My check from the Longman Contemporary Dictionary explained the word 'professional' as “showing that someone has been well trained and is good at their work”. I didn't go for an Oxford Dictionary,not because the Longman Dictionary was so heavy that it wearied my arms, but because I am not so bookish.
My curiosity for the meaning of the aforementioned word was piqued, because, my friend whom I hadn't spoken to in a long whilesounded despondent on the phone yesterday when we spoke and the reason was that he was laid-off from the classroom as a pupil-teacher. When news about sacking pupil-teachers made the rounds in September, it didn't get my attention until reality hit me yesterday. Whatever reasons given to the directive, one cannot easily come to terms with the harm caused this teachers and the education of our children. For, to terminate the appointment of a pupil-teacher who was still expecting his salary after duly serving his country for two years is shocking, if not heartbreaking.
The problem with the Ghana Education Service(GES) and Ministry of Education(MOE) is that they define a professional teacher as one who received training in a College of Education and maybe a University of Education even when situations on the ground call for a second look at such limited definitions.Are we saying that all who are trained as teachers are doing well professionally? How come many private schools are generally doing better than public ones albeit private schools are managed and handled largely by non-professional, in the true sense of the word, teachers? A professional teaching qualification does not make one a professional. Or, does belonging to a profession automatically equate providing best quality service?
PUPIL TEACHERSVs TRAINED TEACHERS
When one compares the performance of private schools, most of which are handled by high school and polytechnic graduates, to that of public schools which on the other hand are handled by trained teachers, one is tempted to question the viability of teacher training content in Ghana. One is torn between whether a teacher requires a training or just an unadulterated passion for teaching is enough.
After all, is teaching not an art too? It is also scientific that when people love what they do they produce optimal results. Needless to say, one must be a 'crazy' optimist to think that performance in the public schools is not an augury of paralysed training institutions and that the train of education in this country won't derail further when serious attention is not paid to the kind of instructional strategies teachers get in such institutions. But that is a subject for another day.
It is well documented that leadership(call it management) is the difference maker between private and public schools. Whereas interviews(and I don't mean a thorough one) are not conducted by GES during postings, there are some private schools who mount CCTV cameras to monitor teaching and learning. Whether this is a fair practice or not, the point is to show that the burden of such schools is results, and for that rigorous means are employed.
Unlike private schools, headteachers in public schools have no say in the kind of teachers posted to their schools. Their demand lists as far as subject area is concerned are not considered. Even the recent teacher re-deployment exercise, although well-intentioned, was not well- executed. Or, is it not a case of square pegs in round holes in your district? Just go and verify and you will be shocked to the bone.The GES together with MOE did not follow any well-thought-out procedure in the ongoing re-deployment exercise.
In some schools, two French teachers were maintained while the only mathematics teacher was transferred. In other places, teachers reject re-posting to seemingly inconvenient places through greasing of palms. It was John F. Kennedy who said, “effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”. Kudos to those who gave a shot at efforts toward teacher re-deployment but more is expected of them.
Lest I digress, it is true that both pupil and professional teachers “do well” at their jobs; at least they all go on strike. But to my modest mind, pupil-teachers are more committed to the job than many trained teachers, because, whilst pupil teachers are inspired to work hard to protect their job, most professional teachers, like many civil servants, approach work with it-is-not-for-my-father mentality, knowing whether they work or not, salaries will be paid.
A FEW SUGGESTIONS
Much as it is necessary to pay arrears owed pupil-teachers whose appointments have been terminated, it is also imperative for the MOE to consider alternative means of identifying an effective teacher whether trained or untrained. As we all know, a lot of teachers go to school without doing much in the classroom. Also, until headteachers are vested with much power, utmost efficiency cannot be 'milked out' of the teacher. Heads of schools should be given the power to hire and fire. And in hiring, only teachers with good handwriting and other fine motor skills(fine arts) should be posted to primary schools.This is because, the primary level marks the actual formative years of the child. Our children will not only receive quality teaching but also talents and good habits from their teachers.
We should not be happy with this policy directive which sack hardworking pupil- teachers under the guise of “professionalism” because, even some classes still need two teachers for lessons to be effective.
Finally, I live you with the thoughts of the 2014 National Best Teacher, Mr.YahayaMumuni; “We still have loopholes in the Ghana Education Service; we still need a lot of teachers so how then do we turn around to say that non-professional teachers should go home and rest?”.