Substance or Appearance?

In January this year, and again in June I wrote articles here on this blog about the reasons why interactive white boards don’t impress me and – I’d even go as far as to say, have no place in a genuine Indian classroom:

January 2010 article
June 2010 article

Well, now, here are some of the most actively read and followed blogs in the education field in the US now saying essentially the same things as I was saying then in criticism for these products;

The Innovative Educator on whiteboards

When one sees the cost of these boards, I believe there’s no effective place for them in Indian schools. If even a fraction of the money spent on them went instead on teacher training and development it would be far better invested. Regrettably, in far too many places their presence is more about marketing and creating a ‘wow’ to impress parents than the substance of really providing a first rate, modern, twenty first century child-centric education.

For the sake of children more of our schools have to be about substance, not appearance.

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3 Responses

  1. But how do you ensure substance in school?

    Can you really create a system in place at school whereby
    teachers are serious about teaching and not just passing the time and
    receiving paychecks regularly?

    I hardly find teachers serious these days especially in Metro cities. May be 1 out of 1000 teachers (at school level) nowadays is serious about teaching Or teaching kids who are not theirs.

    When I was in UK, I met lot of teachers (when I was looking for school for my kid) and I could see that they were taking their job really seriously (case of high professional ethics) and atleast not faking about teaching as it is in India.

    Br
    Ashish

    • Those are strong words, but I imagine they flow from some frustrating personal experiences.

      I will agree that across most of the education system here in India there is a vast amount of work to be done to raise quality. However, I think we need to be very careful before we decide to doubt the motivation of all the people within a particular profession.

      Whilst i’m sure there will be a number of teachers who will want to respond to what you’ve said, I would just share a very of my observations;

      a) Teachers are highly qualified members of the society, but often given little respect. There appears often to be an unspoken set of assumptions that if they were serious professionals they would be working in some other field – not teaching.
      b) Considering the level of their professional qualifications, they are very often expected to work in very poor physical conditions where buildings, facilities and resources have not been maintained effectively,
      c) I regret to say that even many private schools fail to invest adequately in the professional or personal development of teachers. There’s a simplistic notion that goes around quite often that as teachers have learned their subject there is limited need for further training. This can also come from some teachers. This is because the governing paradigm has been a teacher-centric one with teacher as deliverer of syllabus ‘content’ and less focus on the processes of learning (and processes of teaching).
      d) I have long believed that there is a serious gap that needs to be addressed in the country when it comes to the issue of recognising the importance of leadership in schools. The people who lead schools are almost always ex teachers, given little training or development before they move in to leadership roles, or subsequently. This ‘amateur’ approach assumes they will be able to figure out the needs as they go along. We wouldn’t see business operating in that way!
      e) Teachers, like others are products of the very education systems they are tasked with evolving to be more relevant in a ‘new world’. Research in countries where a lot of teacher professional development goes on still show that it takes a lot to break the bonds to the memories and learning from when a teacher was a child ‘sitting on the benches’. Thus, the change we ask them to commit to is a challenge.

      Overall, too many teachers asked to work in poor conditions, given a lack of respect and professional dignity, little or no training or professional development, weak leadership and a lack of accountability – we shouldn’t be surprised if the outcomes are less than we would want.

      There is much work to do.

  2. Completely and fully agree here.

    One reason I found UK teachers more serious about their job could be attributed to well respected (and well paid?), well (and continuously) trained and a very respectable social status attached to them?

    Also, I noticed they required less governance because they tend to display lot of professional ethics while furnishing responsibilities of the job.

    Yes, India has lot of work to do and I wonder how I (being an IT professional) can participate in it? I love teaching and have plans to quit Industry once I am done with my liabilities but that may take more years and I intend to begin now but currently clueless.

    I understand if I want a change in the system, I just cant sit at the periphery and keep cribbing about it. If you want system to change, be the change or participate in the change, no matter how minuscule that may turn out to be.

    Br
    Ashish Giltora
    Director – Engineering
    Hughes India R&D Center
    Gurgaon

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