Basing teacher’ competence on pupil performance is wrong

What you need to know:

Testing teachers should be designed to find out weaknesses in the education system and to improve it

Ignatius Koomu Kiwanuka, the LCV chairperson of Nakaseke District, caused a stir by administering Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) mock exams to 40 Primary Seven teachers at Nakaseke Technical Institute following poor PLE 2023 results from pupils. Failure could result in demotion, and there lies the problem. Contrary to Kiwanuka’s attitude, I know without a doubt that nothing brings joy to a teacher more than knowing that they impact and change even if it is one person’s life for the better. But because of the nature of their work, it is difficult to know whether they are doing their best.

Teachers are the backbone of any community because at the root of all successful professionals are teachers who equip them with relevant skills and knowledge.

Teachers have a huge responsibility, of which they are aware. As teachers, we are taught that what we do in class today becomes the indelible memories of tomorrow, so if Kiwanuka’s attitude to teachers is based on his own classroom experience, I would like to apologise on our behalf.

Let me also assure Kiwanuka that most teachers want what is best for their learners, and as such, I know they would gladly welcome every sort of testing if it promised to help them enable their learners to learn better.

Therefore, testing teachers should be designed to find out weaknesses in the education system and to improve it. 

Giving them a test to prove their competency is nothing short of undermining them as professionals. When an individual feels as if what they are doing is of little consequence, they will not have the motivation to want to do better. When those being overlooked are the people with the most crucial jobs in the world, there is a cause for worry.

But, the real worry should be the government’s failure to pay us a decent wage, which sometimes forces us to engage in menial jobs so that we can make ends meet. Some primary school teachers earn an equivalent of daily data allowance for some government officials and yet they are expected to take care of all of our children’s educational needs. If we pretend to pay them, let us not be surprised if they pretend to teach.

This push to rate teachers, based predominately on how well their learners perform on standardised tests, is not fair because you cannot determine if the teacher is responsible for their performance alone. But can they make a difference in how well their learners perform in school? Of course, they can, provided the learner holds their end of the bargain. A teacher’s performance should be rated not by comparing learners from totally different environments but by how far the learners have come from where they started and how they compare to others who received the same or similar instruction.

What Kiwanuka might not understand is that learning is a continuous process that takes place all around the learner. A child who has more involved, literate parents or siblings will have an advantage over one who only relies on what they learn in class.