Thursday, 26 March 2009

Teaching is for losers

What has happened to teaching? It used to be a glamorous job. Teachers were highly regarded. In the Chinese culture, teachers were placed on the top of the pecking order, I think even higher than the farmers. At the bottom is the businessman. I remember a TV interview of Malaysia's own multi-billionaire, Robert Kuok where he was asked how he would like to be remembered. His response was showed humility, pointing out that as a businessman he is at the lower end of the pecking order.

So what has changed? Blame it on World University Ranking, i.e. TIMES Ranking. These rankings are totally biased in favour of research outputs - how many articles published in citation indexed journals, number of Ph.D.s graduated, number of patents filed and more - all research-oriented. And despite all the rhetoric about rankings being biased and that we should perhaps throw it out, Malaysian Research Universities are heading full steam in that direction. And in the process the teaching component has become the incident part of the academic's life. You won't get rewarded for excelling in teaching. Yah, Yah, I know there's the Excellence in Teaching Award and all that but don't get me started on that as well.

So should I have been shocked when a top management in the university said that "teaching is for losers"? OK, maybe he didn't say it exactly like that. What he said was "our problem is how to get people interested in teaching" and invariably, teaching gets "taken up by 'losers'". Hhm, maybe I am being "over-sensitive" about this but I am sure many lecturers would have cringed and even more would have shouted "hurrah, long live research". Hey, I am not saying forget research. I am saying what happen to university education? Is it not our responsibility anymore?

On the brighter side, here's a photo of a beautiful flower from my very modest organic farm. And if you know your science, flowers become fruits. And the "fruit" from this flower is the lady's finger (ocra).

For those of you who still think that the harm of plastics on animals has been blown out of proportion, just take a look at this nest from my iron tree. See the plastic strips which the poor bird has mistaken for dried grass and leaves?

p.s. will be contributing to global warming this evening as I fly to Medan with a group of students for an international field study.


Food said...

"I know there's the Excellence in Teaching Award and all that but don't get me started on that as well".

Hi Lik Meng, just curious...seems like you are not very keen to talk about the Teaching Award. Any reason?


taz said...

Yes, for old Chinese, teacher/government officer (in ancient China, the people study for getting a post in government sector) has the highest ranging among the jobs - 士农工商
士(shi = means those who study/academicians)
农(nong = farmers)
工(gong = artisans)
商 (shang = businessmen)

Many degree graduates actually went for teaching in my days, because they thought it probably hard to get a decent job. Then i heard from my primary school form teachers, the quality of the teachers nowadays are very low. A lot of those new teachers were not gaining good results in spm/stpm and thus went to maktab (go for teaching).

Of course, there are still some people who really qualify and dedicated to be teachers, but there is only a few a them. And, that's why people think "Teaching is for losers".

The social trend has been transformed. People want to make fast money. Therefore the ranking "士农工商" has changed. 商 (businessmen) now is more attractive, is perhaps, many people think that's the only way to gain high status and big money.