Setting an example for learners

Schools should use role models, ensure teachers are qualified and promote critical thinking, says Wilmot James

Speaking at the annual conference of South African Principals Association, Wilmot James, associate editor of the Cape Argus and a professor at the UCT Graduate School of Business, outlined three priorities for schools: role models, leadership and critical thinking.

“Teachers must be leaders and set the example. Children learn by example, consciously or unconsciously.
What parents or teachers do is much more important than what they say they do. If teachers do not want learners to be absent, then they must not be absent. If teachers expect homework to be completed, they must complete their homework. A relationship of trust and fellowship develops when educators and learners become partners in the vocation of schooling.”

Referring to competence of educators, James said: “More than anything else, parents want the teachers of their children to be competent, and this is, obviously, the priority. Latest research shows that 36% of all teachers fail to meet the basic requirement of a three-year tertiary-level qualification, and that underqualified teachers are concentrated in those regions that, given their educational performance, can least afford to have them. “It is a matter of urgency that the qualifications of teachers be radically improved at universities and technikons, and, I believe that an incentive system be created or recreated to make them effective.”

He said a culture of communication in schools needed to be encouraged. “It means resourcing school governing bodies so that they become dynamos of activity committed to the best interests of the school, rather than fiefdoms of personal control or sites of bitter conflict.”

He urged schools to promote critical thinking among learners. “Some people think that critical thought is to make a noise, to be difficult. Critical thought is at the heart of an open and free society.”

- The Teacher/M&G Media, Johannesburg, November 2001.

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