I would like to think that things have changed since I was a student (a millennium ago). Back then, being a student was a pretty dreary experience. In high school, the entire group of students would shuffle from class to class. We were together all day, every day. Yet, I probably only spoke to a handful of classmates and I didn’t get to know any of them as a person. You see, the focus was entirely on the curriculum and preparing us for a set of standardized tests, known as “Maritime Board”.
Nowadays as Australia squanders its resources trying to establish a national curriculum, I can only think: “What a waste!” Why on earth don’t they pay attention to what actually transpires in the classroom! We can tweak course content for the rest of eternity but it will not make a dent in improving the overall quality of education.
Classroom interactions (teacher-student and student-student) determine whether students are motivated to learn. Without students’ willing engagement, we are left with discipline problems, truancy, and high dropout rates.
Recently I informally interviewed a Grade 9 student. I asked her how many ‘great’ teachers she had during her nine years of schooling. She replied, two. So then I asked her how many ‘bad’ teachers she had. (You know, where you don’t want to go to class). She used her fingers to count: there were seven!
Clearly, things haven’t changed. The majority of teachers are poor or mediocre, in the eyes of their students. There are so many issues to explore. We need to know where we are going wrong so that we can begin to set it right.