On Passing and Failing Students
The current semester of the school year 2021 is drawing to a close. Teachers will soon make a decision – pass or fail their students.
To pass, or not to pass… that is the dilemma that confronts 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 especially 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 teachers have to tread carefully. 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 congruent with the strategies they used when they presented their 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 decisions 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 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.
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 the 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