Last week, when The Straits Times reported that a Mr. Mohammed Ariffin had filed a police report for verbal abuse, because the teacher purportedly said to his child “I don’t want to see your face”, I had two immediate questions. First, what prompted the father to resort to such a drastic measure; second, why did the newspaper even choose to publish the “story” (if it is considered one in the first place). At this point in time, I sincerely question the father’s decision to do the aforementioned, because there are definitely more constructive methodologies that should have been contemplated and adopted.
I think this case (as isolated as it may be, with the precise circumstances not exactly clear) sends out the wrong signals, and may set unhealthy precedents. I feel that the bottom line is: parents should be working cohesively with – not against – their children’s teachers.
Why Parents Should Work With – Not Against – Teachers
It is crucial for these two stakeholders to maintain a constructive and complementary relationship, as it forms the necessary foundation for teaching-learning pedagogies to evolve at school, and at home. An “us” versus “them” mentality disregards these advantages, could generate unnecessary tensions (like the above case study), and could potentially complicate future interactions. Mistakes are – unfortunately – inevitable, and that is why it is important for these stakeholders to develop a level of trust for the benefit of their children.
Some might contend that teachers might be overstretched, if they are asked to cover multiple classes with too many students (especially if the schoolchildren have differing competencies and diverse demands). I think that is extremely valid. It is thus a worthy endeavour to start looking into the teacher-to-pupil ratio in our education institutions, so that educators have the time and energy to work more meaningfully with the parents. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) reported in 2009 that Singapore had a 17.44 primary pupil-teacher ratio, but I have my concerns.
– This ratio is the number of pupils enrolled in a school divided by the number of teachers regardless of their teaching assignment.
– It does not take into consideration the composition of a classroom (class ratio).
– It is important to understand the average number of classes a teacher has, as well as his assorted roles and responsibilities.
– The ratio is far from impressive, when compared to the Nordic countries (here).
Beyond the teacher-to-pupil consideration, there is an assortment of ways in which these stakeholders can work together within present limitations. Parent-teacher meetings should go beyond academic-scholastic discussions, and also focus on the child’s holistic development (particularly if he has special areas of expertise). School bureaucrats can organise discussion forums or talks, so as to develop a comprehension of the general direction and plans. The possibilities are endless: for instance, the Ministry of Education (MOE) would certainly pay more attention if teachers and parents collectively postulated their concerns about curriculum, syllabus and standards (in reference to the recent exchanges on the newspapers).
At the end of the day, cooperation is key. If we develop a predilection for needless confrontation or antagonistic conflict, we will head nowhere.