Shift focus to teachers

Editorial

A BOOK recently released by University of Goroka vice-chancellor Professor Musawe Sinebare focuses on the delivery of quality education in schools.
In particular, he questions whether the tuition fee free is improving the quality of education.
It is a pertinent issue that needs serious research as we reach the end of another academic year.
The well-intended education policy in operation for more than a decade has been a blessing and a burden for parents and teachers.
For parents of more than one child and those with scant financial resources, the school fee assistance provided has been a great relief.
Parents are able to enrol their children without worrying about school fees.
They are only required to pay for the uniform, transport, stationery and lunch for their children.
On the flip side, the free education policy has led to overcrowding in classrooms.
Although most teachers love their work of teaching children, they need a conducive and comfortable environment to do it if they are to carry out their duties well.
And that means a spacious classroom, and a reasonable number of children, preferably less than 40.
Not only that, they need teaching materials that will support their work.
Simple things such as quality exercise books and pens matter a lot to children’s learning.
Most important is the amount of time a teacher is able to spend on a student.
In a big class of more than 40, that is hard to do, unless of course classroom hours are extended to accommodate that.
As much as a dedicated teacher feels for the children it is not practically possible to do that.
They want to see their students to succeed, even excel in their classroom work.
But such situation will not guarantee children the amount of attention they need from a teacher.
And with that, the child will not be able to receive the level of education he or she deserves.
In the long run, it is a big dent in the child’s education.
The teacher too will be affected by the stress and work overload.
Thus though well-intended, the free education policy has inadvertently compromised quality in education.
The teacher-to-student ratio is just too high to properly manage.
Perhaps the policy-makers should have given it more consideration.
The answer for us lies in employing more teachers – qualified teachers – to reduce the ratio to a manageable level.
That too has to come with a more lucrative package to entice more university graduates into the noble profession.
Those required to be posted to remote rural schools need to be paid a reasonable and fair allowance.
What the Education Department currently pays our teachers is perhaps a reflection of how we view a teacher’s importance in the education system.
Teaching should be made an attractive option for the brightest young people coming out of secondary schools so they can shape the next generation of smart students.
We all yearn to have a system where every child can access and benefit from the quality education available.
The will is there, the resources are available.
Everyone wants the best education for our future generation.
Quality education is achievable.

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