Category Archives: Education

To Pass,  Or Not To Pass

Report-CardThat is the dilemma of teachers when the performance of some students during an entire term is below par and their total grades go south of the passing mark.

What should the teachers do – pass or fail the students?

Is passing students in a subject or course mandatory on the part of the teachers?

 It’s a different story if a student fails due to absences. The student failed by default. But what if a student is regularly attending classes?

There are possible repercussions should teachers fail their students. When they fail students they had better be ready to answer possible queries from the students themselves or from their parents. Usually, complaints of students, most specially when they are accompanied by their parents, would also lead to school authorities investigating the teachers concerned. It’s not only a matter of being ready to answer questions but the teachers should also prepare class records and other documents that could prove beyond reasonable doubt that the students did not perform well and deserve to get a failing mark.

There are times that teachers thought that they have exhausted all possible means to help the students perform better but to no avail… that they have tried different strokes for different folks, but none of the strokes they applied worked.

But the painful truth is that there are also teachers who would not walk an extra mile to help students improve on their academic performance.

Now, granting that the teachers have done everything they possibly could to help the students pass but their efforts proved futile, would failing the students be considered justifiable already?

Should teachers be applauded when they  take the moral high  ground and say that schools are committed to excellence and passing failing students would be tantamount to promoting mediocrity?

Failing students is not a simple decision to make. Whether or not to pass students is a path that should be carefully tread. There are a lot of things to be considered before making the final decision. There are questions that the teachers need to answer very clearly. Questions that would lead to more questions.

Do the grades teachers give truly reflect the abilities of the students? Let’s say that the answer is yes. The next question would be, “Were the tests the teachers made valid? Did the teachers make sure that their tests measured what they intended to measure?

There are more questions – Were the tests the teachers designed in congruent with the strategies they used when they presented theirs lessons? What informed the strategies that they have selected? What foundation of learning and teaching did they stand upon when they delivered their lessons? Did they consider the abilities of their students when they designed the activities in the class? Or is it a matter of whatever decision they make as teachers are contingent upon their personal comfort?

Yes, the role of the teacher is that complicated. That’s why the decision to pass or not to pass a students is actually an examination of the teachers’ conscience. It is answering the ultimate question – “Did I really do my job as a teacher?”

Ask teachers if they are really doing the things expected of them and their response would be an unequivocal yes.

Really?

So here is another question – “Why would students fail if teachers are doing their job well?”

The question above leads us to the next question – “When students fail does it mean they did not learn?”

Students failing means  they did not pass majority (if not all) of the tests (short or long, oral or written) the teachers gave during the entire term. All of those tests are meant to evaluate learning that was supposed to have taken place when the teachers discussed their lessons and did all the activities they designed for the class. So, if the students failed the tests it would mean they did not learn.

Why did the students not learn? What happened? Did the teachers bother to know why? Could there be something wrong with their strategies? Like their strategies probably did not work or something could be wrong with their  methods of testing. Yet, they did not bother to adjust and allowed the accumulation of failed tests on the part of the students.

Only the teachers who are pedagogically trained would be able to detect when something is not right with what they are doing. If they are true to their calling as teachers, they would do something about it. They will make the necessary adjustments. If they don’t care then may God bless the students.  It’s much worse when those hired to teach are not really trained as teachers. They don’t have the pedagogical skills to understand what is really happening. For them, it’s just a matter of when the students don’t get the scores required they fail. That’s it.

Let’s bring back one of the questions posed earlier – “When students fail does it mean they did not learn?”

If the answer to this is yes it means that the grades of the students reflect not only their performance but that of their teachers as well.

How true is it that “it’s not teaching if there’s no learning.” Can the teachers claim they did their job as teachers even if their students fail?”

When students fail the tests meant to evaluate learning then the activities designed and strategies selected fail to help achieve the objectives. It is the responsibility of the teachers to make sure  that their objectives are attainable and the corresponding activities and strategies  are effective. It is their responsibility to make sure that their students would succeed. It is as simple as that. A philosophical mind is not needed to grasp that… just common sense would do.

The worst thing that can happen to students is to have teachers whose view of education is myopic – teachers who judge students according to the numbers they crunch during tests and recitations.  The students are much more valuable than those numbers.

Education transcends all statistical data that teachers collect during a school term. Yes there are written rules. There are policies and regulations. But they are not absolute. Education cannot be confined to a box. It is more than black and white. It is as colorful as the rainbow. Teachers should lead their students to the proverbial end of that rainbow where a pot of gold  – a good future – awaits them.

Valuing Grades

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Students are labeled pesky when they  pester their students  with questions about their scores in quizzes and exercises.  They are viewed as annoying when near the end of a semester or shortly after final exams they send emails to their teachers or call them to inquire about their grades.

Teachers  say that students  are desperate when after seeing their report cards they move heaven and earth to make the former reconsider the grades they have given and possibly give higher marks citing 101 reasons why it must be done.  Reasons they give range from queer to valid.

How many times have some teachers violated established rules on test and measurement… rolled the correction tape on the grades they have given because they got moved either by appeals from the students or by pressure from the academic gods and goddesses.

Students are often criticized for being so grade-conscious.

But is it their fault?

NO!

Students are grade-conscious not because they want to but standards of society force them to be. The policies and procedures in the academe frame that kind of mind-set in the consciousness of students. They are seemingly programmed to become grade-conscious.

It all begins at home. Parents keep reminding their children to study hard and get good grades. When the children get to school, the indoctrination goes full steam. Teachers give a battery of tests and exercises telling the students to perform well if they want to pass the subject. And that if they want to be part of the honor roll then they need to have high scores.

Parents tell students to study hard, the teachers tell them to study harder. Day and night students are told that they must get good grades. After school, parents would even acquire the services of a tutor to further improve the academic performance of their children.

That’s how the “getting-good-grades-is-a-must” mentality gets ingrained in the consciousness of the poor little kids.

Companies and corporations deliver the coup de grace by frequently advertising that they hire only the best and brightest. And what’s the tangible measurement of these superlatives (best and brightest)? GRADES… A+, or 1 or 5 or what-have-you.

Society have assigned GRADES as proof of excellence. Academic performance of students is measured through their grades. The higher the grades the more excellent is the student. That’s how it goes. RESULT? The students become grade-conscious. The grades they receive is a microscope and they are the specimen on the slide. Their academic marks are like lenses used to magnify the contents of the shell between their ears.

The parents want them to work hard for their grades. Yes, perhaps for the children’s sake but the grades they receive is an instrument used by the parents in monitoring their investment. They want to make sure that their children are not wasting the money they are spending for their education.

Parents become so mad when their children present to them unsatisfactory academic marks. And of course, when their children perform well academically, they are elated no end. It is a boost to their pride, a feather in their caps.

The schools in any country stretch their students to the limits of academic achievement because when students pass standardized examinations given by their governments it redounds to their benefit. It’s good for ranking and accreditation purposes. It’s a boost to their reputation resulting to more funding from their government and more enrollees flocking to their gates with their parents just more than willing to pay so their children could take a bite at their academic excellence pie.

The parents and the teachers keep telling the kids that good grades is a prerequisite to success, the only way to get a good job. Thus the students think that the purpose of education is purely economic, to prepare them for a job. And if they fail to get good marks their future is doomed. They will not succeed.

This is the way the students are brainwashed into getting the highest marks possible. This is what developed among students a tunnel vision about education, that it’s all about getting good grades in order to be among the best and the brightest to who the big companies and corporations would give a chance to get a high-paying job.

The grades have seemingly become a curse. The grades take joy off learning. They make students prisoners in the classrooms and the teachers the unforgiving and unrelenting prison guards.

The grades put blinders on the students preventing them from seeing the bigger picture, that education is more than getting good grades and that its purpose goes beyond getting a job… that education is a preparation for life.

It’s sad that both the parents and the educators themselves are the ones putting the blinders on the students. They are the ones who put enormous pressure on the students to get good grades.

There’s nothing wrong with inculcating excellence among students. That’s what schools ought to be doing. There’s nothing wrong as well if  students are encouraged  to get the highest marks possible.  But both their teachers and parents must not forget to tell them also that grades are not the be-all and end-all of schooling. The students need to be told that the world doesn’t end if they don’t receive A+ (or 1 or 5).

Schools must not forget that they exist to prepare the students, not only to find a job after graduation, but to live life and be a productive member of society and humanity.

On Philosophy and Teachers

 

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No two teachers are alike. Even if they are from the same race and culture and graduated from the same university, don’t expect them to embrace the same educational philosophies and to develop the same set of beliefs and values. You won’t see them apply the same methods and strategies in the classroom, approach teaching and learning with the same degree of passion, and treat the learners in the same manner.

Teachers are different in many ways.

Teachers decide which perspectives they would use in looking at their role as mentors and in treating their students. Such perspective depends on either the philosophical foundations upon which they are grounded or their personal set of beliefs… or may be both.

Teachers may have read too much of Hegel,  Kant and Plato that they may have developed idealistic tendencies indoctrinating their students into believing that they do not exist for themselves but for others and for a higher purpose. Or like Aristotle, Locke or Rousseau, who all tried to debunk the ideas established by Plato and company, the teachers maybe slowly training their students to subscribe to rational thinking, that the latter need to think critically and scientifically. They could be pragmatists like Dewey and Kilpatrick, guiding students to keep themselves in touch with reality for they believe that there is no other world aside from what can be perceived by the senses.

Their educational philosophies determine the way they talk, think, and behave as professionals.

Whatever values and beliefs teachers bring to the class don’t really matter for as long as nothing they say and do in the while teaching is inimical to the interests of the lerners. What is important is that everything that transpires in the classroom is intended to make the students the best persons they could be and make them prepared to live life.

So be it if  the teachers are like Satre, leaning towards Existentialism in guiding the students to take responsibility… in deciding who they are in order to make themselves authentic individuals.

Nobody can claim that this or that philosophical perspective in education is superior over the other. It’s fine if the teachers wish to embrace all the philosophies and combine their best features to serve and guide them in shaping their set of values and in choosing their methods and strategies.

Combining the philosophies, by the way, is not a novel idea. In Scholasticism, St. Thomas Aquinas, harmonized Idealism and Realism.

What about coming out with a philosophical perspective combining the four major philosophies in Education?

The philosophies aforementioned have shaped the teachers into the kind of educators that they are today. Whatever they knowingly and unknowingly say and do in the classrooms are offshoots of their set of values and beliefs. And this set of values and beliefs constitute their philosophy of education.

Teachers may have also accumulated  through the years a personal system of values that govern every decision they make in the classrooms. Thus we see them approach their teaching (and deal with their students) in different ways. We see them display different degrees of enthusiasm in teaching. Some display no enthusiasm at all.

There are teachers who are “sages on the stage” who believe, the way the realists and idealists do, that knowledge emanates from them being the authorities. So, the students should be spoonfed. Conversely, there are teachers, who, like the existentialists and pragmatists, act like “guides on the side” painstakingly guiding the students to self-discovery.

There are teachers who would choose specific methods and strategies without considering the specific needs of their students. But there are also those who would be conscientious enough to take into consideration the heterogeneity in the class before deciding what learning system they would put into effect.

There are teachers whose mere mention of their names would send shivers down the spine of students. Conversely, there are teachers who try to make learning fun making the students enjoy, and not fear, the classroom.

There are teachers who consider the classroom a workplace, while others consider it a playground. They work playfully or playfully work happy doing what they are doing in the classroom thereby rubbing off to the students their joyful spirit.

There are teachers who have seemingly forgotten that the students are not just empty sheets waiting to be filled-out as in Locke’s Tabula Rasa. The kids in the classrooms are not wax figures with empty minds which the teachers need to stuff with all the knowledge that the curriculum requires. These students are not just intellectual beings, they have emotions. They need more that education. They also need love and understanding. They should be treated the way parents treat their children.

Whatever the teachers decide to be… whatever system they implement… whatever method and strategies they apply… however they view learning… however they treat their students… would depend on their perspectives as dictated by their educational philosophy and their set of values and beliefs.

At the end, the way  teachers conduct themselves as professionals and the way they treat their students depend on whether they consider teaching a means of livelihood or a way of life.

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