They may fail ... and learn

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  • Monday, 24 Sep 2018

SK Putrajaya Presint 9 (2) Year One pupils are all smiles on their first day of school. Students returned to school on Jan 3 in all states except Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, where classes started on Jan 1. ROHAIZAT MD DARUS / THE STAR. 3RD JANUARY 2017.

AS I watch from my place, I can see parents sending their kids to school on Saturday and Sunday mornings for extra or revision classes. And teachers are expected to attend, no questions asked. Students are, too, but they have a choice and not all of them do. Such sessions are held throughout the term or semester and holidays.

Whether it’s primary or secondary schooling, what began as sessions for only the core subjects have quickly extended to every subject where a handful of students are either willing or able to attend.

Teachers have no choice whether they want to be involved in these classes or not. Of course, some are willing but those who refuse may go into the school’s “bad” books.

Schools or institutions are known to run numerous events such as monthly assemblies, counselling programmes, mentor-mentee programme, sports and carnivals, the list goes on. For every programme students have to attend, classes need to be replaced Teachers need to plan and be ready to ensure the teaching hours are met.

Much of this pressure can be traced back to the introduction of wasted “strategic planning” and targets of the administrators.

Academic leaders want us to do everything in our power to prevent a student from failing, so we are required to have them back after lessons or after school to improve or redo minor class assessments. This makes sense, to an extent.

Of course, a teacher’s job is to help students reach their potential. If they fail to do this, we need to make the time to help them so they don’t make the same mistake again. But this just isn’t what happens.

No matter how much time you spend with the students, going over their work, they will still make the same mistakes. They listen, redo their work, and leave. And the same will happen again.

It is a deep concern about pressure to carry out such interventions to compensate for “reluctant” students. Institutions should consider instructing teachers not to hold sessions outside of the school day.

We need to face reality; we should accommodate and accept failures and the chance for them to build on improving themselves.

We have to act and face the facts. Many have voiced out that students are demanding of our time at their choosing. Even the leaders are hard on us.

We have provided revision materials, tutorials and activities, even e-portals. On replacement classes, every single topic we have ever taught will be repeated, not revised. We expect the students to do nothing, so they don’t.

This over-reliance on teachers goes beyond exam results. This doesn’t do our students any favours.

If we don’t provide them with a chance to fail, they have no chance to grow. If, for every assessment, they know they can just redo it with no impact on their grade, there’s no urgency.

The demand for replacement or revision classes doesn’t necessarily work in lessons. In fact, the growing attitude is that lessons don’t matter; they’ll relearn it all in revision anyway.

It is not good for teachers either. The extra time we’re expected to give to students means our workload becomes even more strenuous to manage. Our lives away from school are compromised. School leaders will not bother about our plight and we are left to deal with it ourselves.

We do need to let pupils fail occasionally, without playing the blame game between teacher and student. We need to make them take some responsibility for the standard of their learning.

Give them a chance to improve their work on their own. It might be slow-going, but it could also mean they don’t need spoon-fed classes to pass the exams. As educators, we should be making sure students not only know how to give a right answer but that they truly understand the subject too.


Kuala Lumpur

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Opinion , teachers , students , education


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