Transfers ought to be more than just moving teachers around

In times past, schooling was a pleasant endeavour with students, teachers, and parents looking forward to the start of the year.

New learning experiences, meeting new friends fueled what many came to refer to as the academic fire. Alas not anymore.

In the recent past, the push and pull between the teachers’ employer-the Teachers’ Service Commission and the teachers’ unions over salaries and allowances, performance appraisals, the new curriculum and transfers has taken away that cheer.

Last week, the Teachers Service Commission announced yet another round of transfers with nearly 3,000 head teachers and teachers moved. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In work places all over the world transfers are a tool for resource mobilisation and fair distribution. Done properly and strictly within set guidelines, the so-called delocalisation of teachers mooted nearly three years ago ought to shore up the standards of education.

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There is no doubt that more time spent by a teacher in the classroom – and not selling a shop or doing boda boda business- would translate to a good learning experience, well-adjusted learners with better grades and happy students and parents. It also means that country’s human capital is well prepared.

This newspaper hopes that in its teacher transfer plan, TSC’s motivation is to weed out bad practices and the few teachers who have brought disrepute into the profession so that only those fit and with the compassion to teach remain.

Widespread cheating in exams in the past was attributed to teacher absenteeism and familiarity resulting from teachers staying at one station for a long time. Teacher transfer was seen therefore as one way, no less significant, of addressing this.

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Although well-intended, the mass transfer of teachers has now become the rule rather than the exception. But we hasten to ask; why fix, if it ain’t broken? Indeed, whimsical transfers risk clouding the real factors that promote a good learning experience for the students and the teachers.

The most important lesson from Singapore- which boasts the best education system in the world is the development of excellent teachers. “In Singapore, they get 100 hours of training a year to keep up to date with the latest techniques. The government pays them well, too.” says The Economist.

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This ought to be the first step in improving learning in our schools.

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