Aids and aids: Education in Myanmar public schools
Not very long ago, I was invited to a public high school for a seminar. Since there were observations for training teachers, I also participated as a student in a teacher’s class. She brought many teaching aids, which I thought she would use in her teaching process. But she did not use any of them till the end of the lesson. She just showed them on tables. Then she kept them away after her demonstration. By looking that, I was sure she did not use any realia to support her teaching in her old school.
When we say about realia and teaching aids, what teachers see first is all about pictures and scientific objects in labs. They are not necessarily what we call teaching aids. Most educators forget about handy things that we can use effectively in classrooms every day. Actually it’s not that difficult to find teaching resources. They are easily accessible and reachable if you are creative and thoughtful enough as a teacher or provider.
Long time ago, we used to learn a subject called “Environmental Education”. But we did not really learn practically in our childhood. In a lesson, students have to write about five types of sour fruits. It is quite easy to let kids write down what they think is sour, or teacher can just ask them to bring a fruit each. Then they will see at least 20 different types of sour fruit in class the next day. It doesn’t mean that the teacher has to write names of fruits down on the blackboard and let the students copy. Some teachers don’t want to take time on correcting mistakes when they let kids think and do on their own. Instead they ask students to copy. But it’s always good to let students make mistakes because they will learn a lot more from their mistakes than if they read and learn by heart. If not, students don’t think about anything and their critical skill will not only be weakened because their thinking skills were not even trained, but they would simply be killed.
I wonder if teachers bring frogs and fish when they teach about them in Science. Teaching aids are all around us as I mentioned above. It’s fairly easy to show onions when you teach about food storage leaves. We can bring thermometer to school as realia when we teach about temperature. Students will learn how to measure temperature and what it is made of at the same time. It costs very little but students learn a lot practically in a short time. These are all what we call teaching aids or realia.
I remembered one thing about writing an essay when I was in middle school. The whole class wrote the same names of parents when we had to write (copy) about “My Family”. That’s how we were lacking of critical thinking in school. Being a teacher, I am now able to see that how our brains were blocked. We did not know how to participate and what to learn practically. Actually, it seems not that difficult to have teaching aids in classroom. What teachers need is their own efforts and creativity. Everything we learn about are things that actually exist so they should be easy to use as realia. If these days, teachers can do so, it will become a perfect teaching learning process, I am sure.
As a saying goes, teacher is an old student. Teacher is not a teacher. Teacher is a forever-student. He or she needs to study continuously to transfer updated learning. Teaching doesn’t mean that you share what you know by heart. It means how you transfer your learning to your students effectively and creatively. Then it will become a good transfer of knowledge. This is what we call teaching. What I find in government schools is that teachers don’t put enough effort. They just repeat the same syllabus or the same lesson plan over and over again every year. They learn no more. Why? Why don’t they want to spend time on learning?
In my country, people hardly choose to become a government teacher because it is paid very little. Teachers are the mothers/fathers of future leaders as well as they are those who do the poorest profession in Myanmar. Although some people may choose this profession as a hobby, it is a career as well. Government should support or appreciate those teachers who work hard. Not only students need motivation but teachers as well. No doubt that you don’t want to put effort on something when you don’t get enough motivation or support for it. We need to praise those who we should. As teachers need teaching aids for students, they also need aids for themselves.
Every citizen knows that Myanmar education is way behind. The main reason is because there is not enough support and budget for it. Then educators, especially government teachers become less interested in teaching-learning process, which isn’t worth to put effort into. That’s not an unsolvable problem. We do can solve it. But we need aids, which we are not supposed to get so far.
Article translated from Eleven Daily News by the Mingalapar Forum team