Automatic progression: a malfunction
For years Boitshepo Koi* shared her love for teaching with all the students at Naledi Secondary School. The Development Studies teacher who chooses to remain anonymous told Edu Mail that Naledi is a school which for a long time was known to be a school of stars like its name states.
“It is where every parent wished their child would attend and where every teacher yearned to work at.” She too admits that she loved to be associated with the fact that it was one of the best local schools, teaching the best students.“We used to call them the ‘crème’ of the country because all the best students came here and we as teachers were privileged to be a part of the process as they continued their senior secondary school chapter,” she says.
With a cheerless face and gloomy spirit the renowned teacher who thought her passion would grow with time, finds herself wondering what the future holds for her as even the best schools like Naledi face the wrath of drastic decline of results. She speaks very little of the recently released 2015 BGCSE results which she says continue to deteriorate year in and out. In fact, Koi indicates that this is disheartening for teachers as they are directly involved with the students on a daily basis. “It is obviously frustrating for us,” she maintains.
Koi is of the view that it has become embarrassing to interact with private school teachers or even seek opportunities there as they too wonder how public school results continue to worsen each year.“One private school teacher once asked me why our results deteriorate when they can actually achieve hundred percent pass rate each year. I did not know what to say,” she says in a hollow distressed voice.
Having met her briefly Koi comes across as a dedicated, hardworking and patient teacher. In her reflection however, she blames the introduction of automatic progression. “Ever since that was introduced things were never the same again. Our lives changed completely.”Automatic progression ensures universal access to education policy that allows learners to pass through the 10 years of education offered under the universal policy. In other words, each learner is guaranteed 10 years of education regardless of performance at critical levels such as Standard Seven and Form Three.
“We are experiencing poor examination results and without the slightest sign that they will improve in the near future,” she shares consumed by much worry.
Koi believes that with this system in place, students do not see any need to work hard or even learn at all because it is certain that whether they fail or pass they will go onto the next level. “While we have to deal with undisciplined and disruptive students who hate school, do drugs, we also have to deal with those who wish to learn but are discouraged by the system,” she adds.
She highlights that as a result of being failed by the system, students then find it pointless to even try to perform better and resort to all kind of social ills and disruptive behaviour. “Students are simply not motivated to take school seriously!” Koi remains clueless as to how systems are put in place when they (teachers) are barely consulted on matters that concern students. In fact she is troubled by the fact that even when systems like automatic progression are put in place, teachers are not prepared for it.
“Imagine a class full of D graded students, some of who can barely construct an English sentence.” She reveals that as teachers teaching such a class, the focus then is drawn back to teaching basics which they could have been taught at primary and junior secondary schools. “It gets worse as even in tests and examination, expressing themselves in English for example, is a challenge.”
She is reminded of another one of her colleagues who shared similar sentiments about teaching at Naledi who left to pursue his PhD with the idea that he would come back and continue contribute in the same school. “He did not even last a year because when he came back things had changed,” she shares.
The hard hit students, she says are those with ‘special needs,’ as they are the most neglected by the system.
“First of all, some teacher have no idea how to educate a child with special needs,” she admits. Second of all, with that in mind they are simply thrown at us even worse in similar classes as other children when they should be given special attention. Another predicament is the student-teacher ration that can stand up to one teacher to 45 students, and up to seven classes of varied needs. “How can the poor kids pass?” she questions.None the less, Koi makes it known that in the midst of it all are teachers whose morale is on an old time low, as they increasingly get de-motivated by the working and living conditions.
Instead of being supported , she claims teachers are subjected to all sorts of harsh treatment ranging from unpaid overtimes, discriminatory levels of operation, forced to stay at schools when schools are closed, made essential services so as to restrict them from full union rights, among others. Koi recommends that in-service workshops should be reintroduced and properly managed. The workshops used to assist both new and experienced teachers to appreciate the teaching content and methodologies and even refresh the old horses with the latest strategies in education. On top of that, proper and vigorous consultation between teachers and the employer should be made priority.
She also believes that the re-introduction of the repeat system would be helpful as a motivator for students and also ensure the delivery of quality over quantity. Special needs children should be treated and provided for as such. “In fact, there are a host of challenges in education which needs appropriate interventions that if left unattended our education will continue to rot while our children disregard the importance of quality education,” she says.