Sri Lanka’s Education Crisis : Need for Natural Teachers
Posted on July 18th, 2012

Shenali Waduge

Is Sri Lanka’s education crisis due to our children not studying or is it because our teachers cannot teach? Students would list out why they are lethargic to study, why they can’t understand their teachers, why nothing makes sense while teachers when asked would say students are not interested in studies, they lack concentration and they lack motivation to teach because they are poorly paid. While both student and teacher will have reasonable arguments the root cause of the problem is that we are facing a dearth of natural teachers who have the passion to teach and the natural ability to teach. Training teachers is insufficient to answer or resolve the crisis. This is why students are unhappy with their teachers, why performance of students are deteriorating and why teachers themselves are unhappy.

The dearth of natural teachers is a situation faced by educational authorities globally and not confined to Sri Lanka alone. The problem is made worse by the fact that while there is a need for natural teachers the demand for teachers entails educational authorities to recruit teachers without paying attention to the quality of the teachers they are recruiting. The same can be said of lecturers to universities. Qualifications alone does not equate to being able to teach and pass down knowledge to a student (of a school or university). The situation is made worse in developing countries when Governments think they can recruit graduates wholesale as teachers and graduates themselves demand such from a Government.

Would increasing salaries really benefit students? Would teachers/lecturers be motivated enough to teach “better” simply because they will be earning more? Would incentives for better performing teachers be a better option? If so, what about the teachers not privy to performance incentives. Wouldn’t offering incentives based on performance leave a greater gap between teachers leaving room for a lot of resentment in the teacher fraternity? Ideally, there should be a regular monitoring of teacher performance and a mechanism for student, school authority and parents to place their opinion of teacher performance for review.

Poor performing teachers certainly have little opportunities in another environment. This is why teachers themselves need to look hard at the profession they are walking into. Teaching is not simply to secure a job, enjoy additional holidays, free time and full pension if in the public sector. These are all lucrative incentives but have little benefit for the students who are essentially the important element in education. Thus, incentives are essentially only a temporary motivator which makes selection the most important element in absorbing teachers.

The performance of a school or its teachers is often measured through student test scores, numbers gaining admission to university etc ignoring students who perform poorly. The skills of a teacher is tested in the manner he/she is able to elevate poor students to reasonable levels. This must be included to any teacher performance measurement.

The bottom line however is that giving money does not increase or raise the quality of teachers/lecturers or enhance their ability to teach. Increasing salaries benefits only the teacher/lecturer and not the students either long term or short term. This is why authorities end up at a crossroad because demands by teachers/lecturers for salary increases though not without reason does not help raise the level of education in the country or school.

The desire to be a teacher and being able to teach are not the same. Individuals must realize this as should authorities that select teachers onto their payroll. This again questions the ugly practice of successive governments thinking they can give employment to graduates to enter the teaching profession. Both the government and these graduates are doing much damage to the education system by such practice. These graduates are not natural teachers, they are unlikely to have the natural skills to teach as well as the passion to teach and for most part they are only concerned about securing a job after graduation. This invariably affects the entire education system and contributes to poor performance amongst students and the lethargy that is evident in students to study.

It is the stress of teaching as a result of the lack of the natural love or passion for teaching that eventually contributes to frustration of our teachers who next use issues like salaries to vent out their frustration. Genuine teachers who love teaching and are passionate about what they teach, know how to teach and are not guided by commercial interests. Students are able to quickly identify these natural teachers and it is the students who automatically decide to reward such teachers which can be seen by the manner that the old brigade of teachers are held in high esteem even today.

So where are we going wrong?

It should not be difficult to understand that the downfall of education, the lethargy to study, the lack of interest in the subject primarily rests with the selection of teachers. Reiterated again is the hometruth that not all teachers are NATURAL teachers which is what leads to the problems that prevail globally and locally.

Natural teachers are certainly hard to come by but there are certainly many amongst us and it is these people that need to be tapped. By recruiting natural teachers the results are likely to be phenomenal and there is likely to be surge in the interest shown for studies by students. In a global economy with advances in technology it is left to the authorities to provide these natural teachers with further knowledge to enhance their natural abilities. 

Any reasonably intelligent man/woman can become a doctor or a lawyer through application and training. Even patients are quick to identify the natural doctor and there is a stark difference in natural doctors and those who take up medicine as a profession. Yet teaching on the other hand is a natural art “”…” while teaching skills can be improved it cannot be instilled. Poets are born and not made and the same is true of teachers.

Shortage of doctors/nurses and similar professions can be increased by creating more training institutes/medical schools etc. However, by increasing the in take of teachers to meet the demand does not solve the crisis that there is a shortage of “natural teachers”.

The “artificial” teachers who take up the profession of teaching for various reasons unfortunately do not do justice to the noble profession of teaching or the advancement of education. These artificial teachers may learn the subject but they lack the passion to teach and convey the subject matter in such a way that students understand.

Natural teachers know to use humor, to quickly pick up weak students and help them, to know what to teach and when to teach. We need more of them to solve the education crisis.

This is the root of the educational crisis we face. We tend to blame the manuals, the educational instructions or syllabus but the fact is that there are scores of “artificial” teachers who are reducing the quality of education. The same is true of lecturers in universities. While lecturers can be qualified and hold numerous qualifications the majority of them are not natural lecturers which is what leads to their own frustration and contribute towards the frustration of the youth as well and gradually use excuses as salaries to camouflage the truth.

Sri Lanka can solve its education crisis by attracting NATURAL teachers with salaries they deserve for they will certainly uplift the quality of education in Sri Lanka.

 


5 Responses to “Sri Lanka’s Education Crisis : Need for Natural Teachers”

  1. herman Says:

    One very important factor is missing from your otherwise excellant article – the educational authorities (Ministry and the school principals).

    The authorities play key roles in attracting, recruting and making sure that the prospects for advancement for Natural teachers are unhindered with erractic policies and politics.

  2. AnuD Says:

    We can try to explain in many different ways. None will work. Because, it is the Greed that is behind everything. We can take our own selves as examples. When we were young we went to school because our parents anted us to go. But, when it comes to govt examinations times, see how many children ad going to private tuition. I heard, even govt school teachers do not teachinthe school. Instead, encourage children to come to his classes. When it comes to the University, these lecturers mostly teach from the book and the samel old lecture notes. I think the contribution to the country via training post graduate studunts relating to country’s needs and providing new innovations or new findings to the country are minimal. Yet,they ask more money. That will go no where.

  3. nandimitra Says:

    It is time one calls a spade a spade. The lack of natural teachers and the crisis in education can be placed squarely at the feet of the rulers of this unfortunate country. Subsidy on education has been drastically cut, political appointments of unsuitable candidates both in education and public services whilst spending billions on foreign education of the elite is a means to gradually make the people illiterate so that they can rule the roast. Its all a question of false hope ,false promises no accountability and finally when people revolt in disgust they call them terrorists.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Education is a very important subject to cover. Here are some random thoughts on the subject.

    Though we are proud that Sri Lanka offers free education from kindergarten onward including University, isn’t it time that the entire government school system is re-vamped to suit the needs of the country as well as allow the flowering of any natural talents in children ?

    It may prove to be a difficult task to find thousands of truly dedicated teachers with a natural flair for teaching, but at least the study courses & text books ought to be clear & accurate, geared in a practical way to the needs of the country and job oriented. such text books & courses can compensate for lack of good teachers, where a text book is clear enough for a student to attempt self teaching. Re teaching jobs in govt. schools, the posts ought to go to the best possible teachers, and not done through political appointments as may happen in some cases. As far as I know, there is only one school for teachers for the whole island, at Maharagama. There ought to be at least 3 or 4 such schools. I have no idea how teachers are trained in Sri Lanka, but obviously that aspect needs to be improved.

    Re study content, it must be indigenous, i.e. examples taken mainly from the local scene, fauna & flora mostly from the local environment. When we were kids, I recall that most of the examples of fauna & flora that were used for our studies were taken from the west.
    It was absurd that even our Sinhala Language Reader stated that we wear clothes to keep warm. To a child’s mind, this was confusing to say the least, as Sri Lanka is in the Tropics and we need to keep cool, not warm. It is obvious that the translator had taken the sentence direct from some British school book, without any thought about the truth of it in relation to Sri Lanka. What our Reader should have stated is that we wear clothes for protection, to cover our naked bodies and to serve a job or occasion plus enhancement. Have we got over blindly imitating the Colonial masters school system ? Parts of of a text book can be taken from the western system, but we can certainly better it by using our common sense for practical needs here.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    No wonder our well educated children want to run away from Sri Lanka. Apart form the attraction of a good pay in the developed world, they are certainly more in sync with the needs of the outside world than the needs in our own country, if the text books are geared for the needs of the outside world.

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