Interactive Teaching Strategies
S. Chowdhury (Raju)
The quality of teaching in Bangladesh, particularly in English medium schools, poses a serious threat to young learners, the future generation of our country. Teaching has always been a cause for concern in our country where anybody can become a teacher. Someone who has completed his or her Masters degree, A-Levels or just O-Levels can get into teaching without having any professional qualifications or training as a teacher.
Teaching, on the other hand, is considered to be quite a stressful and technical profession, similar to being a doctor, nurse or lawyer. A teacher would have to undergo a comprehensive, rigorous and systematic course which will focus on many aspects of child psychology, child development, about their emotional, social and cognitive behaviour along with literally hundreds of effective teaching strategies. A Newly Qualified Teacher's (NQT's) development and progress will not only be monitored by the university-assigned mentor but also by the senior teachers where the new teacher is placed. On successful completion of either the Bachelor of Education (BEd) or the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), the NQT may look for a job in a desired school or location.
I have had the opportunity to meet many experienced teachers along with would-be-teachers in Dhaka while I was actively involved in opening up the British Interactive School in Dhanmondi. I found all of them, invariably, lacking the fundamental strategies of teaching. Most of the teachers, with some exceptions, instruct using obsolete, conventional, non-interactive and ineffective methods. Quite surprisingly, the instructors are unable to use any effective strategies to have a positive impact on the students. The teachers also lack skills to make the lessons challenging by using real-life scenarios. The children, hence, are unable to fully understand a subject and the foundation upon which they build their knowledge stays shaky.
One problem that is evident in the teachers here is that they posses little or no understanding of child psychology or child development, let alone having any skills on innovative teaching strategies. To most of them, a child is like an empty vessel to be filled, not a fire to kindle. The more they can digest the better. This is wrong. Surely these kind of teaching methods need serious attention.
In Bangladesh the children are force-fed low-quality education. The infants are made to go to private tutors or coaching centres after school and are not given any opportunity to enjoy and explore their precious childhood. Unfortunately for the children, they grow up without a childhood. We don't let them play, enjoy doing the things they love doing or even explore their areas of interest. Rather, we torture them mentally and cognitively with a heavy burden of homework. The parents are constantly putting them under tremendous pressure to do well in the examinations. I know a student who is going to sit for her O-Level exams next year and goes to different tutors for different subjects after school. By the time she returns home it is 9 pm. She eats her dinner and goes to bed without doing anything entertaining for herself. The next day, the cycle continues.
I know another child who is just seven years old, and goes to a tutor before and after her school. Having witnessed this selfish and unjust behaviour by the parents, I plucked up enough courage to confront the child's mother who replied, as expected, that the child is not learning anything at school. "Then what's the point of sending her to a school," I challenged. "This is how our children are, educated in our country," grumbled the child's mum. A very sad story indeed. We are not allowing children to be children, we think they are simply lifeless machines who will manufacture success and happiness at the press of a key.
Consciously or subconsciously, we are damaging their natural childhood development, leaving a huge scar on their personalities. As a result, these future generations would face all sorts of psychological problems such as depression, emotional distress, trauma and many other complications. This is the direct result of our unproductive and pedantic, old -school education system.
"Children are whole people who have feelings, ideas and relationships with others, and who need to be physically, mentally, morally and spiritually healthy," writes Kellmer Pringles, a famous educationist.
When a lesson or a piece of learning is stimulating, child-centred, or the learning is based on interactive and creative ideas, when the lesson is organised to provide investigation opportunities, the learning becomes not only fun but also sustainable and retainable. Children don't need to largely depend on memorising. When the lesson is explained properly allowing children to participate actively, engaging them in problem-solving, decision-making, they can take control of their own learning. They don't have to memorise everything without understanding a thing.
"Children learn best when they are given appropriate responsibility, allowed to make errors, decisions and choices, and respected as autonomous learners," writes Tine Bruce in Early Childhood.
An ideal teacher would organise the lesson in such a way that the learners would actively engage in investigative and exploratory learning. In this process, a learner will enrich his/her knowledge and understanding through trial and error. As far as I can see, spoon-feeding is actively practised in schools and colleges in Bangladesh. As a result, when a student is asked to explain any process of doing something they simply stare at you helplessly and hopelessly.
On various occasions I have spoken to a number of students and asked them a very fundamental question on subtracting a two-digit number from a two-digit number. The children, in all cases, failed to explain what they were doing, how they come to the conclusion, what they borrowed, whether they had to return once they borrowed or whether they knew any other way of doing it. Almost all schools here in Dhaka use the same old column subtraction methods, which can confuse the learners due to lack of a good consolidated understanding of place value and partitioning.
The writer is the Principal of British Interactive School. He has been teaching in the UK for the past seven years.
To be continued
(R) thedailystar.net 2005