Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Educators Have No Reason to Serve

Written by johnleemk on 3:28:09 pm Jun 22, 2007.
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A real problem with Malaysian public education is its perverted incentives. I have touched on this before when I pointed out that there is often little incentive for teachers to improve school facilities.

Another problem, however, is that teachers do not have an incentive to serve the community of their school. They are more bureaucrats from the central government than anything else.

This was highlighted beautifully not too long ago in my former secondary school (which cannot be used as a good sample of the typical secondary school, but is useful for illustrating extreme situations when the problems of our education system take their full course).

One of my friends was playing football, when he ran smack into the sharp edge of a volleyball pole. Blood began to gush from his head, and the skin had been torn apart so badly that his skull was visible.

This was late in the afternoon, after most teachers had already gone back. There were only two teachers in the school at the time with cars, and thus only two teachers who could transport him to the hospital.

When both teachers were approached — one of them being the third-most important teacher in the school, ranking only behind the headmistress and deputy headmistress, as he is the student affairs teacher — both refused to help.

They cited various reasons, but the main one was that they were too busy. These teachers had no incentive to help a student who could have bled to death.

There were two other teachers there at the time who tried to help, but there was little they could do. They did not have the means to safely transport my friend to the hospital.

In the end, the disgraceful affair was resolved when another student drove him to the doctor. It's an extreme case, but if you look at how our teachers are positioned in our education system, it's the logical result of their perverted incentives.

Because teachers are not sourced from the local community, not held accountable to the local community, and will not suffer a fate worse than being transferred to a totally different school if the community complaisn loud enough, they have no reason to care about the community or their students. This is why they can be so nonchalant about stealing from charities.

We need to set things straight and make it clear that teachers do not serve the central government. Teachers serve the community of the school they are assigned to. And if they do not want this job, then they must quit or be held responsible for their failure to carry out their duties as educators and public servants.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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