We can do very advanced computations in engineering projects because we have a solid basic computation ability we acquired in elementary school. We are able to communicate with others -- perhaps even in a foreign language -- because of some aspects of the language we learned in school. This is not debatable.
Therefore, it is indeed true that we obtain education through formal schools. Certainly, we also obtain education through other institutions. For example, our family is one of those institutions. However, at least one of school's missions is to provide education to students.
The school provides education through the services of teachers. They are the ones who directly serve the students. In the old paradigm, their activity in the classroom is called teaching. This activity actually involves the teacher merely giving a speech and the students taking notes.
The old paradigm unfortunately is still present in our school climate. The teacher's main purpose in the classroom is merely to teach. It is not important whether the students learn or not. Whether the students enjoy the study time or not is none of his or her business at all.
However, there has been a paradigmatic shift in the education world. The keyword is not to teach anymore. It is also not to educate, but to learn.
Therefore, it seems rather absurd when some Indonesian education experts contradict the words to educate and to teach. First, they are not comparable, because to teach is a method used to educate. It is like comparing fruit and apple. The latter is a part of the former. Second, neither word is the central theme in education anymore. Instead, I believe the word learning is really the gist and essence of the modern paradigm in education.
The paradigmatic shift makes a title like "Teachers Must Produce Critical Students", an article written by J. Kusmanto in The Jakarta Post, Jan. 9, 1999, seem unsuitable to some of us.
We teachers neither produce nor create critical students. Besides that our students are not the products of school, critical students cannot be produced. They cannot be made either. If we want our students to be critical, the students themselves must learn to be critical, active and creative in thinking. We teachers can only facilitate the improvement of their ability, giving them an incentive and opportunity to learn to think that way.
If the students do not learn when we teach, then our presence in the classroom is useless. It does not make sense to teach them. We have to remind ourselves that teaching them cannot automatically make our students smart. They can be smart only if they learn.
Now, if we insist on thinking of school as an industry, then school is a service industry. And, the product is the service the teachers and all supporting staff provide. The students utilize that service to improve their learning ability.
The word learning itself gives a direct understanding that the central component in modern education is the student. The subject in education is not the teacher anymore, but the student.
Therefore it is reasonable to define quality education as a service where and when its participants can learn effectively.
Based on the above definition, we can conclude that, therefore, a quality teacher is the one who can influence his or her students to learn effectively. A teacher who knows and is able to deliver heaps of materials is not automatically a quality teacher. But, a quality teacher is the one who can motivate his or her students to become lifelong learners.
So, if we still define teaching as an activity where a person gives a lecture or a speech and the participants take notes from it, then a quality teacher perhaps is the one who does not teach at all.
The quality teacher is mostly interested in nurturing students so that they can learn to learn. The quality teacher does not care too much about the subject materials studied, but he or she stresses more letting the students become lifelong learners. He or she is more focused on the continuous improvement of the students' ability to learn.
The quality teacher is the one who can create a fertile climate such that the students may improve the opportunity, the motivation and the ability to learn.
That is why, in my opinion, teaching is really a paradoxical activity. If a teacher teaches effectively, it means he or she teaches less. Or, perhaps, quality teachers even do not need to teach at all.
Moreover, we can reason further that quality students are not students at all. Because quality students will learn by themselves. Quality students will be able to find any information they need and utilize it independently. The quality teacher will need only to facilitate their learning more effectively.
This definition is also applicable to the university level. Quality professors will pay more attention to how their students learn. At certain times, they will obviously provide guidance on improving learning ability.
So, it is very likely that the participants of a class offered by a quality professor will learn many different things in their futures. In fact, very often, they learn new subjects very distant from their professor's expertise.
If that happens, that professor certainly should be proud, because he or she has done something right in not teaching the participants of the classes. In fact, he or she should be very honored and satisfied because the participants of his or her classes are able to become quality lifelong learners. And, that is the primary reason most teachers are willing to spend time and effort in improving the quality of their classes. That satisfaction cannot be traded for other things.
The writer is a mathematics teacher living in Bandung 💗 [Iwan Pranoto]
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