Our #1 teaching problem

The biggest problem many of our teachers face is this; they think their responsibility is simply to teach. It is the students’ responsibility to learn.

Their task is to complete the textbook. And if they have done this, then they have done their job, regardless of whether the students have learned anything.

The only question that concerns them is, ‘Have I taught the lesson?’

But teaching and learning are not the same things. The question they should be asking is, ‘Have my students learned the lesson?’

Many of our teachers assume that if they teach, students will learn. Or more basic than that, they don’t even think about the learning part. 

So I was speaking to one teacher recently about his Class 10 students. Now he has taught these students for almost five years (from Class 6 – 10), but many are still struggling with the basics of his subject. But when I asked him what could be done to improve his students’ performance, his response was, ‘They need to work harder and come to school more regularly.’ It never crossed his mind that, after teaching them for five years, he might bear some responsibility for their failure, or that he should do anything differently to help them progress.

Some time later I was observing this same teacher, and he was doing a quick re-teach of a topic (because I was in the room and suggested that this might help his students!), and I heard him say,’ You have only one chance to learn this.’ That’s totally wrong. Students need multiple chances to learn things. In fact, they need as many chances as it takes to learn something, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to do whatever it takes to make sure they do so.

So how do you remedy this?

There are two challenges, one is a skills thing; to give teachers the tools to teach well, and to be able to assess students’  learning on the go (not just at terminal exams). The second is a mindset thing; to convince teachers that their responsibility is not simply to teach, but to make sure students learn. And then to make sure teachers take steps to act when students do not learn. For example, by re-teaching and re-testing; by differentiation or by offering extra tuition to weaker students.