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By all means, let no upheaval interfere with crucial third term

By The Standard | Published Tue, August 28th 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 27th 2018 at 20:57 GMT +3

In times past, schooling was a pleasant experience devoid of the push and pull that has characterised the education section recently.

Students and parents looked forward to the day schools reopened. It is hyperbole to imagine that parents in these times feel the same way.

For caught up in a pincer movement between the teachers’ employer, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), and their unions are millions of schoolchildren for whom education remains a choice-giver, a door-opener to great opportunities, and parents labouring to give their children their best shot at life.

As the third and most important term – with exams set to start in a few weeks - begins, there is uncertainty and trepidation: Knut has threatened to make good its threat to call a strike while undelivered textbooks coupled with concerns about unremitted funds for free education will certainly delay learning. 

Though the issues raised by the teachers are valid, what is not justifiable is how they plan to counter what the TSC has set out to do, which at face value, is good for the country's education.

This newspaper believes that the TSC means well for the education sector. To demonise the mass transfers under the delocalisation policy and the introduction of performance appraisal is to miss the point.

The proposals are meant to stem the falling standards of education by separating the wheat from the chaff. TSC seeks to weed out the bad practices and those who have brought disrepute to the profession so that only those fit and with the compassion to teach remain. That should be applauded.

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In the short term, it might look punitive for the teachers, but in the long term, it is beneficial to the millions of children hungry for good, cheap and quality education. Those who would have gone through a rotten system that has wasted their time and money. 

In many ways, the policy changes amount to killing so many birds with one stone. Prevalent exam cheating has been attributed to teacher absenteeism, quality and teaching standards that promote rote learning (to complete the syllabus) at the expense of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. That some Standard Six pupils cannot tackle simple arithmetic or construct proper sentences should worry the teachers most, not the TSC. Yet that is the reality in most public schools.

It is hoped that in spite of the strike threats, learning will continue and that the candidates will take their exams uninterrupted.

For now, the teachers must complete the syllabus and prepare the students for the exams that will largely define the future for those in Standard 8 and fourth form. Wilson Sossion, the Knut secretary general, ought to find better ways to prosecute the concerns of teachers.

Frequent calls for strikes has diminished the sympathy he once enjoyed. He could soon realise that industrial action does little to advance his agenda and that of the teachers he represents.

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