Invest in right teachers for right courses — Haresh Deol

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Oct 30 —Several teachers were riled up over a professional English course introduced by the Education Ministry, claiming they were forced to attend despite not having taught the subject for years.

A briefing for KL-based teachers for the Professional Up-skilling of English Language Teachers (PROELT) 2014 session was conducted by the KL Education Department on October 3. Many who attended left dissatisfied as they were told it was a mandatory course conducted by British Council due to the “large sum of money spent” for the programme.

According to the 2014 list, some 83 teachers from the Bangsar/Pudu Zone alone will be attending the course. The other two zones in KL are Sentul and Keramat.

This comes about after DAP assistant national publicity secretary Zairil Khir Johari, had in a statement recently revealed the Education Ministry spent a staggering RM268.5 million from 2011 to 2013 on three consultant firms — British Council, Brighton Education Group and SMR HR Group — to train some 7,500 teachers from 1,800 schools nationwide.

The Bukit Bendera MP insisted that the amount of money spent for the programme was “absurd”, particularly as feedback from those involved indicated that they had not learned much from the training.

It, however, remains unclear to the cost the ministry will incur for next year’s course.

I spoke to several teachers about the matter. They wished to remain anonymous for fear of little Napoleons penalising them for speaking to the Press.

“I taught English years ago in a school in east coast. I obtained a degree in another subject and I am now teaching that subject instead of English,” said a teacher.

“I was shocked to see my name on the list. I won’t mind attending but my school already has enough English teachers. Wouldn’t it be better if someone who actually teaches the subject attends the course instead?”

The teacher claimed a KL education department representative, had during the briefing, said there was no point arguing over the matter as it was “a directive from the ministry” and “RM10,000 was spent for each participant”.

“RM1 or RM10,000, it is still money. Shouldn’t it be spent wisely?”

True.

Another school teacher who attended this year’s session described it as “a waste of time”.

“I’ve taught the language for more than 20 years. It was insulting to a certain extent,” said the veteran teacher.

“In Malaysia, we do not use contractions in essays but during the course we were penalised by the instructors for not using contractions. This can be confusing to teachers.”

“The same time, energy and resources would be better spent on training younger teachers.

“It only makes economical sense to spend and nurture the younger set of teachers,” she added.

Disguising as a teacher, I then called up several zone education departments to get a clearer picture. A spokesperson from Sentul zone said the course is mandatory only if a teacher had sat for the ‘Aptis test’ (assessment test) and was required to undergo the course if the results were not satisfactory.

However, a call to the Bangsar-Pudu zone education department revealed all those listed must attend the course — whether they have sat for any test or not.

“As long as a teachers teach English as their optional subject, they are required to attend,” the spokesperson said.

“I can’t answer your question if you will be teaching English after this. This is pending the directive from the school or the department.”

Some claim teachers are kicking up a fuss as their ‘extra-curricular activities’, including their tuition classes, will be affected.

Perhaps.

The government’s effort to strengthen the language among teachers is noble and ought to be supported. However, let’s start educating those who are teaching the subject to ensure the end product — the students — benefit at the end of the day.

* Haresh Deol is editor (Investigations and Special Projects) at The Malay Mail. Banter with him at [email protected] or on Twitter @HareshDeol

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.

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