Does the competence of a teacher hinge more on the volume of redundant information crammed into his head and his ability to readily recall this at short notice, or on his general mastery of pedagogy? This question is at the dead centre of the examination recently administered by the Kaduna State government to its primary school teachers.The heart of the matter here is whether the teacher is so called because of his long memory or because of his skills in the practice and theory of teaching; his teaching strategies, philosophies, judgement, and actions which are expected to be informed by the teacher’s knowledge of each of his student’s needs, background, aspiration and interest.
When citizens latched on to the Kaduna State governor’s announcement that 21, 780 out of 33, 000 primary school teachers in the state have scored below 75% in a primary four examination questions administered to them by the state government to ridicule the teachers, they seemed to agree with the government that what matters is the amount of dead matter stored in the teacher’s brain. This, rather than indict the teacher exposed the citizenry for setting the teacher’s priority wrong. They neglect the fact that knowledge in today’s world is progressive;where what was true yesterday is falsified today. As such the major concern of society should be whether the teacher possesses the capacity for research, that is, the ability to know where and how to source for and process knowledge needed by his students at any time. This truth is even couched in a wise-saying that “good research makes teaching.”
In the social media space where I first read about the news of the Kaduna State teachers with samples of the test questions displayed, the online mob openly called for the blood of the teachers; requesting their sack. Thankfully, the governor is yet to implement the desire of the mob. If he ever does, he will discover later on that he has used his power recklessly. There are two reasons why I say this. First, there is no justification whatsoever for pegging pass mark at 75% far beyond the national excellence level which is 70%. Those who justify the pegging of pass mark at 75%for teachers are living in illusion that we are taught by our best. Rather than the classroom swhere rewards are only reaped in heaven, the boardrooms where pay checks are bulky are the playing field of Nigeria’s best. Second, the Kaduna teachers were not tested as teachers but as students which they were not. Many of them were indeed subjected to new facts that were simply unknown during their own school days and their current job postings (if they are not primary four teachers) have not provided them opportunity to encounter the new facts.By the way, it may be necessary to give us percentage of primary four teachers who could not score up to 75% in the examination, of course their failure to do so is also not proof of their incompetence as teachers.
I believe that the teaching practice testing provides the ideal model for the testing of teacher-competence and nothing more. Even when tested with this model, under performing teachers are not to be sacked as being insinuated in Kaduna. Rather, their under performance should be seen as reinforcing the need for further in-service training for the teachers. I do not have the records, but the public will like to see the amount of investment made by the government on in-service training of teachers. How many teachers have been supported by the state government to rise above the qualification with which they secured work as teachers in the state?
There is a more disturbing fact which emerged from the testing exercise and it is in this that the Kaduna State government should dedicate more effort. The Weekend Blueprintof 21 and 22 October, 2017 submits that about 2.2 million pupils are registered in Kaduna State with a corresponding teacher population of 33, 000. What this shows is that the problem of education in the state goes far than scapegoating the teachers. At the ratio of 66.6 students to 1 teacher, Kaduna will sully the record of even the best teacher in the world. What the statistics show is that the Kaduna teacher is structurally set up to fail. He is over-used, overstressed, and derided at the same time despite his good efforts to make the best out of a worst situation. I do not want to inquire into how the teachers are compensated for their excess workloads but records point at the urgent need for the Kaduna State government to double the number of its teaching workforce in the short run and to triple it in the long run. Lowering the student-teacher ratio to internationally accepted standard is the only way to ensure the type of teacher excellence as rightly desired by Kaduna State governor. On this, there is no shortcut.