Touria Prayag's Blog

l’express Weekly June 29 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 29, 2012

Silence… we’re roaring

The teachers are up in arms. The “ Silence, on lit ” ( Silence… we’re reading) project initiated by the ministry of education was met with disapproval from the teachers as expressed through the president of their major union, Vinod Seegum, in a letter addressed to the ministry of education this week. Their contention? They particularly object to having to do the “ job of library clerks”, which they claim will add an additional load to their “ already overburdened” schedule.

Naturally, no one expects the teachers’ unions to sit and thank the minister for every measure he comes up with. Nor is anyone suggesting that all the measures he has proposed so far have been positive or even worthwhile. Some, like introducing golf in schools, have lasted only for as long as the cameras were around. But this protest sits alongside a very long list of controversies, starting with the enhancement programme to the teachers’ working hours. It would be wrong of us to allow political issues and the various alleged scandals to overshadow it.

The enhancement programme, for instance, could have been a very positive aspect of our teaching and learning experience.

Admittedly, it is not perfect but it could have been a wonderful opportunity for the slow learners to catch up with their peers and do their homework in a supervised healthy environment. Unfortunately, some teachers saw it as a missed opportunity to make money by cramming young kids in stuffy overcrowded garages. It therefore met with so much resentment that it has, in many cases, turned into a come- and- waste- your- time experience.

Now the additional half an hour of reading which the pupils are required to do under the teachers’ supervision has generated so much discontent that one wonders whether the teacher’s vocation is not lost somewhere. We do not, of course, believe that the “ silence on lit” project is going to be enough to inculcate a reading culture in the pupils. It takes much more than that to turn young reluctant kids into avid adult readers. In countries with a reading culture, there is usually a pleasant reading corner or library in each classroom that consists of books from various genres which appeal to kids of different ages and tastes.

In such countries, the teacher guides the pupils in the choice of books based on her knowledge of their reading comprehension and ability. Schools, teachers and families then become major players in campaigning for the importance of reading.

And, since good reading skills lead students to become successful learners, the whole nation reaps the benefi ts of this investment in the years ahead.

We are not there yet. Granted. But we are unlikely to ever get there if the unions oppose every move which the ministry proposes and which does not benefi t them personally. The only measure the teachers have welcomed so far is… the summer school. So much so that there is now talk of the winter school! If we were cynical, we would attribute the teachers’ enthusiasm to the handsome pay cheque which comes with it. But we won’t. It is not our intention to undermine the work teachers do or to deny them decent wages in line with people with similar quali- fi cations. We have always believed that the salaries teachers earn do not put value on the work they do. This, however, should not be a licence to view every act in monetary terms and be up in arms against any decision the ministry takes and which does not result in an immediate personal gain.

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