New year, same challenges in education Part 3

Performance of workers in the Ministry of Education

This article, ‘New year, same challenges in education part 3’, examines the performance of workers in the Ministry/Department of Education.

The performance of any system depends on the ‘proper’ functioning of all of its parts. In the case of the education system, its ‘proper’ functioning depends on the effort that all of its members – the ‘parts’ of the education system – are willing to exert in completing the tasks to which they are assigned.

In two previous posts, I have examined the major challenge faced by the education system, that of the performance of students and the role of Ministers of education, specifically.

In this post, I will turn my attention to the workers in the Ministry of education, briefly examining one of the major challenges that they face in being a part of the policy process to improve the performance of the education system. This is a challenge that will, in turn, impact the achievement of the desired outcomes from the system.

New year, same challenges in the education system part 3 – ‘passing the buck’

One of the major challenges that these workers face is that of getting out of the game of ‘passing the buck’. They ‘pass the buck’ when they see their primary responsibility in the organisation as that of ‘protecting their backs’. This means doing as few things as possible, to avoid giving an account, if it becomes necessary to do so. They do not want to be in any ‘mix up’ or they do not want anyone to ‘call their names’, they often say.

They do not trust each other. They believe that their colleagues are ‘up to no good’ where they are concerned. Therefore, they spend their working lives primarily manoeuvring their way around or through systems of accountability.

They do only what they are told to do, exactly as they have always done it. Many of these workers put their initiative into hiding because they believe that if they take action which does not yield a positive result, they will be left all alone, without any support, having to fend for themselves. That is, they will have to give an account, an account that they prefer not to give. So, they continue to ‘pass the buck’. If it is not ‘their’ job in the most obvious sense of the word, it does not get done.

New year, same challenges in education part 3 – Maintaining the system

The bottom line is that they do not want to be blamed for anything that can go wrong in the organisation, or to be called on to give an account of anything that is going on in the organisation. However, their personal ambitions are fully activated. They are interested in advancing in the organisation. They, therefore, take action that will protect their interest in the organisation. That is, they do whatever it takes to preserve their chances to get one of the few promotions that will become available in the organisation. This does not necessarily mean doing a ‘good’ job as defined by some metrics. Longevity which does not involve ‘rocking the boat’ is often rewarded in these systems.

With the government introducing elements of Managerialism into its functioning, workers are now being forced to take on responsibility, and they are also being called on to be accountable. However, the game is still being played. If one tries to examine the stewardship of these workers, one will find that there is much that many of them are unable to recall.

New year, same challenges in education part 3 – Workers

Workers in the Ministry of Education, therefore, pose a challenge to the achievement of the outcomes that their department wants from the education system. If these workers are reluctant to fully accept responsibility, they will continue to carry out their functions without being fully invested in them.

To help the Ministry to achieve its goals for the education system, many of these workers will have to challenge themselves to do the following:

  • improve their provision of the services which the Ministry offers to its clients by being more responsive to these clients than they have ever been before
  • become more engaged than they have ever been before with the work of the Ministry. To do this, though, they will all have to, in addition, to focusing on realising their personal goals, focus on realising the goals of their organisation as well.
  • embrace the notion of accountability.
  • develop the skills to function in a reformed work space

Conclusion

If the workers in the Ministry of Education carry on business as usual, the improvement in the performance of the education system for which the Minister hopes, will largely remain an illusion.

Click the links below to read the other posts in the series:
New year, same challenges in education, part 1
New year, same challenges in education, part 2
New year, same challenges in education part 4
New year, same challenges in education, part 5
New year, same challenges in education, part 6

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in education, 0 comments
New year, same challenges in education Part 2

New year, same challenges in education Part 2

This article, New year, same challenges in education part 2 examines the role of the Ministers/Directors of Education in leading the charge to improve the performance of the education system. Ministers under whose portfolio education falls is tasked with improving this performance. As such they have e responsibility to lead the policy development initiatives for this sector, initiatives that they (believe?) will cause improvement in these systems.

How do Ministers do their job?

The Ministers have a slew of policy experts from within and outside of the governmental system from whom they get policy advice. Let us assume that the Ministers seek the advice of experts who have or have had an intimate relationship with the education system as former or current school managers, teachers, education researchers, education officers, among other such experts.

Having got this critical bit of policy advice for which they searched and found, they authorise the creation of specific policies for the different areas in the education system on which their portfolios touch. So, suppose that one such policy intends to improve the ‘educational outcomes’ of students at either the pre-primary or primary or secondary levels of the education system. For these educational outcomes to be realized, this policy will have to be implemented, monitored and revised when necessary.

Ministers know this, so they authorise the relevant persons in the Ministry to ‘run’ with the policy initiatives. The Ministers have high hope that at least the major changes that they envisioned to improve the education system will be effected during their tenure in office. Instead, they eventually realise that those whom they have authorised to ‘run’ with the policy initiatives have been barely crawling.

Challenges faced by Ministers

The Commonwealth Education Ministers met in February 2018 to work out solutions to the ‘Commonwealth’s most pressing education challenges’. They tackled the ‘big’ problems, which they should, such as:

  • ‘Education through sustainable development’
  • ‘Building resilience through education’
  • ‘Education governance & Management’

However, I believe that Education Ministers face three major challenges at home that impact the extent to which they realise their goals of effecting whatever improvements to the education system that they deem to be necessary to drive performance. These challenges are as follows:

Making Policies Relevant

One challenge is to create policies for the education system based on the realities inherent in the system. If the policies that are created for the system are based on the realities of other systems, without major tweaking, they are destined for failure or to yield unsatisfactory results.

Inspiring Staff

The second challenge that the Ministers face in realising their goals for the education system is that of inspiring those whom they lead to take the necessary action to achieve the desired results. This is, indeed, a challenge, because of the following. In some education systems:

  • accountability structures are weak
  • people have almost ‘bullet proof’ employment contracts,
  • there is a militant union
  • there is a reluctance to apply disciplinary measures and the employees know this
  • action or inaction means the same thing

The Ministers, along with the rest of the government, in addition to civil society, have to devise initiatives to address the weaknesses in the system of government.

Educating staff

Ministers inherit their staff and should not assume that the staff that they inherit know their job and will do it. They have to make sure that those who are tasked with developing, implementing and monitoring policy fully understand the following:

  • the reasons for doing what they do and
  • the benefits to accrue to them and society or sections of society from the policy.

Therefore, an education campaign targeted at the members of their team is not amiss.

Conclusion

Improvement as defined by Ministers and their advisors will only be achieved if they understand the challenges which come with the job and take action to overcome these challenges. How do they overcome the challenges? This is the one million dollar question, the answer to which Ministers have to search, taking into consideration the realities of the environment in which they work.

Click the links below to read the other posts in the series.

New year, same challenges in education part 1

New year, same challenges in education part 3

New year, same challenges in education part 4

New year, same challenges in education part 5

New year, same challenges in education, part 6

 

 

 


 
Posted by Janette B. Fuller in education, 0 comments
New year, same challenges in education Part 1

New year, same challenges in education Part 1

The article, ‘New year, same challenges in education part 1′ is the first in a six part series that examine the perennial challenges in the education system.

In this post, I will examine the overarching pervasive challenge with which education systems the world over grapple for much of their existence. That is, improving the performance of the education system. The education system has many parts which need to function well to yield the performance that government desires.

Therefore, in a number of other posts I will examine the performance of the following stakeholders in the education system:

  • Minister of Education
  • Workers in the Ministry of Education
  • Principals
  • Teachers
  • Administrative staff

It is the beginning of a new school year. However, some education systems around the world face the same set of challenges that have dogged them for many years.

What makes an education system perform? The OECD has the answers. It seems that the struggling education systems don’t yet have access to these insights. So, while some education systems are making much progress in coping with the challenges that beset them, other systems are stymied by these challenges.

Challenges in education part 1 – Improving performance

One challenge, and probably the most significant one that all systems have had to grapple, is that of improving the performance of the education system. This primarily means improving the performance of students.

This is a challenge that Education Ministers/Directors throw out to schools from time to time. This challenge represents the policy position of governments as regards their expectation of the education system.

School administrators react in different ways to this challenge.

Some administrators interpret this challenge as one that is intended to put pressure on them and their staff. They point to the quality of the students that they enrol in their schools every year. According to them, there are students who are performing below their grade level, students with multiple disabilities and/or disadvantages, among any other challenges that these students face. These administrators wonder how the education directorate expects them to work miracles with their limited resources.

Moreover, these school administrators point to the inability/unwillingness of parents to help their children with homework or to give them the resources that they need to do well in school. This puts extra pressure on teachers. Furthermore, they point to the severe levels of resource deficiency in their schools, noting that the government is giving them ‘baskets to carry water’.

Challenges in education part 1 – coping with the challenge of poor performance (Ignoring it)

As a result of these deficiencies, perceived or real, among a longer list of deficiencies in their schools that these administrators cite, they conclude that the government is talking ‘foolishness’. So, they go about their business as usual, doing their best to control the behaviour of their students until they graduate, while taking pride in the achievements of the few students who, in spite of everything with which they have to contend at home, at school and in the wider society, have done well.

Some of these students ‘pass’ examinations to enter prestigious secondary schools. Some of them ‘pass’ exams to enter other secondary schools. Some of them ‘pass’ some subjects in the school-leaving examinations. And, some students who entered their doors without being able to read are now able to do so. Therefore, they believe that their schools are performing. They are happy.

Challenges in education part 1 – Coping with the challenge of poor performance (Tackling the problem)

Other administrators stir themselves into action. The government wants improved performances. They will get improved performances. So, they begin to innovate.

Some of these administrators look at the statistics on the performance of their schools. If the experts believe their schools are performing satisfactorily or better, they continue to do what they have done all along, while devising and implementing plans to improve their performance.

If the experts believe that their schools are performing unsatisfactorily, some of these administrators allow their creative juices to flow freely. Therefore, they do the following:

Some administrators embark on a process of screening.

‘From now on,’ they tell their staff, ‘we’ll only allow students who can pass examinations to sit examinations.’ It doesn’t matter to them that those students who can ‘pass’ the examinations are only a small number of the cohort.

The fact that some students will be negatively affected by this decision comes up for discussion in staff meetings, but is eventually dismissed. So, they ‘send up’ to do the examinations only those students who have the potential to ‘pass’ them. The results are eventually published. Their schools get a significant pass rate. They are now ranked among the top performing schools. They are happy. Education directorate is happy.

Some administrators engage in communication and persuasion

Some administrators look at the statistics compiled on the performance of their schools and they, too, stir themselves into action. They agree that the performance of their schools need improvement and they believe that it is possible to make this improvement in spite of the challenges that their institutions face. So they, too, innovate – in a different way.

They manage to communicate their vision of improving the performance of their schools to the entire school community:

  • Boards
  • community members
  • parents
  • administrative and ancillary staff
  • students
  • teachers

They do this in a way that they can understand, and in a way that stir their spirit of cooperation, instead of their spirit of animosity.

They create a well thought out template for this change. Built into this template are systems of accountability for each stakeholder in the system. Monitoring of the performance of all stakeholders in this system is routine. Improvements to the system take place as a result of this monitoring.

Most important, though, is the leadership from these administrators. They lead by example. As a result of their initiative, these administrators, over time, see a gradual increase in the levels of performance of all stakeholders in the system. Most stakeholders are happy.

Conclusion

You can see that the reaction by school administrators to the call by the education directorate to improve the performance of the education system differ.

  • Some administrators believe that they are doing the best that they can with the resources that they get and their best is good enough – in their eyes. They do not take seriously anything the education directorate says. According to them, the education directorate doesn’t understand the reality in the schools.
  • Some administrators go about business as usual if their schools have ‘passed’ at inspection. ‘If it is not broken, why fix it?’ they ask.
  • Some administrators ‘game’ the system to give the policymakers the results that they demand. Having got the ‘good’ results that the education directorate demand, these administrator bask in their manufactured reality which is divorced from that of the school.
  • Some administrators accept the challenge of policymakers, dig deep in their resourcefulness toolkit and find solutions to improving the performance of students in their schools.

The answer to improving the performance of education systems lies in the response of the administrators who find ways to be effective and efficient, in spite of all the negatives in their schools which they could have allowed to derail their efforts, but didn’t. The question now remains: what action will the powers that are in charge of the education systems take to elevate the performance of those administrators who lack the will or the creativity to manage the number 1 aim of schools?

Click the links below to read the other articles in the series.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in education, 0 comments
Writing poems – Poem by JBF

Writing poems – Poem by JBF

Thinking about poems is something that poetry lovers do. What are poems? What are they saying?

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Poems, Poetry corner, 0 comments
Interpreting poems – A light in the distance

Interpreting poems – A light in the distance

Interpreting poems is difficult, unless you know something about poems. What makes a poem a poem? Watch the video below, then move on to reading and interpreting the poem that follows.

Interpreting poems is an art that some poetry lovers seem to have mastered. How would you rate your poetry interpreting skills? Read the following poem, using all the poetry reading skills that you possess and see what you find. Share anything surprising, interesting, debatable that you find in the comments section below.

A light in the distance by JBF

A light in the distance beckons
Seesawing in the dark
Kindling a spark within the mind
That seeks to smash icons
Hanging there, seducing mortals
Eyeing their promised land.

Puzzlement creeps into the dream
Of the budding iconoclast
Enraging, emboldening, wakening

Thoughts scribbled on paper

That contort willing intellects
On missions to extract
Tall tantalizing tell-tale truths
Endowed with true passion
Locked within possibilities
Laced with obscurities

Yet enthralling, liberating
Overwhelming seekers
Unfazed by their capricious quest

Interpreting poems – One suggestion

Listen to the podcast below.

Learn more about poetry here.

Read other poems here.

Video Credits: Thanks to the following for making their videos available on YouTube:

Melissa Kovacs and

WarnerJordanEducation

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Poetry corner, 0 comments
Write poems your way by learning from the greats

Write poems your way by learning from the greats

You can write poems like celebrated poets, if writing poems is something that you want to do. Just find the right template to suit your needs. This template is a poem written by your favourite poet.

Don’t stress about the subject matter. You can build on the subject explored by the poet or you can inject your own subject into the ‘form’ that the poet used to communicate his/her ideas.

Here is one of Shakespeare’s sonnets courtesy of YoungWriters in which he puts his love, though imperfect, on a pedestal as he is wont to do in many of his sonnets.

Sonnet 130

My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
There in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak; yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground
Any yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Now, here is my poem that I have squeezed into this poetic form. I won’t provide an explanation. I leave you to your own interpretation.

Diving for pearls by JBF

Eyes glazed, wandering over lines on the page
Searching for heart-felt wisdom buried there
By overworked minds creating a maze
Of letters for lovers of verses rare.
They search from left to right, from right to left
From top to bottom, from bottom to top.
Horizontally, eyes wander bereft
Not finding a clue in the closed word shop.
It is there; they are there; waiting release
Diagonal lines oozing profound truths
Inscribed on blank pages filling the breach
Crafted by the wise sitting in their booths
Basking in the glow of their created world
Beaming at the thought of their flag unfurled.

YOU CAN WRITE POEMS, YOUR WAY

It’s fun to experiment by using the poems of eminent poets as a template. However, you can write your own poems without the use of any template. Create a style and you may be surprised that a number of budding poets will start to emulate you.

If you are interested in the technicalities of poetry writing, start here for some guidance.

Read all poems here.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Poetry corner, 0 comments

SUMMER FIND A WORD PUZZLE

This is a Summer Find A Word Puzzle for you. Find at least 20 words related to summer in the puzzle below. Start by searching for the following words:

Hot, baking, sandals, tanktops, heat, sunshine, beach, bikini, long days, short nights, sunburn, sunny, summery, sweaty, tan, lovely, water, shorts, water, flipflops

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Since you’re here, why not read some stories here? Read ‘A Jackass Tale’, ‘Dog’s gone mad’, ‘Being poor and a single parent in Canada and Mary’s descent. Share them with your friends after you’ve read them. Browse the blog. You may find something else that you like.

Also, here are some books that may interest you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Puzzles, 4 comments
Effective communication through listening

Effective communication through listening

Effective communication through listening is necessary to facilitate ‘true’ communication, which is really our understanding of the messages that we receive and our acting on those messages. In acting on those messages, our impact can be far-reaching.
Hemingway advises us:

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.

A great bit of advice and a valid observation about our attitude to listening! There is much that passes us by because we don’t listen. I think that Beyoncé’s song, Listen, from the 2006 movie, Dreamgirls is a great introduction to this topic. It may be put under the heading, Listening and relationships.Take a listen:

Did you know that there is an International Listening Association? Here are some facts about listening that they share with us:

LISTENING AND MEMORY

In a dynamic, conversational listening task, where people must remember a series of related questions and respond to them, people can remember and respond to 2.946 items (Janusik, 2004).

LISTENING STYLES

People listen through one of four primary styles, including people oriented, time oriented, action oriented and content oriented. Females are more likely to be people-oriented and males are more likely to be action, content, or time oriented (Barker & Watson, 2000).

LISTENING AND LEADERS

Leaders give good attention to the speaker by looking the speaker in the eye (Orick, 2002).
Leaders paraphrase the speaker to ensure understanding of the speaker’s message (Orick, 2002).
Leaders are able to relate accurate messages to a third party, which shows that they listen[ed] to and remembered what the original speaker had said (Orick, 2002).

LISTENING BARRIERS

The most frequently reported listening barriers among students are listening primarily for details or facts; becoming distracted by noise; daydreaming or becoming preoccupied with something else while listening; thinking of another topic or detouring because of what the speaker has said; and lack of interest in the speaker’s subject (Golen, 1990).

LISTENING ACROSS THE LIFESPAN

Elementary students reported themselves as having better attention spans than all other ages and groups (Halone, Wolvin, & Coakley, 1997).
High school students rate themselves as better able to listen than elementary students, young adults, colleges students, adults, and the elderly (Halone, Wolvin, & Coakley, 1997).
30% of the elderly admit to having poor or very poor hearing; however, only 45% reported having the opportunity to listen to thoughtful communication (Halone, Wolvin, & Coakley, 1997).

LISTENING AND EDUCATION

Even though most of us spend the majority of our day listening, it is the communication activity that receives the least instruction in school (Coakley & Wolvin, 1997).
Listening training is not required at most universities (Wacker & Hawkins, 1995).
Students who are required to take a basic communication course spend less than 7% of class and text time on listening (Janusik, 2002; Janusik & Wolvin, 2002).
If students aren’t trained in listening, how do we expect them to improve their listening?

Read the full article here.

Lessons learnt from the data above

  • Improve our listening to retain more than we currently do of what we hear
  • Discover our listening style
  • Learn to listen, if we plan to be effective leaders
  • Breach our listening barriers
  • Listening ability declines as we age.
  • Training can improve listening.

How do we listen effectively?

Watch this video:

Encouraging effective communication through listening in the classroom

Because listening is so important it’s no surprise that it’s part of the Language Arts curriculum in schools. Many years ago, every trained teacher of English learnt in college that every lesson should include listening, writing, reading and speaking.
Here are a few strategies that teachers of English in Jamaica often use to engage students in listening.

Strategy 1

Chinese Telephone

Chinese telephone is a game. In playing this game, students stand one behind the other.
The teacher whispers a ‘message’ to the first student in line. This message could be, ‘Today is a beautiful day’. That student whispers the message to the person next to him/her who relays the message to the next in line until it reaches the last person in line. The last person in line then tells the group the message s/he received.

Oftentimes, the message reported a garbled mess.

Students and teachers laugh. The teacher tells students that the game is to show the importance of listening. The game is just a warm-up exercise (usually five or ten minutes) to get the students in the mood for what is to come. But does it really help students to improve their listening?

Strategy 2

Listening to the spoken word or music

Another activity that teachers use with their students is allowing them to listen to music or her reading and fill in the blanks of a script that the teacher prepares for them.

Developing effective listening skills – Are these strategies useful?

Yes! They are certainly useful. However, in the examples above, the teacher asks the students to recall information. Recall is good. After all, we do not want to distort the facts!
However, listening should do more than recall information. Teachers want their students to engage in active listening to engage in effective communication. That is teachers want their students to:

  • share their thoughts
  • listen to the thoughts of others
  • give feedback which improves the process of communication
  • study the non-verbal cues sent out by speakers

Not much of the above happens when teachers use the strategies above to help students improve their listening.

Really improving communication through listening

Teachers should give students the chance to practise critical listening. That is, students should get the chance to:

  • paraphrase what they hear and
  • evaluate what they hear by questioning it. They question what they hear by asking questions which involve the 5 ‘ws’ and the ‘h’:
  1. Who?
  2. When?
  3. Where?
  4. What?
  5. Why?
  6. How?

If students learn to evaluate what they hear, they will be on their way to practise effective communication.

Ensuring the effectiveness of listening exercises

To make sure that listening exercises are effective, teachers should do the following:

  • introduce students to the purpose of listening
  • give students strategies to use when they listen
  • link listening exercises to the ‘real’ lessons
  • When students practice listening to the content of lessons they will increase their understanding of the content of their lessons. As a result, they will become invested in the later lessons that they have to learn, hopefully.

Conclusion

Effective listening is active listening. That is trying to hear what is said and react with appropriately. When we listen, we’ll be surprised at what we hear and learn. For students to engage in effective communication through listening, teachers should begin to introduce them to critical listening. This should happen in all classes, not only in English classes. This is not an easy process. It is something that teachers will learn to do, with practice.
Find other posts on effective communication through writing, reading and speaking here.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Communication, 0 comments
Effective communication through speaking

Effective communication through speaking

In previous posts, I shared a basic introduction to communication, and explored effective communication through listening, writing and reading. In this post, I’ll explore effective communication through speaking.

Effective communication through speaking means that you have meaningful conversations with other communicators. These meaningful conversations are ones during which the sender using the ‘right’ words and body language sends the message he/she intended to send and the receiver of the message receives the exact message that was sent. But there is much more to speaking than using the ‘right’ words and body language.

Effective communication through speaking is a skill that the education system seeks to develop. Before we look at examples of how this is done in the classroom, watch this video and learn how to speak to engage your listener. There are takeaways for everybody, no matter your profession.

Speaking in the classroom

All of us engage in speaking in some way and most of us speak more in informal settings than in formal ones.

Formal settings have rules. The classroom is a formal setting which has rules which many students see as a constraint to expressing themselves.

Students are still aware of them. For example, there is the expectation that students speak with teachers using the Standard Language.

Many students, have much practice speaking the non-standard forms of their native language outside of the classrooms but, not much practice speaking the Standard Language. Knowing that teachers expect them to speak the Standard Language in the classroom makes them uncomfortable.

Many students have much to say to their peers inside and outside of the classroom, but they don’t have much to say to teachers. This is a problem that many teachers try to solve. How should they go about doing this? They should first:

Identify the barriers to effective communication through speaking in the classroom

Here are some of these barriers:

  • Some students believe that they don’t know enough about the content of the lessons that the teacher presents to comment on it.
  • Some students genuinely don’t know anything about the content which the teacher is presenting to them.
  • Many students don’t care enough about the content of the lesson to do research about it, therefore they don’t have anything to say about it.
  • Some students don’t want to say anything. They learn best by listening.

Since the teacher wants to have an interactive classroom where teaching and learning takes place, the teacher has to find ways to remove these challenges. Here is an example from the Jamaican classroom.

Effective Communication through speaking in the Jamaican classroom

In the Jamaican classroom, like in any other classroom in the Western world, teachers expect students to answer questions when they ask them. They prepare students to speak.
These are the strategies that teachers use. They:

  • assign students reading tasks.
  • ask students to read, at least about the topics they study in classes.
  • give students writing assignments on topics that they study in classes.
  • engage students in listening activities
  • have read aloud sessions in the classroom
  • introduce drama into the classroom
  • speak to them sometimes in the language that they know

The communication tasks of reading, writing and listening in which students engage lay the groundwork for their speaking activities.

Do these strategies work? Some teachers swear that they work, especially the drama related activities. Other teachers see little impact.

Teachers soon discover that while many of their students can speak knowledgeably about many things in their lives, they have no interest in speaking about their lessons or speaking in the classroom.

The challenges of engaging students in effective communication through speaking

The major challenge that teachers face in engaging their students to speak in the classroom lies in the language situation that exists where students live.
In many societies, several language forms exist:

  • there is the standard Language
  • a non-standard version of the standard Language
  • multiple languages

In Jamaica there is the Standard English which is the formal language. It is the language of books; the language of the media, mostly; the language of the education system and other formal institutions.

Many students come to school understanding this language. That is, they understand Standard English as spoken by others. They are able to read texts presented in this Language. However, many students do not write well in this Language and many do not speak the Language.

These students cannot engage in effective communication through speaking with people who speak the Standard Language. While they understand what the speakers of English say to them, the speakers of English, unless they understand Jamaican Creole (Patois or Patwa), will not understand what these students say.

Since one party doesn’t understand the communication of the other (the message), effective communication doesn’t take place.

Solution

To help students to speak in the classroom, teachers should:

  • allow them to speak what they know. They should allow them to express themselves in the language in which they are competent.

If every time students speak a sentence in the Jamaican Creole in the classroom the teacher tells them to paraphrase in English, they will become de-motivated and be reluctant to ever speak in class again.
Teachers, however, should remind students, from time to time, about the importance of being able to speak the Standard English.

Teachers can give this reinforcement by devising targeted speaking activities for their students.
Students can engage in these activities through role play, for example. These activities should be based on the content of the subjects that teachers teach.

Students won’t consistently speak the Standard English in the classroom. But these targeted speaking activities can help them to build their vocabulary which is useful in communication.

Conclusion

Speaking is an activity that everybody does. Whatever the language that we speak, we want people to listen to us when we talk to them. That is, if we both share the same language.

In some language situations, the classroom setting for example, teachers and students don’t speak the same language in the classroom but they understand each other quite well. The teachers’ job, however, is develop the communicative competence of their students. This means that they have to help their students to communicate through writing, speaking, reading and listening.

While most students can read, write and listen to the language of instruction, they have difficulty in speaking it. It is no easy task to get students to speak the Standard Language. However, it is better to have students express their opinions on issues inside and outside of the classroom in the language that they know. Communication is expression. If students can express their understanding of the content that they learn in any language, they are on their way to being productive citizens.

This doesn’t mean that teachers should stop trying to get their students to speak the Standard Language. Just don’t get frustrated when some students never develop this competence. At least they communicate in other ways that they understand what teachers teach.

Be happy that students leave school with the ability to engage in effective communication through speaking in the ‘languages’ that they know.

The book, The Teacher’s Gift, explores some of the challenges that teachers face in the classroom and provides some solutions to deal with them. Browse this book here.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Communication, 0 comments
Governance Requires Leadership

Governance Requires Leadership

Governance requires leadership. It does not matter whether this governance happens in government agencies or in the private sector.

This post examines governance in government agencies, since this has been a focus in recent times.

Understanding governance

Since the early 1980s many governments have been trying to reform their agencies to ensure that they are responsive to the needs of the governed, because multi-lateral agencies like the World Bank (WB) told them to do so.

To this end, they have been trying to ‘wrap their heads’ around issues of ‘governance’, especially ‘good governance’. ‘Governance’ and ‘good governance are similar in many respects but not quite the same.

The countries that need to learn the skills of good governance are mostly in that part of the world referred to as the Third World. But not to worry, the multilateral agencies have created a ‘road map’ for these countries to follow, which will lead them to ‘good governance’.

These agencies seem to believe that for countries, especially the poor states, to achieve development, the management of these states would have to be improved. The management tool that they are touting to be used by these states to achieve development is that of ‘good governance’.

Governance requires leadership to achieve development

In one of its publications, The World Bank Experience (1994), the World Bank defines governance as being:

  • … epitomized by predictable, open and enlightened policy making
  • a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos
  • an executive arm of government accountable for its actions
  • a strong civil society participating in public affairs
  • and all behaving under the rule of law.

All of the points listed above are significant to the governance project but a few of them beg to be examined in some detail.

Bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos

First, how would we describe a bureaucracy imbued with professional ethos?

Quite loosely defined, the bureaucracy refers to all the workers in government whether directly or indirectly affiliated. We tend to see them as civil servants but all workers in government agencies (the public sector) make up the bureaucracy. I use this definition that focuses on the people, rather than that which focuses on the rules, the ‘red tape’ which characterise the activities of government.

A bureaucracy which is ‘imbued with a professional ethos’ is one whose workers believe in and practice the standards that are guiding principles of their work in the public sector.

In addition, these individuals are exposed to continuous professional development.

Moreover, they would have knowledge and skills that are suited to the tasks that they have to complete as part of their job.

If the bureaucracy adheres to the standards set to guide the effective working of government, possess the knowledge and skills that are task specific and are exposed to continuous professional development, they are ready to assist the government achieve all the other goals of governance. This is so because the bureaucracy plays an important role in creating and implementing the policies aimed to address the needs of the society.

For, government policies designed for any sector of the society to achieve their intended goals, there must be leadership of a high calibre.

A strong civil society participating in public affairs

In addition to having a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos, good governance is ‘epitomized’ by having ‘a strong civil society participating in public affairs’. Here, the focus is not only on a robust government (those individuals in the Cabinet and their activities in Parliament). The focus is also on the participation of the private sector organisations, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), other civic groups and every member of society in solving the problems of their society.

A society in which participation of its members in the affairs of the country is expected and encouraged is one based on governance principles. Governance requires leadership that encourages the active participation of citizens.

Rule of Law

Governance requires leadership that understands and believes in the Rule of Law. This leadership must accept that everyone in the society – whether occupying high or low positions, rich or poor – is subject to the ‘rule of law’. This means that everyone is equal before the law so if any member of society engages in illegal actions, the legal system is open to everyone and will be the final arbiter of innocence or guilt. This is the ideal that should guide the actions of leadership.

Good governance from the perspective of the UNDP

The perspective of the UNDP supports the idea that good governance requires leadership. The UNDP extends the idea of governance by focusing on, not only governance, ‘good governance’. According to the UNDP, good governance has the following ‘underpinnings’:

  • Good management practices over the country’s economic, political, and administrative affairs
  • Participation
  • Transparency
  • Democratic institutions
  • Accountability
  • Human rights standards
  • The rule of law

This view of governance puts pressures on governments to change the way that government is run to a better way – good governance. So, instead of feeding decisions downwards after they make them, they will have to seek some sort of consensus from the governed. The practice of government should be open, inclusive, efficient, effective with an emphasis on reducing waste.

Challenges of governance

Theoretically, the idea of encouraging good governance makes much sense. Governments would govern in a purposeful way – focusing on satisfying as many of the demands of citizens as they can, subject to the amount of resources that they possess, of course.

However, successfully putting these ideas into practice in small societies is a challenge. These are some of the challenges:

  • Many governments in poor states are selective in terms of which of the democratic ideals they adopt and practice.

 

  • The small size of some states ensures that everyone shares a communal relationship. Thus, it is difficult to implement policies that will negatively impact a segment of society. This, in turn, will strain the relationships between and among groups – a situation that they try to avoid. As a result, reform processes are managed half-heartedly.

 

  • A number of these states have leaders who do not have the necessary skills to manage the process of reform to create societies in which good governance is the norm. This challenge is easily resolved through education and training. The reform process will take longer than expected but equipping leaders and potential leaders with the necessary skills to do the job is necessary to the success of this reform process.

 

  • Leaders in central government need to go through a process of reform. They have to reform:
  1. their ideas about the aims of government where they are
  2. the methods to be used to realise their aims
  3. their thinking about the nature of the available resources.
  4. the selection of people for leadership roles in government
  5. the training of all workers in government so that they understand their role.
  6. their commitment to governance principles
  7. communication channels to ensure that they are clear
  8. their ideals

Governance requires leadership that:

  • welcomes participation from civil society
  • takes step to empower workers in government through training to do the job that they do
  • ensures that public servants understand the rationale for the policies that government is contemplating or the finished products that have been developed by think tanks and other such societal groups and what the policies hope to achieve
  • help public sector workers understand the content of the policies. A number of public sector leaders at the top of the organisation and in middle management do not understand the narratives spouted by ministers and other leaders of change in the organisation. So, when meetings are convened, policy positions are outlined and these ‘leaders’ are urged to go back to their departments to spread the word, the word remains on the desks of these ‘leaders’ because they do not understand exactly what is required of them and they are too embarrassed to ask. One can imagine the outcome of policies in scenarios such as these.

Conclusion

Good governance, then, requires leadership. It requires leadership at the top, the middle and the bottom of the system if the core aim of the process – development – is to be realised.

 

Read other reflections here. Check out my books here.

 

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Government policy, Reflections, 0 comments
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