Teachers – quality or quantity?


Sidi Munan, The Borneo Post

THIS news about the small percentage of school teachers from Sarawak – allegedly only 50 out of the 500 earmarked to teach in the state this year – has become a political issue. For the parents (and grandparents!) of the 460,000 pupils now beginning their studies, the quality of teachers is more important than the statistics.

The parents are worried about the quality of teachers that their children are getting. For example, if the subject is English, are the teachers good at the language, able to improve the standard of English as a whole? For that matter, in any other subject?

How the teachers fit in or adapt to the circumstances they are placed in reflects the type of teachers they are – dedicated or just for a job to do.

Modern teachers are not expected to behave like saints or angels. The days of ideal teachers like the early Christian missionaries are over. There is no ideal teacher like JK Wilson of Budu fame anywhere now. I was under a few teachers from Kerala who taught the subjects that they were good at. Kerala was a communist-run state in India and yet teachers from there did not impart any ‘- ism’ to our school.

According to the Sarawak Teachers’ Union, there are several reasons why teachers from the peninsula would not teach in the state for long. Among them: those engaged to be married or if already married, one spouse is miles away from the other.

Contrast that with the behaviour of the locals; they

stay teaching much longer even until retirement. Their problem is the factor of home town; they prefer to teach in a school in their own home town. Imagine a situation: while the wife is teaching in Lio Mato, the husband is farming in Bau. Or a husband is teaching in Ba Kelalan and the wife in Sematan. They put up with it!

These are natural human problems. A smart government would think of ways and means to accommodate these human needs. That teacher engaged to be married soon should be allowed to get married first before posting him or her to Sarawak. Better still, look for someone else in Sarawak who is better prepared to work in the Land of the Hornbills. Forget about recruiting a teacher with such problems. That policy of integrating and uniting people through the medium of teaching is not for him or her. There are other tools or dimensions of integration and unity – political, economic, socio-cultural, to mention a few. The education authorities would save a lot of trouble by concentrating on the local resources. Continue to train young men and women from Sarawak, and recruit them if they are good for teaching purposes.

The news – about only 50 out of 500 teachers being from Sarawak – is being disputed by some quarters. The number doesn’t matter; what matters is the quality of the teachers. That one about to get married is out for the time being. That spouse longing for the company of the other is also out.

Concentrate on those who are dedicated, ready and willing to teach the subjects they are trained for, not of religions nor of political ideologies other than the Rukun Negara.

It is impossible to produce an ideal teacher. So we have to make do with what we have.

Surely it is not impossible to post a married couple of teachers to the same school, and to provide them with decent living quarters so they can rear their family together!

Unfortunately, we are not living in an ideal world. There are a lot of imponderables and uncertainties in the way.