The board of management of the Sri Lankan International School, Riyadh, should be given the required space to guide the school’s destiny, the country’s Ambassador Ahmed A. Jawad said at the school’s Annual Awards Day and Colors Nite on Friday.
The envoy was addressing parents, teachers and students at the institution.
The former supervisor of the international and community schools at the Ministry of Education Moiz Al-Qahtani was present as a special guest. The chairman of the board of management A.L.M. Hashim delivered the welcome address. Principal Mohammed Huvailudeen presented the annual report of the school.
“The board of management is elected by parents. They don’t elect themselves. Surely, each one of them are honorable and competent people you have elected. They should be given the required time to implement their policies and programs.”
He insisted the board has to work with responsibility given the trust placed in it, taking into consideration the larger picture of ensuring the development of the school in a transparent manner. He added the board exists to set targets and to ensure they are realized.
“If a board avoids micromanaging the school’s affairs then it becomes an ideal board. It should look after the principal and teachers by providing the required resources and welfare, and just as much the latter have an obligation of loyalty toward the school,” he noted.
Addressing the students, he said awards are given to recognize achievement and also to act as an inspiration for students to repeat such high standards the following year. It also serves as a benchmark for others to aspire to.
“The years spent in school are certainly one of the most important, if not the most important period, in our lives. Those 12 years are a drop in the ocean of life. Yet they form such a vital aspect that influences us for the rest of our lives.”
Jawad said parents spend substantial sums on the education of their children. “I believe that expenditure on education only rivals the family food bill and sometimes even surpass it,” he said.
“The world of the 21st century is fast turning to be something totally different to what parents with a 20th century education have seen in their day. Driven by technological innovation and discovery, new methods of imparting education have changed the education we once knew on its head. Taking down notes is largely a thing of the past. Students are now more self-reliant. The Internet has significantly emerged as a purveyor of knowledge. Yet a class cannot make do without teachers. Each and every teacher continues to be a lodestar.”
He stressed a child needs not only be molded to live a studious and virtuous life while with their parents but very importantly to do so while they are outside such supervision. “For this the child needs to be given some independence. This enables parents to assess and remedy any shortcomings,” he said.
“These children require exposure to cultures and religions other than their own. It is only then that they would appreciate the value of unity in diversity; to respect other religions and cultures while practicing and respecting their own. A cocooned existence could place them at a major disadvantage. It could be a recipe for conflict and unhappiness.
“Students should be trained before leaving the parental home for a life outside it; to take responsibility for themselves and not be misguided or ill adjusted in the slightest.”
The ambassador lamented that tuition has become an unwelcome reality. “I do not know whether it can be totally eliminated but it could certainly be reduced substantially if all stakeholders, teachers-parents-students, cooperate. Giving due allowance to the requirements of children with special needs, tuition after all largely covers that portion of the syllabus not completed in class.”
He said a child’s progress needs to be regularly assessed, adding the days when a child’s performance was discussed only between parents and teachers are long gone. He added the child too should be a participant.
“Teaching has increasingly come to be regarded as a very simple profession, something that anybody could do. Yet in reality it not only remains a noble calling but one that requires finely honed skills,” he said.
“At its best, teaching is a fine art, a profession which provides today’s human resources for the world of tomorrow. It requires training and periodic retraining to keep up to date with fast evolving pedagogical methods. It is imperative for the school to provide its staff with such a facility. Teachers do require supervision. But they also should be given sufficient space and independence to be creative.”
A fee has to be levied to cover its running cost, he said, adding that if for example air conditioners in classrooms are not regularly serviced it is the children and staff who have to suffer the summer’s heat.