The National – Thursday, December 9, 2010
MANY people are criticising the OBE because they think that it is the prime factor that is causing the decline in the learning system.
As a teacher, I think that the root cause of the decline is the structural reform in the whole education reform package.
We first have to understand the differences between OBE and structural reform.
OBE (outcomes-based education) is merely the curriculum.
Specifically, OBE is the point to which a learner has to learn within a 40-minute lesson or after the completion of the academic year once the prescribed curriculum is fully implemented.
In other words, OBE substituted objective-based education.
The structural reform is the arrangement of grades in the school setting where we have Grade 1 being phased out and pushed back to the elementary level and primary schools now teach Grade 3 to Grade 8 while high schools take Grades 9-12.
As such, we now have at least four times more elementary schools than primary schools.
This has boosted the demand for teachers when the country is facing a shortfall of teachers.
The pressure has led to Grade 10 dropouts becoming elementary teachers.
However, their training is posing a threat to the learning outcome as courses they take are very intensive and made in a very short period.
Tok ples or tok pisin is the only medium of communication used in the elementary schools, which is the contributing factor to the poor command of both written and spoken English.
This is also evident among new high school teachers who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education.
Many of them have a poor command of English.
The Grades 7 and 8, which were once taught by the qualified high school teachers, were pushed back into the primary schools.
The primary school teachers who went to the teachers colleges with C and lower grades attained from their secondary schools are not competent to teach.
The Grades 7 and 8 subjects are more difficult and teachers must be qualified to teach.
The same goes for higher grades.
More than 90% of our secondary schools do not have science laboratories for the three main subjects – biology, chemistry and physics.
Many of our schools are run-down and there is hardly any maintenance.
As a result, our Grades 11 and 12 students struggle when it comes to doing lab work.
Our schools need infrastructural development to create favourable and conducive learning environment for Grades 11 and 12students.
The sad part is some high schools are being declared secondary schools to gain political support from their people although many of the schools do not have the necessary facilities to cater for the students’ needs.
My suggestion is to scrap the elementary system as it is the main cause of the deterioration in the learning process, particularly the proficiency of the English language.
If it is to be maintained, the government should establish a university or a college that cater solely for early child-minding courses so that our elementary teachers can get their training there.
Another option is the current elementary teachers should undergo training in Australia as it offers degrees in elementary education.
We need elementary teachers who are competent and qualified.
By this, I mean they must have all the motivating skills, ability to apply a variety of teaching strategies, be innovative and creative being a role model, etc.
The elementary teachers must put emphasis on English as the only medium of communication and teaching.
In summary, OBE is not the only contributing factor to the downfall in students’ learning.
The trend will continue even if the OBE curriculum is amended or abandoned.
The fact is 80% of the decline in the learning process is structural reform.
Abolish the newly introduced structure, and revert to our old structure of education because it did not fail those of us who were educated under the old structure.