Students’ Forum: The Purpose of Teaching and Learning (The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching Series)

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In this forum, Chua Menn Sze, Shenggao Chen, Sue Chee Hao, Jasmine Teh expressed their views on the topic of ‘The Purpose of Teaching and Learning’.

Chua said “the goal of education is to experience real life issues, promote self-development, contribute to society, and lead a good life. However, the reality of education is that the culture of testing is still very strong, and academic results are a major benchmark to measure success. She added society still values academic excellence as it promises social mobility and future economic stability.

Despite that, Chua still believes students’ curiosity and motivation for learning has to be nurtured. This is because human resources are the most valuable resources of a country. The education system produces skills and talents for the labour market. It is the educators’ responsibility to ensure students’ skills match the economy.

Shenggao shared his views based on his home country, China. In China, college entrance examinations is still the main gateway to enter college. Many school leaders encourage teachers to teach in a particular way to achieve excellent results. Moreover, the teachers’ bonus is linked with student’s grades. As a result, grades matter and learning becomes academic only. One of the factors, student numbers in China is huge and teachers cram their teaching into a short period of time. However, he still believes lifelong learning is also important. This is because one needs to keep up with the changing world such as the use of smart devices, how to handle new technology and use it.

Sue said “students are expected to do well in exams, so teachers do not focus on molding students holistically”. Lifelong learning skills for example critical thinking, problem solving and others are not being focused in teaching. Also, test scores become the standard by which teaching is assessed. So, why does this happen? Sue believes it is because the society glorifies those who score well, and the education “rat race” has been intensifying. The curriculum in Malaysia is too heavy, especially in the primary level. As a result, teachers need to cover the materials for exams, and to score in exams, teachers have to provide students with techniques needed to answer exam questions.

The final presenter, Jasmine Teh talked about how a good teacher should function. She said, it is a reflective practice. A good teacher should promote holistic learner well-being in addition to academic success (UNESCO, 2018). A learner’s holistic development cannot be facilitated with the narrow parameter laid out by traditional rigid curriculum that focuses on content knowledge only (Christou, 2012). Moreover, a standardized test is unable to yield adequate evidence for teachers to make judgements about what children already know and can do and where they need to go next.

The learning projects must engage students deeply in their learning, and students become active agents and show interest in learning (Puente et al, 2018). Also, students with learning difficulties can gain benefits through project based learning.

One of the teaching philosophies that Jasmine values is “We teach what we value, we teach who we are (Kirylo, 2016). Most schools’ vision and mission statements are in line with the Malaysian Education Philosophy. Despite having a clear mission statement, some schools and teachers are side-tracked by societal pressure. Furthermore, education is being shaped and molded by the pressure of the testing itself (Fanetti et al, 2010).

By Norzaireen Shamsul Kamar

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