Fraud in teacher certification program: Who’s to blame?

Setiono Sugiharto ,  Jakarta   |  Sat, 05/16/2009 2:05 PM  |  Opinion

The teacher certification program, which has been in place for the past three years, is reportedly fraught with shameful fraud. Findings from the Independent Monitoring and Evaluation (Monev) teams concerning the teacher certification program (from the 2006-2008 quotas) have revealed the widespread use of forged certificates in teachers’ portfolios (Kompas April 9).

Among the three components being assessed in the portfolios, the last component, i.e. involvement in scientific forums, organizational experiences in education and social fields, and rewards relevant to education, has been alleged to have contained many counterfeit documents. Specifically, Monev suspect that the certificates of seminar attendances, training participation, and workshops often contain fictitious names, dates, and signatures.

However, as one of selected assessors involved in the teacher portfolio assessments during the 2006-2008 periods, I found the other two components – academic qualification, teaching experiences and lesson planning, and education and training, superordinate evaluations, academic achievement and professional development – were also by no means free from bogus documents, which other assessors also found.

This certainly sets a bad precedent for future candidates who are eagerly waiting to be certified. Unless stern measures are taken, it is highly likely that this year’s certification program will be laden with similar fraud – disgraceful acts that can tarnish the image of the profession.

The rampant use of forged certificates indicates that most of our teachers either have no opportunity to attend scientific forums or remain indifferent to upgrading their knowledge in a forum of discussion. As a consequence, they have no valid documents to submit to fulfill the requirements for their portfolio.

However, as far as my experience is concerned, not all documents are fictitious; many teachers did include genuine documents in their portfolio, showing their active participation only as the attendants of a seminar. Few however became paper presenters both nationally and internationally. This suggests that despite the fact that research activity, apart from teaching, is integral to their teaching career, they lacked awareness of the importance of doing research and presenting its findings in a forum of discussion.

It is indeed ironic that a teacher who is supposed to be a role model for their students sets a bad example by committing a fraudulent act in their attempt to achieve professional recognition. In a patriarchal society like ours, teachers are seen as trustworthy and are therefore often emulated. A teacher is portrayed as someone who commits to valuing truth and honesty despite whatever conditions he or she is facing.

It would be unwise, however, to put the blame on the teachers alone. At this juncture, it seems reasonable to surmise here that they justify the means to achieve the ends simply because they wanted to express their long-endured frustration. The teaching profession has long been marginalized. Teachers are low-paid; they receive little appreciation; and their efforts toward professional development are hardly supported.

Yet, despite these controversies, the teaching program should be seen as a government’s noble mission to boost teaching professionalism nationwide. It could be a conduit in which teachers can healthily compete with each other by showing how they have contributed to their profession.

Teachers need also to remember that the prestige of one’s professionalism cannot be measured simply by a piece of paper, even if it is a certificate and most importantly, that the pursuit of professionalism is a never-ending affair, requiring a long-life commitment to the profession one has decided to devote oneself to.

The writer is chief-editor of the Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching and teaches English composition at Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta

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Bettering how teachers teach

Teuku Zulfikar Akarim ,  Melbourne   |  Sat, 01/10/2009 10:19 AM  |  Opinion

Adequate facilities including textbooks, laboratories, libraries and other learning equipment are important in efforts to produce intelligent students, but the most important factor here is the presence of qualified teachers.

To be able to teach effectively, teachers are expected to be both knowledgeable in content and skillful in their teaching methodology or pedagogical knowledge.

Skillful teachers are indeed important, as a failure to apply appropriate teaching methods renders the instructional process ineffective.

Having understood the importance of pedagogy, teachers should be empowered through effective teaching techniques.

Scholars in the field of teacher education, including Thomas L. Good of Arizona University and Jere E. Brophy of Michigan State University, have developed a number of techniques that can be used to empower teachers.

Two teaching methods that are considered effective in improving teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy are appreciation and power sharing.

Appreciation refers to teachers’ ability to appreciate student work, while power sharing means teachers’ willingness to reduce their domination of the classroom.

Appreciation has various manifestations depending on the education level, with different levels of education requiring different approaches. For example, elementary school teachers may prefer to use simple rewards such as issuing certificates or prizes for students who excel.

University professors may express their appreciation in different ways, for example by providing personal supervision in particular subject areas.

While appreciation may seem like a small reward for students’ success, it can boost their self-confidence and self-esteem which can in turn improve their academic performance.

Teachers are also expected to be able to create a healthy and supportive environment necessary for student learning. Power sharing means teachers do not dominate the classroom.

Teachers must not infuse their students with ideas before recognizing and acknowledging their students’ own perceptions. Teachers will never be able to fathom their students’ understanding if they do not provide them with time and space to express themselves.

In power sharing, the idea of “the truth” is not centered in teachers, but is shared among students. Power sharing enables students to have “their say” — to be heard and understood — which in turn helps teachers understand students better. The ability to understand students’ personal feelings and capacities helps teachers develop more effective teaching approaches.

The third technique worth considering is the process of self-development. This technique can be practiced through reflective teaching.

The notion of self-development has gained popularity in teacher education for its effectiveness in boosting teachers’ abilities. Several methods of reflection are available including self-video recording, peer conferences or journal keeping. Teachers using video, for example, can record themselves teaching, allowing for later observation and critique.

The cheapest method of observation, however, is through inviting other teachers to observe a colleague while teaching a class. Colleagues can provide feedback for the betterment of teaching approaches.

Teachers may also choose to reflect by keeping what is known as a reflective journal. This type of journal can help teachers to focus and determine their teaching goals. The other benefit of the reflective journal is that it permits teachers to review and evaluate their teaching experiences and revise and improve on them for the future.

The question is how can we familiarize Indonesian teachers with self criticism. At least for the time being, most teachers are probably reluctant to criticize themselves, but need to be encouraged to undertake this difficult task.

The writer is Ph.D. candidate at Monash University’s Faculty of Education.

Who cares about the fate of teachers?

 

The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Sat, 09/22/2007 3:08 PM  |  Opinion

Abdullah Yazid, Malang, East Java

Almost everyone recognizes teachers as the most important human resource element in education. At the same time, people acknowledge teachers do not receive descent pay for the service they provide. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that discussions about teachers always concern the low level of their welfare.

If we were to ask any of today’s generation of students, we could hardly find any of them who aspire to become a teacher. It is as if the profession had lost its pride. The “”big earning”” professions, such as business and law, are much more sought after. Poor income and lack of respect are among the reasons why teaching is not a favorite profession, compared with what it was in the past. This is not to mention the minimal attention paid to these “”heroes without medals””.

Those facts only explain how Indonesians perceive the teaching profession very differently from in neighboring countries, such as Malaysia and Japan, where the profession is very well respected and very much influential. The public and the governments there rank teachers higher than other professionals.

In Indonesia, teachers no longer enjoy economic (income and welfare), political (bargaining position) or social (public appreciation) value. It is understandable therefore that the quality of our education ranks among the poorest in the region.

This situation is exacerbated by the low budget allocated for education from year to year. Almost one-third of the annual budget is used to pay debts or interest, instead of education spending. Everybody knows the education sector is a major investment that requires a huge budget, especially to meet the needs of teachers and students.

As of 2006, there are at least 2.6 million teachers working in elementary, junior high and high schools across Indonesia (Kompas, Nov. 17, 2006).

Despite their lack of appreciation, teachers bear a heavy responsibility. They are expected to be capable of playing a role as both trainers and motivators. Teachers are also required to facilitate solutions for various life issues, seek breakthroughs, initiate change and exercise conscience in conducting their professional duties.

Despite the limitations placed on them, teachers must posses adequate knowledge, a high level of personal integrity and pedagogic skills so that students can depend on them. On top of that, teachers have to be able to create a pleasant, healthy and conducive educational environment.

An educator really takes on a difficult job. He or she is expected to sacrifice their after-school hours to help filter information beneficial to their students. It comes as no surprise Ilbert Highert once said that teaching is an art. Pedagogy demands expertise, skill, intelligence and creativity from teachers. One of the supporting factors toward success in this noble profession is sincere dedication.

Unfortunately, up to now the policy-makers have not shown any appreciation for this dedication. As a result many teachers have opted to moonlight. They teach at different schools day and night or seek side-jobs for extra income to feed their families.

How can we expect a quality education if teachers have to struggle to survive?

There are many teachers who perform unsatisfactorily to the point of being unprofessional.

The national education system has introduced a teacher certification program in a bid to boost the competence of educators. This systemic approach aims to see no more schools employing high school graduates or non-teacher institute graduates as teachers. The teachers will have to go back to the classroom to get the appropriate diplomas or certification in order to ensure their teaching proficiency.

For that purpose, the government has increased the education budget.

Teachers are the key to the sustainability of efforts toward improving the quality of the nation in the face of future challenges.

But the policy-makers cannot leave teachers unprotected. The welfare of teachers is the responsibility of the state. Articles on teachers’ protection and welfare in the 2004 law on national education must be translated into concrete action.

The writer is an Averroes Press editor and founder of the alternative education Civil Society School in Malang. He can be reached at abdullahyazid@yahoo.com.