Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Schools and teachers matter

(Letter to Jakarta Post 05 May 2006)

As a qualified teacher with more than 10 years classroom experience, I can only wonder about what The Jakarta Post wishes to achieve with its regular articles on education by Simon Gower, who actually has a degree in engineering.

His latest attempt (the Post, May 2) is truly saddening. His argument that classrooms are not "real" just proves how little he understands about the field of education, as opposed to giving job-skill training to future factory workers.

Having a "surplus" of university graduates in European countries is a blessing. There was a time when only the rich and privileged could get a degree. Now almost anyone can, yet Gower sees that as bad? Should we allow entry to university based on the amount of land owned by parents? That would sure keep the numbers down.

And if having more graduates means a "(lower) quality" of education, then how can we explain the hundreds of Nobel Laureates in the UK, Europe and the U.S.? Low quality "surplus" graduates? There are none in Indonesia, which has a low ratio of graduates. Isn't society better off with more great thinkers? Should we have fewer thinkers in society, perhaps, and more mindless drones to fill the factories owned by those who believe that the only purpose of schools is to "teach" "skills" to children so that they can work for companies when they graduate? God save us from curriculum dictated by CEOs.

Schools are not "self-serving". And we teachers are not in this field in order to keep ourselves employed. Studying the Roman Empire can show us what may befall the new U.S. empire. We can learn lessons from the "deadly dull textbooks" that good teachers can make "real" by turning the focus onto something topical. (Or, we can just ask for new textbooks).

The article shows contempt for teachers who spend "their entire working lives" in their chosen field. So what? So do many great doctors, engineers, police officers, and many great stay-at-home mothers.

GENE NETTO
Jakarta

05 May 2006

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