The quality of teachers determines the quality of young people that schools, institutions and universities produce and the quality of graduates determines the level of efficiency in the workplaces. Since the classroom teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the individual, it is important for them to possess attributes that are in line with the needs of the twenty first century. Teachers ought to equip the learners with adequate skills of solving the world problems other than teaching them just to pass examinations.
Unlike in the distant past when the teacher was considered as the sole provider of knowledge, in the current situation, the teacher is supposed to be a facilitator of learning. This is because various education researchers have found out that it is not good for the teacher to just pump subject content in the minds of the learners. This system denies learners the opportunity to think critically. It only helps the teacher to complete the syllabus and what learners do is simply reproduce the teacher’s material.
In fact education experts contend that great teaching involves asking questions that help learners to reason and learn from each other. They advise teachers to create a platform for the learners to discuss questions related to the subject content other than just listening to the teacher most of the time. This system requires the teacher to always pose ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that enable learners to think critically about what they are taught.
Given the fact that there are various sources of knowledge in our midst, teachers should not assume that they go to class to meet students who are totally green about the content. Many students have access to the Internet and some of them do research on the topics that are on the syllabus. This helps them to widen their scope of understanding and it calls for flexibility on the part of the teacher to tolerate the alternative answers that the students give in class discussions.
If a student raises an issue on an aspect that the teacher has never researched on, he may assume that it is wrong yet the student may have proof that it is correct. If the teacher does not encourage learners to do research, they end up just regurgitating what they are given in class. This cripples their thinking capacities and without research skills, they cannot be very effective in the work place after graduating. The teacher has to do a lot of research in order to guide the learners in the class discussions and to update his lesson notes. The practice of using the same lesson notes for years without updating them is outdated. Therefore, the twenty first century teacher should always do research and help learners to develop research skills as well.
The teacher of this century should put more emphasis on skills development rather than knowledge acquisition. Many employers complain that they interview applicants with good grades but with inadequate practical skills that are much needed in the field of work. Much as teachers have the responsibility of preparing students to excel in the examinations, in most cases, written examinations test memory and comprehension other than analysis, synthesis and application.
I think that teachers should devise ways of ensuring that they strike a balance between helping learners to pass the examinations and equipping them with skills that are relevant in the workplace. They should always use the group work method where students perform tasks in groups and by so doing, they are able to develop skills in problem solving, decision making, leadership, and communication as well as interpersonal and analytical skills. These skills are not tested in the examinations yet they are crucial in the field of work. The group work method is considered as being learner-centred, interactive and very exciting to the learners. It is no longer necessary for the school administrators to put pressure on teachers to drill learners to excel in the examinations because employers consider one’s ability to analyse issues and solve problems. They are more concerned about the skills that applicants have which can help their organisations to grow.
Ability to mentor learners should be one of the qualities of a teacher of the twenty first century. Many young people study when they have lots of thoughts that perturb them like not having sufficient information about the career options available, belonging to broken families and peer pressure. It is important that teachers give them a clear sense of direction so as to work towards achieving their career goals. If we just keep teaching students without relating what we teach to their career goals, they get bored and they think that some of the aspects that we teach are irrelevant to them.
Otherwise, the twenty first century teacher should be a facilitator of learning, skills developer, mentor, counsellor, researcher and a promoter of team worker among young people. This is one way through which learning institutions can produce vibrant young people who are ready to transform society.
The writer is an English Language Instructor.