When teachers are up to no good, the nation bleeds. And yes, there are teachers who are not up to their task. Usually, administrators have to wait for one poor results after another before they crack the whip. But what if students were allowed to evaluate the performance of their own teachers. Joseph Oindo weighs down the implications of the arguments from both sides of the fence;-
A teacher holds one of the most influential and crucial jobs in the country-providing the future generation and national leaders with knowledge. The influence a good teacher has on the student is phenomenal, while the effect of a bad teacher can have a life-long effect on a child. Thus, they say, when a teacher errs, the nation's growth is in a twirl, and when a teacher is spot on, the growth is spontaneous.
It is for this reason that some sections of society argue that we ought to hold teachers accountable for what they do. The good ones should be rewarded and the ones worth keeping should be trained, this school of thought says, while those who don't add any value to a child's education need to be discarded.
However, the question is: How do we evaluate the performance of a teacher in the classroom? There is a school of thought that believes that since pupils spend a lot of their time with their teachers in the classroom, they are the body that should evaluate them. But others argue that this can easily lead to a witch-hunt, for the student will not favourably rate the teacher they do not have spot for. The latter argument is founded in the fact that some good teachers are sticklers for discipline that does not endear them to most students.
Vincent Karekezi, a parent in Remera, says the main reason students should be allowed to evaluate their teachers is that it is them who know their teachers well because of the time they spend interacting in the classroom.
"When others [administration or parents or external examiner] visit the classroom, the teacher and students are on their best behaviour, similar to when our boss observes us at work. It is impossible to fully evaluate the day-to-day atmosphere in a classroom unless one is in the classroom daily," says Karekezi.
"Students are the people who get knowledge from teachers in the classroom or laboratory. They have direct interaction with them. Students can easily find their mistakes. They learn from them how to read, write and speak not only in the class but also outside the school," he adds.
He says many teachers blow their own trumpets even though some of the students think otherwise. Some teachers just do their job and they do it well, to the satisfaction of the students.
The student is in a position to know the teacher is sincere in theri teaching methods and delivery. They also know when they are learning new concepts or ideas from the teacher.
"We need to ask the students who the good teachers are so we can recognise and reward them," Karekezi says.
Jacqueline Uwineza, another parent in Kicukiro, agrees that students should be allowed to evaluate their teachers. She says the performance is going to improve when this is done.
"The teacher will know that they are under constant surveillance by the students and thus will have no recourse but to give their best.
"If the problems in a classroom are related to teaching style, it is possible, if caught early in a teacher's career, that more time could be spent on retraining them. The teacher could learn techniques that promote a learning atmosphere. A good teacher will value the input from the students and use it to improve their teaching style," Uwineza argues.
She says during her school days, they could clearly point out which teacher was delivering and who was not.
"But we feared to report them to higher authorities because such actions would come with severe punishment from the teacher himself."
She adds that when the students are allowed to evaluate their teachers, it's going to remove the wall of fear that exists in the students.
"They will know that they are doing their duty to improve learning in the classroom, and even outside."
Uwineza says compared to fellow teachers or even the head teacher or principal, students comments on a teacher are often more honest and fair.
"The other teachers are fellow workmates and competitions among workmates are normally common," she says.
"Thus, a teacher can't evaluate a fellow teacher for this might bring out biased judgement. Many cases have occurred where good teachers seek transfer or quit teaching altogether because of staffroom politics to the chagrin of the students who held them dear because of their teaching feats."
Paul Gashugi, a father of two, says: "A teacher's performance can be evaluated by students just like a sales girl being evaluated by the customers. And in my opinion, only in this criterion, can a teacher be judged fairly."
A tricky issue:
There are also many people who say it is impossible and students must never be allowed to evaluate their teachers.
Eric Okech, a teacher at Good Foundation School, Remera, opposes this view, saying this could provide a fertile ground for both witch-hunt and revenge.
"We normally reprimand and punish naughty students when they stray. But given the chance to evaluate, they will use it to get back at us."
He says the questionnaires provided to the students to evaluate the teachers would not bring out a fair and balanced result.
"When half of the students say the teacher is competent and half of them think otherwise, what criteria will then be used to evaluate the teacher? We should use other methods like installing a video/audio camera in classrooms to provide unbiased assessment of the teacher's performance."
However, Oketch says there are many teachers who think that evaluation is unnecessary since they are normally assessed by grades the students get in examinations. But this, Oketch says, can be counterproductive since some subjects are so easy that only students who did not concentrate in class fail them.
Evan Mitali, a student, says evaluating teachers would help identify those with negative impact on the students.
"We know our teachers well and it's us who can provide honest assessments," Mitali says.
The role of administration and school authority is to identify and recognise the good teacher, to assist the struggling one and to get rid of the incompetent. The idea that students should evaluate their teachers, therefore, remains a tricky ground for school administrators.
What Students Say:
Eddy Mark, Riviera High School. '
Yes students because this helps the students to receive education in a more holistic manner. The teacher gets to know the students they are dealing with and how to deal with them. It helps the teacher and student to be able to learn from each other.'
'Teachers also evaluate themselves through their students who will learn and know the best ways to teach students with different behaviour or how best to deal with those whose discipline is an issue.'
Christian Muhire, Riviera High School.
'Indeed, it would help the students to know the competence of the teacher and also boost the relationship between the students and the teacher, thus enabling learning to take place more efficiently. This can lead to better performance for the students.'
Erick Kanimba , student.
'Just like the teachers evaluate the performance of their students, I believe the students should also be allowed to do so as it helps in building confidence in the students because they rely on the teachers competence for their performance.'
Compiled by Joel Ondeko