THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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“Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education”. –J.F. Kennedy
Nothing more graphically projects the virtual un-importance of ‘memory (or recall) question’ as a component of ‘intelligence test’ than a piece I read on-line by a certain Professor Abubakar Aliyu Liman. Writing in defense of the controversial 21,000 El-Rufai teachers of Kaduna, Prof. Liman had argued that the yardstick used in assessing them –namely ability to recall materials mentally, instead of the ability to impart materials pedagogically, is the least important element of the domains under which intelligence is tested.
There are three of such domains, he said: The Cognitive domain –which relates to ‘mental ability’, The Effective domain –relating to ‘behavior and or attitude’ and The domain of the Psychomotor which relates to ‘physiological coordination’. Each of these domains he said, has many levels, with ‘The Cognitive domain’ alone, having seven, and of which ‘memory’ or ‘recall’ is not just one of those levels, it is in fact ‘the lowest’ in that domain.
And so, Prof. Liman’s argument, as I understood it, is this: that any test of intelligence, to be holistic, must incorporate all the three domains, touching on all the various levels under each domain. And he argued therefore, that to base a test only on the lowest level of a set of seven levels under just one of three domains which are co-equal and co-functional, cannot be said to be holistic, let alone valid.
To be holistic he said, any exams, to test the aptitude or intelligence of teachers, must be ‘professional’ and ‘standardized’ and it must apply a ‘complex research based instrument’, involving, he said, “A lot of variable, analyses and calculations.”
Memory questions only, he said test the ‘ability to remember’, not the ability to ‘summarize’, ‘compare’, ‘evaluate’, ‘synthesize’, ‘analyze’ or ‘apply’. And just there he got me wondering: how in the world can the very ‘minds’ that conceived some of those ridiculous answers that we saw, do any let alone all of these? How can the Kaduna teachers that we now have the misfortune of knowing –with such less-than-kindergarten minds even to such pedagogically simple questions as identifying a triangle- ever be capable of handling such ‘complex’, ‘standardized’, ‘professional’, ‘research based’ questions that the Prof. said must involve ‘variables’, ‘analyses’ and ‘calculations’?
Besides, if you pick only one out of three major domains; and if, while within that one domain, you pick only the bottomest ‘memory’ level out of seven, to test supposedly ‘experienced’, ‘professional’ teachers, tasking them only to recall simple things as the shape of a triangle or the name of the Governor, and many cannot, only obviate the need to not to waste more time testing them on other higher, more complex ‘levels’ within that one domain, let alone make more mockery of the whole situation by going into the other domains.
Agreed, as Prof. Liman argued, that for any test to be valid –namely to measure that which it is organized to measure- it must ask the right questions to the right candidates. Agreed also that not every test will be relevant to everybody. And yes too, as the Prof. argued, even governors can fail some of the questions given to the Kaduna teachers. But truth is: teachers will not be entitled to the same justification for failure as may be available to a governor. Because whereas the questions asked are relevant –even if not wholly valid- for testing teachers, the same are not valid for testing political administrators.
‘CROSS’ TEACHERS MUST BEAR
Governors are not elected to teach and so should not be asked pedagogical questions as basis for testing their ability to govern. The domain for testing the aptitude of governors must be governance-related. It is the reason that when politicians appear on election debate they are not asked, like teachers may, to show that they know the shape of a triangle. Yes, they may be asked to sing the National anthem, like the Kaduna teachers should, but whereas for the governors it will be to prove how patriotic they are, for the teachers it will be essentially to test if they can teach it in class. It is the reason that, whereas the electorate may forgive a politician’s inability to recite the Anthem, it is unlikely that parents will be as magnanimous with the failure of a teacher to do the same.
But teachers are employed to teach and may therefore be asked to prove not only that they can re-call what they know, but that they can teach that which they re-call. To say that the way to validly test teachers is to ask them only questions on ‘methodology’ and not on ‘material’, is to suggest that ‘methodology’, and not ‘material’, is what teachers are supposed to teach our pupils. I disagree with the Prof. that it is better to have teachers with ‘method’ but without ‘memory’ of ‘material’ teach our children, than to have teachers with ‘memory’ but without ‘method’ do so.
Method is important; but it does not avail in the absence of knowledge of the ‘material’ to be taught. Teaching can take place without methodology, but methodology alone cannot teach without ‘material’. And these materials should reside both in text books and in the heads of teachers who should have both the ‘capacity’ to remember them and the ‘strategy’ to impart them.
Besides it is absurd to suggest that teachers have the capacity to ‘recall’ and apply ‘method’ but not the ability to remember and to deliver ‘material’.
Many insist that rather than sack the 21,000, El-Rufai should ‘re-train’ and retain them. They make it so naively simple. But how do you ‘re-train’ one who has no ‘training’ ab-initio? Hell, how do you ‘train’ one who does not even appear to have been taught in the first place?. These ‘teachers’ may have passed through some institutions of learning’ but these institutions evidently did not pass through them! You can tell, from their answer scripts, that El-Rufai’s teachers are empty, virgin heads that require to be filled with basic kindergarten ‘matter’ first, then primary and secondary materials, before they are taught raw ‘methodology’ if they are ever to return to the classroom to teach. It is no wonder we are told that the decision to lay off Kaduna teachers came only after two years of failed ‘re-training’ exercises that gulped over 300 million since El-Rufai came in. You cannot ‘re-train‘ who is not trainable! Nor can you teach the un-teachable!
ONE BAD APPLE
El-Rufai’s ‘teachers’ should confound both popular wisdom and the sayings even of the masters. If, as the saying goes, ‘one bad apple spoils the bunch’, well then what’ll twenty one thousand bad ones do -to the bunch, and to innocent fingerlings that should feed from the bunch? Or if, as Robert Green Ingersoll wrote that “One good schoolmaster is worth a thousand priests”, what then will twenty one thousand bad schoolmasters be worth? Said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The man who can make hard things easy is the educator” –namely the teacher. But then what do we make of El-Rufai’s 21,000 ‘educators’, to whom evidently even the easiest things appear to be the hardest? Who’ll teach who, between the teacher and the pupil?
French General and Statesman, Charles De Gaule was the one who said that “Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politician”. Suggesting that the politician is notorious for dealing more with the ludicrous than he does with the serious. El-Rufai alone, in our own clime, appears to have proven the sages wrong. Politics is not after all ‘too serious a matter’ to be left to ‘some’ politicians. Or maybe we should say ‘some’ politicians have proved themselves ‘serious enough’ for ‘politics’ to be left in their hands. El-Rufai is proving J. P. Clarke wrong: not all politicians think only of “the next election”. That some of them are like “statesman” too, who think of “the next generation”. El-Rufai will rather lose ‘re-election’ than imperil the ‘next generation’. Or so he said, himself, that:
“Many times the decisions we take offer us no political advantages in a polity long accustomed to the false allure of populism. But we do what is necessary, not minding the direct impact on us”.
And maybe it is the reason one of America’s de-segregationists in child education, Francis Keppel said that “Education is too important to be left solely to the educators”. Suggesting that politicians –serious politicians that is- have a duty always to superintend over educators, to ensure that children are taught aright. And which is what Prof. Liman virtually admitted in his article; that the Teachers Registration Council, TRCN’s failure in discharging its mandate is what has led to the present decay. All that the Council does, he said, is “Collect membership registration fees for issuing meaningless certificates and collection of accreditation fees for poorly monitored programs. TRCN concentrates more in making money than making the profession great”.
It is a shame we are having to learn Francis Keppel’s lesson the hard way -the need to know that as ‘politics’ is too serious a matter to be left in the hands of politicians, so also is ‘education’ too important to be left solely in the hands of ‘educators’. Edo’s former Governor, Adams Oshiomhole did attempt to get involved. He was rebuffed, both by mediocre ‘educators’ who wanted education solely left to them –to continue to ruin; and by un-statesmanly politicians who prioritized ‘the next election’ over and above ‘the next generation’.
POLITICS AND EDUCATION
And we are ill-fated to have opposition parties that have mastered the art of locating silver linings always in the cloud of every effort at righting wrongs. Buoyed always by armies of gullible citizens, they detract every effort by good politicians to plan for the ‘next generation’. Ironically this rot has gone intra-party too. The afro-haired one from the red Chamber who rose to power on the crest public-spirited causes, is now the alpha male leading a pack of political wolves de-campaigning El-Rufai preparatory to the ‘next election’. “All ambitions are lawful”, said Joseph Conrad “except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind”.
And if education, as Will Durant said, “is a progressive discovery of our ignorance”, but how can our innocent children in Kaduna arrive at that discovery to supplant ignorance with knowledge when those who teach them themselves are bleakly ignorant. Can the blind lead the blind? The NUT President on a Channel TV interview recently admitted Kaduna teachers –aside having failed the aptitude test- are not qualified in the first place to teach. That whereas the minimum requirement, by policy, is an NCE, most of them have only SSCs and Grade 2 certificates. Yet both the NUT and its parent bodies, the NLC and TUC insist they must not be sacked.
And like the biblical Pharisees and the Sadducees of old, they want us to split hairs debating who is justified, legally, to conduct test for teachers -between a corrective State Government concerned with quality and an eminently-negligent Teachers Registration Council concerned only about job security of its members?
By the way, the confession of the NUT President that the Kaduna teachers – not possessing the minimum basic qualification, NCE- are therefore not qualified legally, to teach, beggars the question: who then is acting to fulfill the law or who to subvert it? -the State that is bent on removing those who lawfully should not have been there, or the NLC that insists those who are incompetent, legally and existentially, should remain in class to teach our children?
The teachers are by no means innocent. They knew they were not qualified. They may have manipulated to get the jobs that they knew they could not do. But they have spent years destroying the minds of innocent children, and getting paid for it. And it could have continued if we hadn’t an El-Rufai. These teachers are no victims. They are part of the villainy in our education system.
They and their collaborators should be sacked. And prosecuted!