Non-Teacher Factors Affecting Education

teachers

teachers (Photo credit: Mouse)

22/7/13

In recent times teachers have been subjected to great pressure from educational authorities at the highest levels of the system for perceived poor performance, and poor preparation of students.  The performance of teachers is most often measured by the performance of their students in high stakes, standardized tests and examinations taken by their students at certain intervals which are usually determined by age.

This method of evaluating and grading teachers is not fair because teachers are not fully in control of the learning process.  There are several  reasons for weak, or strong, student performance which  are totally unrelated to teacher effectiveness.

Let me state, at this point, that from past experience and research, I believe that the vast majority of teachers are genuinely committed to the task and really work hard to give their charges the best chance to succeed.  Only a minority of teachers show no concern for their students’ progress and they should be encouraged to switch to another profession.  Most teachers will improve with adequate professional training and the right attitude to their work.

It is not fair to blame teachers for poor student performance in high stakes tests and public examinations without first examining other contributing factors which teachers do not control.  let us consider some of them.

Parental involvement and support is a known determining factor in student achievement at school.  Students whose parents value education and keep in contact with teachers, generally have higher attainment levels than students whose parents are uncooperative or uninterested  in their children’s education.  Where the index of educational environment (IEE) in the home is high, students will do better.

The socio-economic status (SES) of the parents is another accepted determinant of student success.  Research generally shows that middle-class and upper-class students perform better at school than working-class students.  Poverty will therefore prevent many students from achieving their maximum academic potential.

Peer influences can also affect student attainment.  This influence may be positive or negative depending on the type of friends students choose.  Students who choose friends who do not care about education tend to fall into the same error.

The level of student motivation is another important determinant of student performance.  Different students display varying levels of motivation.  Generally speaking, highly motivated students will be more successful in their studies.  It is difficult for a teacher to motivate a student who does not see his subject as being relevant.

There are also various systemic factors which can affect student performance.  The type of students attending any given school may have an impact on the performance of that school.  This can be readily seen if many of the students are poor (low SES), or low academic achievers.

Teachers do not create school policy.  If, perchance, they are required to teach in an outdated system of education which is not geared to the 21st century, and to which many students and the society at large can no longer relate, then they alone should not be held accountable for poor student performance.  We also need to take a critical look at the examinations students must sit.  Are they serving us well in today’s world?

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