Thursday, September 23, 2021

New teachers from mass recruitment drive need to be equipped, say educationists

One says there is 'no room to train them' while another says pre-service training could be an option as not many have been prepared for the pandemic-season online learning methods.

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Educationists say the candidates selected through the mass recruitment drive for teachers should be equipped with the necessary skills set in order to ease the burden on current teachers, many of whom are struggling with a lack of support and resources.

Chan Soon Seng, CEO of Teach For Malaysia, said the shortage of teachers which the mass recruitment aims to remedy was a long-standing problem, especially in rural areas.

This had caused many teachers to take on more classes than they normally would, he said, adding that this could lead to burnout.

“(They also have to) teach subjects with which they are not familiar, or many subjects which means they are not able to specialise or become experts in one particular subject,” he said.

In some situations, he added, there are simply no teachers for subjects which limits the scope of learning for students.

Chan also spoke of a lack of resources to provide effective online learning for students, which he said had led to many teachers dipping into their own pockets to purchase the equipment needed.

While the arrival of new teachers would make a difference, he said, the government should focus on supporting current teachers in online learning.

“This may mean providing teachers with delivery services so they can send materials to students, or the resources they need to create learning packets and materials.

“Once schools reopen, that’s when having the additional supply of teachers may have a bigger impact. This could help schools ensure that they have enough teachers for physically distanced classrooms, if needed, and to cater to the differentiated needs of students which have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” he said.

The education ministry said last month that some 18,000 teachers would be recruited as part of efforts to address the shortage of educators in the country, with placements expected to begin in October.

Education Minister Radzi Jidin said graduates in education would be given priority although those from other fields would be recruited as well.

Azlin Norhaini Mansor, chairman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Research Centre For Educational Leadership And Policy, agreed that the recruitment drive could help solve the shortage of teachers but said requirements should be further refined.

She told MalaysiaNow that candidates should already possess the necessary teaching skills, saying there is “no room to train them” as the issue had been around for a long time.

“The ministry must also focus on developing competency in teachers at schools with fewer students, students with special needs, pre-schools, and technical and vocational institutions,” she said.

“Without the right teaching skills, I’m afraid it will affect the quality of the learning process.”

She recommended evaluating teachers for recruitment based on the needs of individual schools, saying each school has different needs according to location, subjects offered, building capacity and student diversity.

“These must be taken into account when determining the number and options of teachers required. The education ministry needs to review its placement approach and improve it,” she added.

“This one-off recruitment may fail if the selected candidates are not placed at schools with the proper options for them.”

Chan, on the other hand, suggested that candidates be given pre-service training, saying most education graduates have not been trained for the home-based learning approach employed during the pandemic.

“It is critical to ensure there is continuous support to equip incoming teachers with the digital skills to facilitate online learning, and integrate digital skills into in-person learning once schools reopen.

“They will also need to be equipped with the skills to deliver non-digital modes of home-based learning, as many students do not have connectivity,” he said.

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