SURESH RAMPHUL

Despite having teachers at school and in tuition, and internet and library facilities, and in certain cases, direct help from parents, many students are still unable to produce a Credit (or five Credits) at School Certificate level. It’s understandable that those not interested in a subject or who find it too difficult will perform badly. But many have the potential. With some more effort, they could have obtained a Credit.
The situation will be the same in the coming years unless we’re willing to adopt a reflective approach to education in general and examinations in particular. Let us go back to fundamental questions and answer them honestly. The aim of self-evaluation isn’t to blame oneself or others or the system but to gain insight into our shortcomings, our motivations and our methodologies. Psychologists agree that a sincere self-evaluation is a powerful impetus to improvement. It brings changes in our attitudes and helps us to see things more clearly. A critical look within ourselves identifies our weaknesses and we can do the necessary accordingly. We need to ask ourselves some bold questions even if they’re embarrassing or hurtful. Hiding behind vague, generalized or lame excuses to explain why many students fail to come up with a Credit will not take us forward.

The student

How many times have I been fooling around or missing classes when the teacher was busy explaining?
Was I always following the classes as diligently as possible?
Have I taken the exam for granted? Have I been over-confident?

How many times have I informed the teacher on failing to grasp a particular point?
How often have I looked over the teacher’s remarks concerning my work? Whenever I got stuck, have I had a heart-to-heart talk with the teacher?
How often have I merely copied answers (or model essays) from Answer Keys of textbooks to give to the teacher? (The Answer Keys are for teachers only yet many students who manage to obtain them somehow.)
I was always the odd student out in a group of over fifty students in tuition but I continued till the end in this miserable condition. Why did I do so?
How many times have I cooked up all sorts of stories in order to justify why I didn’t do the teacher’s homework?
How many times have I been jotting down copious notes without understanding a single thing?

How much energy have I really invested in my work?
How much interest have I shown in my studies?

The teacher

How often have I made sure that everyone in the classroom is following and understanding my lesson?
How often do I evaluate my teaching methods?

Am I always methodical in class?
Have I ever bothered to prepare supplementary exercises for less able students?
How interesting and relevant to the lives of the students were my lessons? How often have I been over-generous in giving marks just to show I’m a good teacher?
How many times have I made students pass just because they were taking tuition with me? And how many times have I given false hopes to students and parents about the capacity of the students?
Have I done enough to encourage low achievers to ask questions, to work in pairs or groups or to learn from activities?
What have I done to make students, especially those with problems, to be fascinated with my subject?
How many times have I planned my lessons before walking into the classroom? How many times have I emphasised quality over quantity? How many times have I rushed through the syllabus mindless of whether pupils are confused or not?

Tuition teacher

How often have my lessons been just a repetition of what is being done at school?
How often have I worked out in tuition chapters and exercises in advance so that the student is bored to death during two consecutive periods with the teacher at school?
Have I given full attention to low achievers despite taking their money?
Has it happened that I’ve given more attention to good students and less attention to weaker ones because I’ve lost patience with the latter?
I know that giving tuition to large groups of students is pedagogically unsound yet this is how I have been working. How much time have I had for individual attention? What have I done to ensure that all students get the opportunity to learn conveniently and to produce a better result than a simple Pass?

Parents

Have we always ensured that our child is attending tuition? How often have we been in contact with the teacher?
What have we done to encourage him to read at home?
How often have we tolerated his addiction to the smart phone or the computer?
Did we do our best to inculcate in his mind the need to work hard to get better marks?
What exactly have we done to ensure that he’s disciplined and that he uses his time judiciously?

Management

When was it the last time we met to discuss thoroughly why our students are failing to obtain a Credit to allow them to move up? How much importance have we given to remedial classes?
Knowing full well that all children are not the same, how then have we assumed that every student must understand a lesson at the same rate?
What steps have we taken to help those who have trouble scoring higher than some 50 marks?
What have we done to ensure that our teachers are using the best possible teaching methodologies in their respective subjects in the classroom?
What tools do we have at our disposal to evaluate the performance of teachers in the classroom?
The authorities

What have our governments and oppositions done to improve the quality of our education? Today, lower secondary students are easily promoted despite poor marks. Is it a wonder then that they don’t produce a credit when they reach SC?

Insight

Self-questioning leads us to a better understanding of our roles in a situation. It’s about undertaking a journey deep into our conscience and taking stock of our mistakes. Pedagogically, it makes sense to bring each person concerned to take his own responsibility. The teacher alone cannot shoulder the responsibility when a student cannot produce a Credit though he has a significant part to play in it. Others have their part in it too.

Self-questioning is about having the courage to face reality and learning to improve. This is important because at stake is the future of many of our youngsters.