Situational Responses

By Mr Mustapha Louznadji
Inspector of National Education

Failure in School: Whose Fault Is It?

    I think it's reasonable to say that when teachers are making a real effort to engage their students, the responsibility for trying to learn should lie with the students. But we have been brainwashed. We have been taught to blame ourselves when students refuse to try or do not succeed in their work. It sounds so noble for a teacher to say, "If any of my students fail, then I have failed," but I'm convinced that this is actually harmful.

    I attended a workshop in which the presenter, a teacher of English, told the story of a student with whom he had worked. That student had refused to do a required assignment. The presenter said he tried everything he could to encourage her, but she wouldn't do it. Finally, he asked her why she wouldn't just give it a try. She told him, "Because if I try, it won't be very good and I'll be a failure; but if I don't try, then you're the failure."

     I have often thought about where the blame lies when a student fails. I know that when I am grading papers or tests and a student does not do well I reflect back over what I could have improved on in my teaching.

     "Did I cover the material in enough detail? Did I allow for different learning styles? Was I unclear in certain areas?" And if there is a trend through the class, then this helps me redo my lessons and improve my teaching. But when the majority of a class displays understanding of the material and there are no extenuating circumstances at some point the student needs to take responsibility for actually fronting up and completing the work themselves.

     I have noticed a trend of more and more responsibilities being placed on teachers and schools. But, why do people blame teachers? Are they really responsible for the students’ failure? Who should convince the ministry of education, the parents, the students, the journalist and all the community that the responsibility is elsewhere.  By placing the fault for Baccalaureate poor performance with teachers we are not doing the students any favours, but rather are teaching that there is not a need for personal responsibility.

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