What should teacher’s Terms of Reference be like?
Serhiy Dyatlenko, educational expert of the Central Reform Office under MinRegion, answered all the educators’ comments to his previous interview, telling about the salaries at the Ministry of Education, standards of class filling and teachers’ self-improvement.
By Dmytro Synyak
Serhiy Dyatlenko’s interview reached 40 thousand views on decentralisation.gov.ua. Readers left more than 500 comments under the publication of this material in the Facebook educational community. Mr Dyatlenko says that he wanted to answer everyone who left his/her review under his interview. But then he realised that it could take a lot of time. That is why he made a proposal to continue covering the topic in the next interview, trying to answer all those who supported his stance, criticised or questioned him.
Decentralisation.gov.ua analysed the comments in the interview with Serhiy Dyatlenko and selected the most constructive ones. Unfortunately, most of the allegations against the expert were not substantiated by arguments. And, the calls “Do not dare to destroy a rural school!” imply rejection of any changes or misunderstanding of the reform process. “If you have ideas on how to reform the village school better, please make proposals, we are ready to consider them and even invite you to the reform implementation team,” Serhiy Dyatlenko addressed the readers at the beginning of our second conversation. In fact, this conversation consisted of educators’ comments to the first expert interview and Mr Dyatlenko’s responses to them.
Teacher, shoemaker, hairdresser
“Teachers are often reproached with the ratings of external independent testing (EIT), listed in various Internet publications. Last year, one of the two medalists in the rayon was a pupil of our school. But at the same time, two of our pupils did not overcome the threshold of 100 points in Ukrainian language. In general, we have 8 graduates, so the average score was disappointing. Why does no one take into account that we forced two out of these eight pupils to learning? Why, accusing us of the “EIT failure”, does no one mention that our pupils become prize-winners of oblast and all-Ukrainian subject competitions and contests every year?”
- It is impossible to evaluate the work of teachers by only the results of external independent testing. Moreover, it is even harmful. Because the EIT results show only, to say, the tenth part of the teacher’s work. Thus, we need a comprehensive indicator of the teacher's work assessment, and I think it will be developed over time. But now we can talk on how graduates are brought up, how active they are in public life and in sports, whether they are successful team players, how they treat their health and reputation, whether they can think critically and make responsible decisions, etc.
“You said: “Teachers should be responsible for the result, and not for “lessons’ giving”. But how to rate this result? If the child is talented, then he/she will know the subject well, and for him/her, perhaps, the score of “9” is not enough, and if the child is not good at studies, then the result of 5 can be a great achievement.”
- Of course, every case is individual. And there is no unified scale to assess the added value of a teacher. However, this does not mean that there is no such value as well. In every small town, not to say about the village, everyone knows where the best math teacher lives. In every school, everyone – parents, children, management – knows which teacher works well, and which is bad. Very often it happens that when a teacher is asked why his pupils are so poorly educated, he/she replies: “That's because such pupils are studying in the class”. When you ask if he/she is carrying out some kind of activities with parents, he/she answers: “But those parents never need anything! Moreover, they are always busy in the village!”...
“ToR (Terms of Reference) cannot be set for a teacher. He/she is not a hairdresser, who renders services and, accordingly, sets the price for his/her work, and not a shoemaker, whose result of work is visible immediately. In our schools there were always children who did not want to study, and nobody could force them... You cannot teach, you can only learn, Mister. The motivation for learning is given by parents, not by the school. And the result of education and upbringing are decent citizens, who find their place in life and bring benefits to society!”
- In general, this is the right idea. In fact, education is much more important than knowledge. And the result of the teacher's work can appear in 20 and 30 years. However, one should not say that the teacher is not a shoemaker and that it is impossible to measure the results of his/her work, and if so, no need to try – let the teachers work as they can. This approach is completely wrong. Would you say that modern hairdressers and barbers cut hair like they used to 20 years ago? No! For a good hairdresser/barber takes advanced training lessons given by the best masters, buys new, more advanced tools, studies the properties of new hair dyes, learns to make new fashionable hairstyles. Why does he or she do that? Because he or she feels the competition from other hairdressers/barbers. Instead, a teacher, who does not feel this competition, may well work during retirement just as he/she worked in his/her youth – using the same methodology, the same college notes and lesson plans written forty years ago.
“In order to achieve the result in education, three sides have to work: parents, a child and a teacher... And the teacher should be responsible for the result only when this result is necessary for the pupil!”
- Yes, children are different, but the teacher is not a university tutor, who delivers a lecture and goes away, relying on the students' consciousness. The teacher should motivate to learn. His/her task, in particular, is to stir pupils' interest in education.
“Teachers are only organisers of the educational process. Full stop. Stop making them responsible for everything! Tired of listening!”
- Many comments to my interview stated that the reforms are a good step, but “you should first work for my salary, and then demand something from me! At first, purchase normal school textbooks! First, provide the school with everything necessary!” I beg your pardon... If you are not satisfied with your salary, resign, it will be honest. It is dishonest and even immoral to teach children in a deliberately bad way, justifying yourself somehow. In addition, there is a category of people for whom everything new is always bad. As far as I am working in educational sector, there has never been time, when new curricula did not provoke teachers' resistance.
What is the Ministry of Education guilty of?
“That would be nice to have that expert as the director of the village school! Has this person worked at least one day in the conditions we work in?..”
- I would like to talk not about myself, but about the reform, however, in this case ... I have 17 years of pedagogical experience. After finishing pedagogical college I used to work in a remote rural school in the Khmelnytskyi Oblast, then I graduated from the pedagogical institute, and also went to work at school – already in the capital. I think this is enough to dismiss the allegations that I am far from the real state of affairs. The educational expert, head of the department at the ministry and teacher are different professions. And a good teacher will not always be a good minister, although this is what some of the educators, who commented on my previous interview, are somehow convinced of. The teacher from his/her own place sees his/her subject and class, the director sees the school, head of the rayon educational department – schools of the whole rayon, head of the oblast department – schools of the oblast, and the Ministry of Education sees the entire educational system of the country.
Does not this mean that it is better for the teacher to see how certain decisions of the ministry are implemented in the example of his/her class?
- The ministry has to build a system that will fit both Donbas and the Carpathians. But only teachers of a certain school, parents, public activists know how to better implement this system on the ground. Each rule has its own exceptions, and people should have the right to them. However, this does not mean that general rules are unnecessary.
“It is sad that such people give advice for years, consuming the money of taxpayers, since they do not sit in the ministry for a teacher's salary... And let the teachers and ministry employees exchange their workplaces for a year – with salaries, requirements, responsibilities, working conditions. And only then will we analyse this article.”
- Villages often believe that the ministry has the most nasty experts working for huge salaries, while the wisest and most experienced people work in schools being paid peanuts. However, reality is quite different. The overwhelming majority of ministry employees have a large experience of work in schools and educational departments. As for salaries, now the chief specialist of the ministry department receives about UAH 7-8 thousand. And this is in Kyiv, where the life is much more expensive than in the village.
Judging by the comments, everyone is convinced that you can get to the Ministry of Education only through acquaintance.
- This is not the case at all. Send your resume, work, and we will change the country together. From my own experience, I will say that criticism ends immediately after a person starts – often for the first time in his/her life – to really change something in the country. Therefore, I appeal to all educators: come to work with the Ministry of Education, and this will be a great experience for you.
Modern school economy and new subvention formula
“Our small city of Ostroh has the status of oblast significance. The average filling in our school is 21 children in the classroom. The authorities consider it necessary to optimise classes by reorganising the school. Teachers and parents of pupils of the Ostroh school No 3 are against turning it into a 9-year institution. And they want to do this because of a lack of educational subvention from the state budget for teachers’ salaries. Mayor of Ostroh Oleksandr Shyker, said: “I have 61 instead of 58 classes. When we asked the Ministry of Education to allocate additional funds to us, because we lacked them, they wrote in black on white that there was a resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers, so come up with optimisation.”
- The head of the Ostroh city council really asked to provide additional education funds, stating that the educational subvention increased by only 5% over the year, while the salaries of teachers – by 25%. It seems to be quite fair, but only at first glance, because from 1 January this year, the educational subvention is calculated on the basis of a new, improved formula. Moreover, the principle of subvention calculation is changed. If earlier it was paid according to the “orders” on the ground, now the state seems to say: “I am ready to finance you this amount of classes, so that under your conditions you could provide high-quality education. If studies in your school network is more expensive, then you have two ways: either to optimise it, reducing costs, or compensate the difference from the hromada budget.” That's all, nothing complicated.
How could this be done in the city of Ostroh?
- This is a city of oblast significance, and according to the methodological recommendations, the average filling of classes in Ostroh schools should be 25 pupils. Optimise several high-school classes and you will have an educational subvention. Or finance them at your own expense if “educators and parents” oppose optimisation.
Or maybe just a new formula, used to allocate the educational subvention, is not so perfect?
- Maybe, since it's been applied for the first time. However, every year it will be improved, precised.
City mayor of Ostroh can be understood. After all, he must be active and make out money wherever it is possible, of course, with the observance of the law.
- Unfortunately, there is a tradition among the local self-government employees to ask all kinds of benefits from the state, because they grew up in centralised Ukraine. But now Ukraine is becoming a decentralised country. From now on, local self-government employees no longer have to ask for anything from the state. It is necessary to earn, increasing the revenues of your own hromada. It is necessary to optimise expenses. We need to improve the infrastructure. This is what development is about.
The law sets the upper limit for the school as 30 pupils in the classroom. And the bottom – as 5 pupils. So it turns out that, according to the law, the state should fund classes of 6 pupils?
- Do not confuse the allowed indicators and budget calculations. The state determines the possibilities, and the hromada chooses the optimal concrete path. In determining the estimated filling of classes, the new formula takes into account the number of rural population in the hromada or rayon and the density of pupils per square kilometre. At the same time, the number of pupils in all hromada schools is funded. Larger schools are not as costly as small ones, but the average indicator has to align this difference. That is, there should be enough funds for all. But the higher the number of large schools will be, the more additional funds hromada will have for education.
The full version is available in Ukrainian – please click HERE
This is just a part of the responses to Serhiy Dyatlenko's comments to the previous interview. Further answers will soon appear on the portal decentralisation.gov.ua
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