The Catholic Teachers’ Association (CTA) disagrees that teachers are too reliant on textbooks instead of teaching.
At a media briefing in early January at the Education Ministry head office, St Vincent Street, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said the ministry was concerned with the large number of books and the physical effects on children with heavy schoolbags.
He suggested there seemed to be an “overemphasis on the use of texts rather than actual teaching”. The ministry wants to ensure for this term and the rest of the school year that there is “greater emphasis on teaching”. The ministry is also seeking to minimise the number of books children are “forced to carry on a daily basis”.
Contacted for feedback, CTA President Neil Bynoe stated heavy schoolbags have been a problem for “quite a while now”. Various recommendations were put forward, one being for teachers to keep the books at school. However, Bynoe said not all schools have adequate storage space and pupils take home most of their texts because they needed them to study.
Another suggestion was for all texts to be digitised on tablets. While this may solve the problem, other issues arose such as copyright, maintenance and the high cost to start such a programme.
“The only real and valid solution to this problem would be to give students a timetable, even in primary school, so that they don’t walk to school with unnecessary texts that they won’t use. This would involve teachers having to be more planned and organised to be able to stick to the schedule. Keep in mind that students today only have the use of one textbook and maybe a workbook in some areas.”
He commented that “over the past five years or so” the ministry has not delivered on its promise to give all students texts on a yearly basis. Bynoe said, “We have been receiving only top ups and have to reuse old texts, so how can teachers be heavily reliant on text books? This doesn’t make sense.”
More male teachers
On the issue of few male teachers in the system to be role models to male students, Bynoe said the high number of female to male teachers has been occurring for a long time.
“The ratio has been widening continuously over the period as well. We agree that we need more male role models as teachers in the system today more than ever before,” he added.
The CTA President listed some factors to explain this trend: teaching at the primary level has been viewed as female oriented because females are viewed in society as nurturers and caregivers from birth onwards.
“Even in the family unit males usually take up increasing responsibilities as the child grows older. This norm is transferred into the education system today,” he said.
Teaching may be seen as having “low-income status” with males preferring jobs that yield higher incomes. Teachers today are required to be professionally certified in areas such as child psychology, guidance and pedagogical skills. “Few males decide to pursue these avenues of study; instead they choose business economics and engineering fields,” Bynoe said.
Responding to these issues, he recommended, “The ministry would have to go on an extensive public campaign to woo males to the field of education. An increase of salary would also do wonders.”
The ministry has found wastage in the School Nutrition Programme, and the CTA President said a better system was required in selecting children from needy families. Monitoring and providing yearly updates were also necessary.
He explained the updates would remove those whose families’ financial position had improved and include new candidates. Bynoe said many schools were not updating on a timely basis but, “one can make the case though that this is not the teachers’ job so the MoE must invest in greater manpower”. – LPG