Saturday, January 22, 2022

“Teaching profession needs re-evaluation”

Before I go into the speech expected of me, let me first congratulate the Teachers who have been earmarked for the 2014 Awards. We are all very happy for them and are hopeful that they will continue to give of their best in their respective Teaching roles.

Secondly, I wish to commend you Teachers for the part you played in the preparation of the Athletes who recently represented Botswana at the just past African Youth Games. Our students acquitted themselves very well and that was all due to your expert guidance and commitment to your work as Teachers.

It is my distinct pleasure, honour and privilege to officiate at your august event; an event that deliberates on a vital, topical and progressive theme about technology and change as the foundation for quality education. I wish to thank most sincerely, the Leadership of the South East Region, Teacher Organisations and Members of the Teaching Fraternity for this rare opportunity. It is indeed gratifying to find myself standing at this podium 15 years post my service as a School Head. A lot has no doubt changed but the metamorphosis has not in any way deleted the fond memories that I have for the Teaching Profession. I hope to be able to re-live some of my memories as I share thoughts with you this morning.

Teaching has been dubbed the mother of all professions and history has confirmed this over the centuries. In Botswana, Teaching was the main profession at independence in 1966, no wonder our Cabinet then consisted largely of Teachers. Overtime however, varying professions nurtured by teaching proliferated, organized themselves, and bargained for superior conditions. Many have over-time realised self-regulation and have long successfully integrated technology to form part of their modus operandi. Whilst these developments took place, I dare say, Teaching did not change much.

It is only now that we are talking about a Teaching Council that should among other things ensure that Teaching as a profession, is left solely for qualified Teachers to practice in. As a result of the modesty of Teachers and our otherwise sluggish response to the referred developments, the Teaching Profession has arguably lost the respect, reverence and dignity it was associated with in the earlier years. We can hardly talk of any well-defined and widely accepted ethics of the Teaching Profession that would have otherwise galvanized us. Consequently we have lost grip on the struggle to determine our own destiny.

I know I have somewhat deviated from the theme of this occasion over the last few moments. It was a deliberate strategy on my side, intended to underscore the importance and appropriateness of your theme, which calls for Teachers’ unity as we contend with global technological changes, en-route our strive for provision of quality education. The theme of this event is timely in that it resonates with the spirit of the e-education programme the MOESD wishes to embark on. It also indicates that its crafters are aware that certain technological developments such as the advent of the Open Education Resources Movement and MOOCS, are sweeping through the global educational landscape and are likely to leave irreversible damage to our traditional teaching methodology if we do not expeditiously respond.

Whilst the Teaching Profession in Botswana has arguably stagnated, within the context of the developments I have alluded to, what Teachers exist for has undergone phenomenal change and continues to change. The curriculum has constantly changed, calling for change in Teacher ÔÇô Learner roles in and outside the classroom, as well as change in mediation and instructional leadership practices.

There has also been a major shift in communication, where distance between interactants has been relegated to the dustbin of history. A closer look at these changes would reveal that they have been and continue to be underpinned by global technological changes of the current century.

It is a well-established fact that Botswana has a relatively young population with 35.6% of it having been aged below 15 years by 2006. This youthful structure of our population has important implications for education, training and skills development. We have an obligation as the Teaching Fraternity, to variously provide vide differing technological media, for the development of our young people so that they may live creatively in their environment, maintain the legacy of Botswana as a progressive, democratic and stable country, as well as a Nation that embraces global challenges, and is desirous of seeing its citizens compete successfully with the best there is, internationally.

This state of affairs urgently calls for re-valuation of intensions and purposes of the Teaching Profession and/or fraternity. The teaching-learning space we inhabit in the developing world exhibits contestation between what worked well in the classroom yesterday and what works well in the classroom today.

A Teacher who takes leave for a single semester will find disturbing and phenomenal changes when he/she reverts to the classroom after the three months. What more of some of us who have been away from the classroom for more than a decade? We would be as out-lawed and irrelevant as dinosaurs.

This is because students of today are demanding more appropriate technology that arguably has become more authoritative than the teacher’s voice. We have to understand this phenomenon in toto and come to terms with the fact that without clear conceptualization of technology as a foundational entity in the 21st century’s educational praxis, the mismatch between intensions and classroom reality would become regrettable. The clarion call I wish to make to the Teaching Fraternity is that unity of conceptualization among ourselves is more urgent today than ever before.

A study published in 2012 by Adobe reveals that schools and universities in the UK are under increasing pressure to offer students access to state-of-the art technology. Some of the study’s findings were that:

ÔÇó65% of the students surveyed say having access to computers and the latest software is one of the most important factors when choosing an institution; and

ÔÇó89% preferred better technology than having well-qualified and accessible lecturers.

In the 2012 undergraduate technology survey from the Educause Centre for Applied Research, statistics were equally revealing with;

ÔÇó49% of students wanting to see increased use of Learning Management Systems (LMS);

ÔÇó57% wanting more Open Education Resources (OER);

ÔÇó46% yearning for more online videos; and

ÔÇó55% being hungry for more game-based learning.

When the technology solution provider, CDW-G, surveyed more than 1000 US High School and College students, Teachers and IT professionals, they found that in a classroom setting;

ÔÇó74% of College Students used digital content;

ÔÇó55% made use of smart phones; and

ÔÇó53% took advantage of recorded lectures if offered by an Instructor.

Closer home, in the Western Cape ÔÇô South Africa, the results of a study using a random sample of 228 from 1455 schools in 2013 indicated that Mathematics Teachers are eager to utilize information and communication technology for their teaching and learning, but required professional development initiatives to be crafted according to their own individual needs, within their schools context, and supported by the local education authorities.

To what extent are we, in the developing countries, including Botswana consciously striving to ensure that comparable expectations by our Students and/or Teachers are catered for?

Whilst educationists in Botswana may argue that the examples I cite, belong to contexts other than ours, it has to be borne in mind that with the advent of globalization, technological changes have come to know of no boundaries. Our own context is also characterized by dearth of relevant literature and empirical evidence.

It thus becomes inevitable that we should rely on evidence found in jurisdictions that have institutionalized research and are using it to guide and propel developments in their educational space. We have not for that matter come up with a widely acceptable definition of quality education and this void alone, makes it problematic to defensibly state how technology should be infused to enhance quality of education.

It is probably true that most of us Teachers are behind these developments I have alluded to. Most of our learners probably use technology which we may be unable to use and both of us, Teachers and Students in developing countries only ever see significant adoption of technologies for teaching and learning when these are already commoditized, that is many years later.

As Teachers, we must thus unite in the following spheres of technological conceptualization:

ÔÇóConscious development of an enquiring mind to know what modern educational technology is all about;

ÔÇóRelentless curiosity and thirst to learn the new technologies as they apply and impact on those areas in the educational arena where we have statutory jurisdiction.

More importantly, we must as Teachers note that whilst limited use of technology may be attributed to shortage of computers and related implements, the degree of success teachers have using technology for instruction could depend in part on their ability to explore the relationship between pedagogy and technology. Technology used for teaching and learning should be considered an integral part of instruction and not as an object exclusive to itself. Such induction of technology is complex and would necessarily require Teachers to pull their minds and work in unison and as a collective, if noticeable impact and/or effectiveness is to ultimately be realised.

Most of us, Teachers of today, were trained in settings that paid little attention to the need to infuse technology into the teaching methodology, yet we have to teach within contexts that call for greater infusion of technology. This is no doubt a tall order for us as individuals, hence the need for us to unite in our efforts to effectively integrate technology into our modus operandi.

Director of Ceremonies, when everything is said and done, it has to be accepted that what we used to adulate as glorious schools in our days, may not be that anymore. What parents used to consider to be the best schools may not still be so today. Rather it is arguably the technologically compliant that typify current trends. The days of black-cover notebooks, printed syllabi and traditional textbooks are fast passing by. IPads, smartphones, e-books and Open Education Resources are becoming a common feature of school instruction.

To synchronize with this cataclysmal inevitability, Teachers Unity for Global Technological Changes of the 21st Century should be embraced as a priority, rather than an option. For such lays a foundation for quality education as seen through the lense of students, parents, industry and global citizens.

In winding up what may be a controversial presentation to many, let me, as a way of igniting professional thoughts, and probably contributing to the discourse that Teachers may choose to engage in going forward, pose the following provocative questions;

ÔÇóSince 1994 when the RNPE was adopted with one of the specific objectives on the need to improve the status of the Teaching Profession, has there been improvement or deterioration? What does status of the Teaching Profession entail?

ÔÇóHave Teachers taken the leadership of the Teaching Profession? If yes, how is the leadership expressed? If no, how can Teachers reclaim leadership of the Profession, grow and improve it on an ongoing basis?

ÔÇóHow much action research is taking place in our schools to demonstrate our intent to lead developments in the Teaching Profession including integration of technology?

ÔÇóIs our Teacher Training Curriculum’s evolution (if any) keeping pace with new developments taking place within the school system?

ÔÇóHow has total localization of the Teaching Profession affected overall educational outcomes and how does the drive to achieve total localization sit in with the inevitable need to internationalize?

Whilst these questions may not directly relate to your theme of today, I thought I should pose them as a way of contributing to the direction we might seek to take in re-shaping our noble Profession. The list of questions is no doubt far from being exhaustive.

Once again thank you for allowing me the exclusive opportunity to present a key note speech at this special occasion.

*Dr. Tau is Executive Director of BOCODOL. He was speaking at the occasion to mark Teachers Day in Gaborone

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