Saturday, September 25

The Realities of Teaching In Malaysia

I remember not too long ago, when I was still a young strapping handsome lad with the strange haircuts sitting in a dysfunctional sauna-like lecture hall in an obscure teachers training institute which name I had to mouth to taxi drivers like a child with down syndrome & would eventually give up & say UM.
Back then I was carefree, I've completed most of my courses effortlessly & would continue to glide gracefully through the rest of the degree.

There was one thing the lecturers would resonate in the middle of a lecture even when they were talking about something completely unrelated. I would usually zone in for this little moment & then zone out again as the lecturer went back to reading from powerpoint slide to powerpoint silde.

Students are really good at that. When you talk about something really important that they must know, they are quiet & they look at you as if they're actually listening & nod when you ask if they understood but underneath that thick skull of theirs YOU KNOW the boys are thinking about sex & the girls... who knows what. I'm not a girl.
But when you decide to talk sheet, they lean forward & stare at you with gleaming eyes while licking all the sheet from your hands as if you were the bloody gingerbread man. When you go back on track, they retreat back into their risqué fantasies & such. Bloody baskets.

You're bloody doing it right now. I was about to say something bloody profound & you're probably thinking about how perverted I must have been as a college student.
To tell you the truth. I am STILL perverted.
ALL men are. The 70% who say they aren't, are lying.
I can't help it. The 24hr supply of testosterone from not 1 but 2 healthy sacks made me.
Actually, girls like perverted men. It's a fact.
Anyway, that's a topic for another day.

Back to the lecturers. Instead of waggling their tongues about pedagogies or theories which are subjective & incomplete, they would sometimes say something plainly simply true.
The best one is most definitely this one:
"When you enter the classroom, your degree is useless. What you have learned here & overseas will be useless. You will need to improvise. Furthermore, you will have to use your wits & cunning to outsmart those little innocent-looking uniformed demons who are out there to test you and torment your very existence."
Of course, they didn't say the last bit. I added it for effect. Although, they did give us a few hint hints.
If I do become a teacher trainer one day (which I hope not), I will be as vivid & blunt in my description of the profession & all it's 'challenges'.
Any future teachers want to have me as a lecturer?

Your degree is useless. It's true.
For the first few months. I tried to apply what I've learned from famous imbeciles like Piaget, Vygotsky & Gardner.
Towards the end of a mind bending first year, I decided that Skinner was the king of them all.
Screw student-centred multiplely intelligent classrooms.
Who cares if a student can paint or sing or lead or even speak eloquent English.
All Malaysians care about is something fondly known as exam.

Just say the word & you'll have everyone's attention. Especially the parents. And your principal.
If you can stare into a crystal bowl & accurately forecast the exam papers, many will worship you & pay generously for their children to have a seat in your temple every week. Many will even spread your religion & convert other parents who are sending their children to lesser religions.

The pen & the paper. Reading & writing.
These are the foundations of the Malaysian assessment system & the education system has understandably & expectantly evolved accordingly over the years.
Can you believe that we measure the morality of our students through a written exam?!

There are students with multiple intelligences who will not do well in the education system (due to its favouritism of linguistically intelligent students) but will go on to lead successful lives in the world.
Let me name a few names just to look more intelligent than you are. Like for example, Bill Gates, Einstein, maybe Jimmy Choo & definitely this dude..
However, teachers are helpless. They have to force every student to be linguistically competent so that they can blunder through university and be clerks, typists or teachers like me.
Who needs singers, designers & engineers?

Literacy is important. Everybody needs to know how to read or write.
However, everybody knows that, in order to succeed in this world, there is much more that you need.
Assessment is important. As we can see every year, it is a prime motivator for academic pursuit.
However, we need to consider whether the forms of assessment are appropriate or accurate.

I am somewhat happy that our education ministry is looking into abolishing the UPSR & PMR exams.
At the same time I am alarmed because from my observation of their policies & the past actions they have taken, I have very little faith that they have what it takes to make a real difference.
I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised instead of scoffing at a newspaper one day after reading about a new system that is more absurd than the previous one.

I am a teacher who wants to teach.
Show me that I am doing something good & I will bleed for it.
As I add on the years in experience, I find that my job gets easier & easier.
At the end of the day, I'm teaching my students to be exam literate instead of English literate.
I'm teaching the tips & tricks of examinations instead of the wonders & boundless limits of expression.

I don't mind extra work as long as it has purpose & fruitfulness.
A purpose to better those little ones sitting in my classroom hoping to learn something useful.
A fruit that will open up their minds & free them to pursue their highest heights.
It's better than filling up endless amounts of paperwork just to please a few inspectors who couldn't careless how poetic your students are under your care.

Welcome to Malaysia.
Surprise me.

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