Situational Responses

By Mr Mustapha Louznadji
Inspector of National Education

Blaming the teacher for low student performance


   As a teacher for many years, I would say that there are several problems I see with holding teachers responsible for students' performance:

    Student's low test scores are not solely due to the teacher's behavior. There are at least three components which contribute to a student's performance. One is the teacher. A teacher must provide a non-threatening atmosphere in which the child can feel challenged, yet comfortable working at their own rate.

     If the child is learning at the expected acceptable rate, the teacher's role is to keep the child progressing while continuing to monitor the child's progress. If the child is not performing as expected, then the teacher must go back to step one and reassess and adjust as necessary so the child will learn.

     The second important component which contributes to a child's performance and success is the parent. Parents who provide a healthy physical and emotional environment are much more likely to have a child who succeeds in school.

     It is important here to note that if the fundamental needs of the child are not met or if these needs become significantly neglected throughout the early school years, it is all but impossible for the child to perform to their full potential. Unfortunately, the teacher has no influence upon how a child was reared and at best, modest influence on how the parents provide for the child during the school year.

     The third, yet equally important component influencing the child's success in school is the student. The emotionally healthy child has a role to play by choosing to follow instructions, ask for help, follow the rules, complete tasks and get along with peers. The child who learns early in life to act the way they know is acceptable does better in school than the child who acts the way they feel.

     Failure by any one of the above three components can cause under-performance in school, regardless of the efforts of the other two components to compensate. The educational system cannot control parents' behavior which may affect the child's performance and the school has limited influence over the child, who may choose to perform poorly, despite the best efforts of parents and teacher.

     Therefore, the educational system has significant influence on only one component of the three, and that is the teacher.

       The teacher is often blamed for the unsuccessful student when the fault may actually be due to the parent or student. The educational system has limited ability to hold parents and students accountable, so it appears our system has chosen to assign blame to the only person they have authority to blame, the teacher.

     Such a blind system is unfair to the teacher, ignores poor parenting and betrays the student who the system exists for in the first place. So, what are the consequences to the child if the teacher is held totally responsible for the success and failure of the student?

 Do you blame teachers for students' low performance?