PRO­FES­SION OF CHOICE

New Straits Times - - Letters -

ed­u­ca­tion. And, of course, ed­u­ca­tion is help­less with­out its sin­gle largest driv­ing force: teach­ers.

How do we en­sure that we at­tract the best to take up the teach­ing pro­fes­sion? In the days when jobs were more plen­ti­ful, only those who liked teach­ing took up the pro­fes­sion.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, for ex­am­ple, they could take up more lu­cra­tive jobs. As grad­u­ates, it was not dif­fi­cult to gain em­ploy­ment in the 1960s and the 1970s per­haps due to the fact that there were not many grad­u­ates then. We had only one lo­cal univer­sity then: Univer­siti Malaya.

It is dif­fer­ent now. We now have 20 pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties and many more pri­vate ones, not to men­tion univer­sity col­leges and the col­leges.

It is in­evitable that we are now pro­duc­ing more qual­i­fied grad­u­ates than jobs.

Un­like in the past, grad­u­ates today are no longer guar­an­teed jobs. So much so that many grad­u­ates have be­come un­em­ployed.

Many have be­come so des­per­ate that they would not mind get­ting any of­fer.

One pro­fes­sion, which is short in terms of num­bers needed, is teach­ing.

That ex­plains why when­ever there is a teacher re­cruit­ment ex­er­cise, thou­sands ap­ply. Most of the ap­pli­cants are those who have not been able to se­cure jobs and have stayed un­em­ployed for a long time.

The arith­metic sug­gests that it is pos­si­ble that those who are not keen to be teach­ers end up be­ing of­fered teach­ing.

In­evitably, due to the lack of in­ter­est, th­ese teach­ers will not be ded­i­cated to the job. They leave as soon as other job of­fers come their way.

The ones who would suf­fer the most are stu­dents, es­pe­cially those pur­su­ing science sub­jects.

Such ar­range­ments may not be as dam­ag­ing for non-science sub­jects, but not for science.

The teach­ing of science re­quires teach­ers who are trained in the sub­ject.

Some coun­tries even go to the ex­tent of cre­at­ing a ser­vice scheme to at­tract the best science stu­dents to be­come science teach­ers.

I know of one coun­try that gets the best to join the science teach­ing pro­fes­sion by not only of­fer­ing much bet­ter salary pack­ages, but also a guar­an­teed op­por­tu­nity to reach the high­est aca­demic lad­der, to do mas­ter’s and PhD.

Not­with­stand­ing, since teach­ers are cru­cial to the de­vel­op­ment of tal­ents in the coun­try, all sub­jects must at­tract the best to teach.

We should aim to make teach­ing a pro­fes­sion of choice.

DR AH­MAD IBRAHIM,

Fel­low, Academy of Sciences Malaysia

FILE PIC

There has been an out­pour­ing of adu­la­tion and praise for teach­ers.

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