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Test for our teachers

Dr Sakul And Bhawna Kundra
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

RECENTLY, Fiji's MInistry of Education was in news for conducting an English proficiency test for new graduates and those already in the system. Government is making sincere efforts to provide quality education by quality teachers through those, "that will enable to ensure all appointment are made on merit".

Explaining the purpose of the test, Fiji's Education Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said: "The purpose of the teachers' assessment was part of Government's commitment to the open merit recruitment guideline and the English proficiency examination was administered by the Ministry of Education with guidance from the Civil Service Reform Management Unit as part of the first comprehensive assessment on merit for teaching applicants.

"The main purpose of the assessment was to provide benchmark data to help measure the effectiveness of professional development programs that will be carried out throughout the year. The assessment was also carried out to ensure that all teaching applicants meet baseline proficiency requirements prior to being appointed to teaching positions.

"The main purpose of the assessment was to provide benchmark data to help measure the effectiveness of professional development programs that will be carried out throughout the year."

This policy should bring positive results as it will help to produce quality teachers to mentor future leaders which will be the human capital of the nation.

This article synoptically overviews various facets of quality teaching, learning and qualities of quality leaders and challenges they face.

Teacher quality and

effective teaching

James H Strange and Jennifer L Hindman's work The Teacher Quality Index highlighted: "Teacher recruitment is the process of providing an adequate number of quality applicants. Teacher selection is the process of choosing only high-quality employees from among the assembled applicants.

"Hiring, supporting and sustaining effective teachers are among the most important responsibilities of school leaders, perhaps the most important responsibility."

The authors further stated teaching and learning are at the core of schooling, therefore good teacher selection is absolutely indispensable to high-achieving schools.

Their book highlights the quality indicators of effective teachers as;

* The teacher as a person (ie, personal attributes);

* Classroom management and organisation;

* Planning for instruction;

* Implementing instruction (ie, instructional delivery); and

* Monitoring students' progress and potential (ie student assessment and student expectations). The authors further stress there is a strong connection between teacher quality and selection.

Interviews can be one of the tools for selection after shortlisting and if there are large number of candidates, the examination method may be more suitable followed by an interview.

Some researchers such Jim Collins stated when having doubts about selection, do not hire and keep looking, but as per the need of vacancy (time and space), one has to derive an appropriate formula to recruit effective teachers.

Challenges in rural schools

Selection of untrained teachers in many areas is a big problem for producing quality teaching that is vital for improving student learning.

G Lingam et al Challenges for Rural School Leaders in the Developing Context: the Case of Solomon Islands researched 38 rural school leaders in Solomon Islands to identify their perceptions of work challenges.

The feedback show some challenging factors such as untrained teachers, lack of funding, limited learning and reaching resources and land disputes, parents, school boards and traditional leaders and funding etc.

Their qualitative research shows untrained teachers and inadequacies of funding and teaching resources are major challenges.

It noted first-hand response of school leaders in regard to shortage of quality teachers, as the untrained teachers will not perform to the standard expected for quality learning and teaching and the children will suffer.

"Teachers are the most important resource and foremost, they lack competence in the subject areas they are teaching. In the case of Solomon Islands we have employed the highest number of unqualified teachers, we are destroying the future of children."

As per the authors, a rural school leader faces numerous challenges in organising learning and teaching in underperforming schools so there is a need for constructive steps to make rural education attractive and effective.

Effective school leaders can play an active role in making policies for better education.

Challenges and qualities

of quality teachers

There is a need for quality leaders to provide quality education.

Although as per Christopher Day and Pamela Sammons' work Successful school leadership marks the challenges facing school leaders include;

p Ensuring consistently good teaching and learning, integrating a sound grasp of basic knowledge and skills within a broad and balanced curriculum;

p Managing behaviour and attendance;

p Strategically managing resources and the environment; and

p Building the school as a professional learning community, among others.

Therefore the key dimensions of successful leadership are identified as defining the vision, values and direction; improving conditions for teaching and learning; redesigning the organisation: aligning roles and responsibilities; enhancing teaching and learning; redesigning and enriching the curriculum; enhancing teacher quality (including succession planning); building relationships inside the school community; building relationships outside the school community; placing an emphasis on common values.

Teacher quality should be enhanced and their recruitment should be made through proper channels as per a nation's policies which can provide quality learning for making future leaders in their own profession domain.

* Dr Sakul Kundra is assistant professor in history at the FNU's College of Humanities and Education in Lautoka. Bhawna Kundra is a French and business management teacher and MYP assistant co-ordinator at International School Nadi. The views expressed are their own and not of this newspaper or their respective employers. For comments or suggestions, email.

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