistant to learning what you are teaching them in the classroom...

Some days the challenge of finding the right balance between allowing your students to be students, thus keeping them always happy, and getting them to perform up to the standard that you know they can perform weighs heavily on you.

I have been a teacher for more than 25 years and I have survived many of these days. On one such day, I thought up this "tongue in cheek" list, intended to stir reflection on the part of the teacher with the aim of improving her relationship with her students and their parents.

So, here are my "tongue in cheek" suggestions for you. I call them 6 ways to maintain a good relationship with your students.
  • Don't ever take offence to anything that your students say or do in the classroom, no matter how tempted you are to do so. For example, you're in a classroom, you outline the work for the session and you set them off to work. One student raises his hand five minutes later and asks, "should we start now?" Just smile and say, "yes, you may start now". Or, if your students swear at you or their classmates, let it slide. Move on. Or, if your students comment on your "assets" or lack of them, don't take offence. Remember, it's their mouth and they have a right to say whatever they want to say.

  • When your students do something really bad, find the gentlest of tones that you possess to point out the inappropriateness of their behaviour to them. Whatever you do, don't show annoyance, don't raise your voice in shock, don't be stern. If you display any behaviour that is not couched in gentleness, you'll be branded as a bad teacher who is using your authority on them.

  • When they give you subpar work, give them all "As" and move on, because if you don't you will be branded as harsh and wanting to stunt their progress and you'll be reported to whoever is in charge to be disciplined, and you don't want that, do you?

  • If students do not submit assignments, give them a "good" grade anyway. Remember that they deserve it.  It's not their fault that the assignment was "too difficult" or that they were "busy" doing anything but school work, or that they gave you the assignment and you must have "lost" it...

  • If your students complain to their parents about you, no matter how frivolous the complaint, when their parents come to confront you at school quickly take responsibility. Then make a note to self, "Beware of what I say to that child from now on!"

  • Don't ever forget to praise your students for any and every kind of behaviour, good or bad. You don't want to hurt their fragile self-esteem. 

If you can't, with good conscience do what is suggested in 1-6, either move out or stay, but if you stay, accept that you'll be forfeiting any chance to maintain a "good" relationship with your students, as defined by some of them and some of their parents. Because you'll be laying down the gauntlet. You'll not be compromising your principles to make them always happy!

So teachers, always recognize that your students will always be students. Many of them do not share  the same urgency as you do to ensure that they get the best possible education that you want to give them. But your job as a teacher is to continue to do the following:

  • Know your students - How can you truly help them if you do not know who they are and what is motivating them?

  • Listen to students - Your students tell you much about themselves each day by what they say and do and how they behave. Hear what they are saying and take appropriate actions.

  • Guide your students - After you get to know your students by listening to them, help them as best you can to chart a way forward to achieving educational success.

You will constantly be tested by your students, no matter how good a teacher you think you are. Therefore, you need to develop strength from the testing to which they subject you to give them the "tough love" that they require to build their educational muscles to take advantage of schooling, no matter how hard they think it is.

About the Author

I am an Educator with many years of experience in the teaching profession. I am also the author of two books, Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world and The Teacher's Gift. Look out for more titles as I am in the process of writing other books, exploring a myriad of issues in education and society. In addition, I blog about the art of writing and my books here and about issues in education here
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @JanetteBFuller

Sunday, 7 June 2015

10 Behaviours of the Selfish Colleague

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We are working in an environment in which we often hear the buzz words: team, team building, collaboration and their synonyms.

Working collaboratively as a team to achieve the objectives of the organisation is the ideal that managers in all fields are encouraged to aim for by the experts.

However, in many organisations - educational, non-educational, governmental or non-governmental - there is at least one worker who scoffs at the idea of team work, by actions of course. This worker is a selfish colleague. This colleague exhibits the following behaviours:

1. He/she is not interested in briefing sessions or any other form of staff meeting. This person attends these meetings but when he/she does, he/she stares blankly at nothing, seeming to be in another place at another time, or is obviously annoyed by the goings on, from time to time muttering to him/herself or rolling his/her eyes as the team leader outlines the things that need to be done that day.

This person usually separates him/herself from other colleagues, and if she is               prodded to come closer, she reluctantly does, but stays at the fringe of the group. And this person does not contribute anything to discussions. If this person is pressed for a comment, this person says, in a very clipped, painstakingly polite voice, "It's okay," then his/her eyes wander off into some great void. He/She has nothing else to contribute to the proceedings. The tone of voice says it all.

2. This person wants to be given his/her job description and be left to do the job without interference from anyone, supervisor or colleagues. As long as he/she thinks he/she knows what to do, he/she wants to be left alone to do what he/she thinks needs to be done.

3. If this colleague is swamped with work that he/she is doing for the organisation and other colleagues volunteer to help, he/she refuses this help because the work is his/her job and he/she knows what he/she is doing.

This behaviour of this selfish colleague often frustrates other colleagues who cannot complete their work on a timely basis because the completion of their work depends on the completion of the work that the selfish colleague is doing.

4. If he/she is asked to work with a team, he/she is only concerned with the part of the work that he/she has to do, nothing else. He/She carefully does the part of the work that is assigned to him/her and leaves the rest to be done by those colleagues whose responsibility it is to do it. It doesn't matter that some colleagues may have been re-assigned to do tasks that have a direct bearing on the team's activity.

5. He/She doesn't hang out in the same areas in which his/her colleagues hang out. Instead, he/she creates space away from his/her colleagues to revel in his/her own company.

6. He/She likes to direct his/her colleagues in doing their jobs in the way that he/she sees fit, but he/she does not like to be given directions.

7. He/She hates to make mistakes in any aspect of his/her work, but he/she does make mistakes. He/She is not fun to be around when he/she makes mistakes. That is, if someone witnesses the mistake. He/She hates when anyone witnesses his/her mistakes and comments on them. As a result, instead of admitting that he/she has made a mistake he/she tries to fix it, sometimes unsuccessfully, a failure which puts him/her into a deeper funk than that caused by the original mistake.

8. He/She is a pro at ignoring those colleagues and/or clients who in his/her estimation have wronged him/her in some way.

9. He/she does not want to be seen as a slacker, so he/she wants to be directly involved in every aspect of the work in the department in which he/she works. And he/she wants to be told exactly what is going on there as every activity unfolds and exactly what he/she needs to do to assist. If he/she is bypassed, not because he/she is not competent, but because he/she is already engaged in some other activity, he/she feels slighted and until he/she gets over his/her feelings of hurt, he/she looks through the perceived offender whenever they meet. And, he/she finds other creative ways to ignore that offender.

10. Sometimes, this colleague is quite collegial. During these times, he/she likes to be the centre of attention while he/she shares on a wide range of topics that interest him/her. However, he/she, oftentimes, shows scant interest in the stories of others, unless they are ones which allow him/her to dispense his/her wisdom.

The selfish colleague is a challenge to work with, to associate with and to manage. Share your stories of your interactions with the selfish colleague below.