Happy Teachers Day, Cikgu!

DOCTORS, lawyers, engineers and pretty much any professional you can think of, all have one thing in common: Good, dedicated teachers who inspired and nurtured them to pursue their dreams.

Teaching is more than a job; it is a calling. Teachers are role models to hundreds of thousands of impressionable minds, yet they have for years been increasingly distracted from their classroom duties.

According to the National Union of the Teaching Profession, 10,000 teachers apply for early retirement annually. And there has been an increase in applications over the last two years.

The reasons, many teachers told Sunday Star, include personal, medical and workplace issues; burnout; too much paperwork and non-teaching duties; having to handle oversized classrooms and activities that require a lot of preparation; being posted away from their families; and feeling unappreciated (see StarEdu for the full story).

We demand quality teachers but are we giving them the support and training they need to excel, particularly in the IR4.0 era? The Covid-19 pandemic forced teachers to move lessons online, and that has exposed a lack of digital skills among many.

The theme for this year’s national Teachers Day celebration on Monday is “Guru Tunjang Sekolah Sejahtera”.

“Sejahtera” is the Bahasa Malaysia acronym for “safety, fun, health, etiquette, empathy, identity, manners, harmony, diligence, attitude, skills, exploration of knowledge, rational behaviour and articulation”.The theme rightly acknowledges teachers as the most important element in the success of the country’s education system and the Education Ministry’s “Sekolahku Sejahtera” concept introduced in March.

The role of teachers, the ministry noted on social media, is not just to deliver knowledge but also to ensure our students are competitive and imbued with good values.

It is a heavy responsibility that is placed squarely on the shoulders of teachers.

While it is reasonable to expect teachers to be well qualified, ethical, caring and hardworking, educating a child is as much the job of parents as it is society’s.

Our children spend most of their formative years in school and we rely on teachers to guide them, to cultivate good values, and even to keep them safe from Covid-19, but are we rewarding those who go the extra mile or are we micromanaging creativity out of our classrooms?

We need to keep teachers in the system and to restore respect for the profession. We have to make teaching attractive to young, passionate Malaysians. We must convince them that teaching is a rewarding profession with great opportunities for personal growth.

Selfless teachers who spent their own hard-earned money on learning tools to prevent their students from falling behind when schools shuttered during the pandemic represent the ethos of this noble profession.

Let’s listen harder to our teachers. Let’s have more faith in them. We can all do more to make teaching and learning more effective.

Let the day be a reminder to not take teachers for granted. Happy Teachers Day, Cikgu!

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