Characteristics of Hong Kong School Guidance and the Implementation of Comprehensive School Guidance

Generally speaking, ‘Guidance’, known as pastoral care in UK schools, seek to promote the whole person growth of students, the aim of guidance is to encourage students’ self esteem and the development of various aspects of their ‘self’, such as personal, moral and social and it is educational (Hui, 2000; Hue, 2007).In his latest article, Hue (2007) explained the whole school approach should be conceptualized as a model for guidance which emphasizes the united effort of all school personnel who, under the leadership of the school head, work together to create a positive learning environment enriched with care, trust and mutual respect. Apart from that, school guidance work is to help students to maximize their own potential acquire acceptable social skills, discriminate right from wrong, develop appropriate values.

It provides additional opportunities for students to develop their strengths and competencies

In addition to this goal, school guidance work should help prevent or overcome students’ problems through prompt assistance and appropriate advice.Whole School Approach to School Guidance and Comprehensive School Guidance Programs
The whole school approach to guidance can be conceptualized as a model, and it can be implemented through comprehensive school guidance programs. Gysbers (2005) pointed out that the comprehensive guidance program currently being used by many states and school districts in the United States consists three elements: content, organization framework and resources. In this article, I will try to analysis comprehensive guidance programs in Hong Kong based on Gysbers’ model since the Hong Kong Education Bureau also adopted the model for implementing guidance services in schools.Firstly, the content element identifies competencies considered important for students to master as a result of their participation in a comprehensive guidance program, it aims at developing students’ strengths and it could be the goal for the program. Secondly, the organization framework element contains two sections. The first section is three structural components; it includes the definition, rationale and assumptions. The second section consists four program components; they are guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive services and system support.

The students in SSS are mainly characterized by their underachievement, low motivation, behavioral problems, etc

The third element of the comprehensive guidance program is resources; the resources are personnel, financial and political resources.The goal for the comprehensive school guidance is to identify the competencies to be developed, it could be rest on the following objectives: raises students’ awareness of their feelings and develop their skills in handling emotion, helps students build up self confidence and enhance self-esteem, promote desirable learning and social behavior, facilitate students’ life planning, goal setting, and career formulating, and identify problematic areas in an early state and provide initial and frontline intervention to help students cope with their problems. He suggests the percentage for guidance curriculum programs for high school students should be 15-25 percent, individual planning as 25-35 percent, responsive services 25-35 and system support are 15-10 percent (Gysbers, 2003).Luk and Lung (2003) also proposed a similar 3Ps model for evaluating the guidance and counseling services in schools. The model stressed the importance of programs, personal and polities.In the following paragraphs, I will examine Hong Kong literatures concerning the characteristics of Hong Kong schools guidance and based on the above framework and model to see how the literatures’ findings promote or hamper the implementation of the comprehensive school guidance model in Hong Kong senior secondary schools setting. Following that, suggestions will be made to see how the comprehensive school guidance could be adapted.

Another hurdle is the lack of assessment tools for assessing students’ needs and evaluating programs’ effectiveness

Newly Emerged Senior Secondary Schools (SSSs) and its CharacteristicsAfter the 1997 Asian financial turmoil, the Hong Kong SAR government noticed the economy was undergoing an accelerated economic restructuring. The economy is shifting from labor-intensive industries to knowledge-based industries. Hong Kong’s promising future is now heavily depending on excellent services provided to the world, namely financial services, legal services, accounting services and tourism. Although there are many differences between all these service sectors, one thing is in common, they are all about advanced knowledge and services.With the new opportunities, new challenges are also emerging. The success of knowledge-based economy very much depends on talents who are creative and innovative. In view of the highest unemployment rate among all age groups, how to cultivate adolescent potential pose new challenges to the education sectors, especially secondary and tertiary sectors which mainly provide opportunities for young people to develop their skills and knowledge needed in the society.In response to the question, the Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau (now known as Education Development Bureau) proposes new initiative in 2002 aims at providing alternative senior secondary education to the Form three school leavers. Four senior secondary schools (SSSs) were established in 2003 and the schools were providing schooling from Form four to Form seven. Since the schools are funded under the government direct subsidize scheme, the curriculum and school structure and curriculum are much flexible than the traditional schools and it is conducive for schools to response to diverse students’ needs.Comprehensive School guidance in SSSs (Content Elements)Desirable content elementsThe content element identifies competencies considered important for students to master as a result of their participation in a comprehensive guidance program and the identified competence serves as a goal and direction for the programs design (Gysbers, 2005). The competencies could be rest on the following objectives: raises students’ awareness of their feelings and develop their skills in handling emotion, helps students build up self confidence and enhance self-esteem, promote desirable learning and social behavior, facilitate students’ life planning, goal setting, and career formulating, and identify problematic areas in an early state and provide initial and frontline intervention to help students cope with their problems.Yuen (2002) suggests the content element of the program, life skills competencies should be balanced with those of personal/social, career, and academic for educating the whole person.Strengths in Hong Kong schools’ settingHui (2000) suggested developmental guidance curriculum should be integrated in some degree into the academic curriculum, so that guidance will be seen, not as distinct from students’ learning and cognitive development, but as integral to school experience. Since the aim of establishing the SSSs is to cater the needs of some disadvantaged students, life skills are emphasized in the school curriculum through various forms of implementation. Some of the SSSs have already integrated life skills as their formal curriculum; the contents cover competencies like personal/social, career, and academic with the aims at nurturing the whole person development. In 2007, one of the SSSs integrated the Other Learning Experience (OLE) program newly proposed by the Education Development bureau to their formal curriculum. It provides additional opportunities for students to develop their strengths and competencies.Research (Cheung and Rudowicz, 2003) shown that students stratified in low-band schools may be particularly vulnerable to the big-fish-little-pond effect, which erodes the self-esteem of students in ability-grouped classroom observed in Hong Kong and other places. Cheung (1997) pointed out academic performance in school may be associated with deviant behavior. Poor academic results may generate a low self-concept and a low perceived personal control, which may, in turn, be conducive to involvement in delinquency. In reality, students admitted to SSSs could be characterized as low motivated, possess negative or low self concept, academic underachiever, undesirable behavioral pattern, immature emotional control, lack of social skills and poor parent-child relationship. SSSs are well aware of these characteristics and many of its programs are designed to enhance students’ positive self concept and develop their self-esteem.In his research, Hui (1998) found that students gave high ranks to teacher concern and care and to guidance as ways of helping students deal with their problems. Students think guidance offered by teachers whom students knew well had a higher ranking. Luk Fong and Lung (2003) found that 82.1 percent of guidance teachers and 61.5 percent of class teachers are involved in guidance work. In the classroom guidance programs, teachers are the main worker in implementing the programs. The front line staff for content design and competencies identification could be one of the strength for implementing the comprehensive guidance programs.Hurdles suggested by local researchesFor evaluating the purpose of intervention, my observation is that guidance programs in SSS schools are mainly preventive and remedial at nature, little time are being spent on developmental group programs. Since students’ behavioral problems are the biggest problem the schools facing and need to be tackled and controlled, the content of programs provided may focus on preventing problems from happening and it hardly proactively nurtures the competencies of students. Hui (1998) suggested in evaluating the helpfulness of various guidance activities, guidance and group guidance programs offered by teachers whom students knew well had a higher ranking for both teachers and students groups, whereas class periods and talks ranked the lowest. When little time is left for designing guidance programs, talks may be the most convenient option. If guidance programs are mainly focusing on talk level, the helpfulness of these programs may not as beneficial as other kind of guidance programs, when students’ individual’s needs may not be well-response and it affects students’ motivation for participation.Hui (2000) pointed out while endorsing whole school approach to guidance, the role of all teachers in guidance should be shared. It means the collaboration of all functional teams and departments rather than the sole involvement of guidance team. In reality, in view of disciplinary issues in schools, SSSs are in higher risk to develop and dominated by the discipline culture. Hue (2007) discovered Chinese held the traditional view that ‘discipline is the prerequisite of effective teaching’. In Chinese, it was expressed as ‘xian guan hou jiao’. This view suggested that instead of guidance, discipline is perceived as a mean to lead to effective teaching. With this notion, school culture will be dominated by ‘powerful’, ‘strong’, ‘aggressive’, ‘firm’, ‘strict’ and ‘tight’. On the other hand, the guidance or counseling team may be ‘weak’ and ‘being a subordinate of the discipline team’. It not only hampers the development of the comprehensive guidance approach and distort the rationale and assumption of guidance programs, but also destructive for nurturing a ‘caring’ environment. Programs being developed may focus too much on behavioral control rather than the psychosocial development of competencies.Brief section summaryThe SSSs’ integration of life skills curriculum could response to the students’ needs, it can help nurturing the whole person development. Apart from the life skills curriculum, little time was spent on developmental programs, but due to the SSSs’ characteristic may require some refocus on the priority of guidance services. It may be much desirable for schools to spend more resources in reactive services. Whole school approach may require a much more focus and accurate assessment for responding to students’ needs.Comprehensive School guidance in SSSs (Organizational Framework)In the organizational framework aspects, it consist two sections, section one includes three structural components, which is the definition, rationale and assumptions. Section two consists four program components; they are guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive services and system support.Section One (Desirable structural design)Gysbers (2005) pointed out that the definition includes mission statement of the guidance program and focuses on its centrality within the school district’ total educational program. Rationale discusses the importance of guidance as an equal partner in the educational system and provides reasons why students need to acquire the competencies. Finally, the assumptions are the principles that shape and guide the program.If we transforming the statement into action, care and concern for all students should be emphasized as the fundamental of the comprehensive guidance program and the value should be integrated into the school structural design (Yuen, 2002). Although there is no journal article particularly examines the newly emerged SSSs guidance teachers, some journal articles have examined the Hong Kong Chinese guidance teachers’ belief and shed some light on the SSSs structural strengths.Strengths identified in Hong Kong ContextFor understanding the positive attitudes towards guidance perception of guidance, Yuen (2002) investigated 24 secondary school guidance teachers. In his study, the positive belief is defined as the ideals and philosophical assumptions that are conducive to school counseling and guidance. He found that nearly all the guidance teachers that the researcher interviewed had positive beliefs in school guidance. The guidance teachers believed in guiding student development in affective aspects and proper values; teachers’ works were not solely bounded by intellectual and academic education. The guidance teachers’ beliefs in school guidance are very close to the assumptions and principles set out in the Education Department and the guideline stated on official policy papers are the beliefs shared by the frontline teachers. With the teachers being the frontline workers of the comprehensive school guidance programs, it is conducive for them to conceptualize the rationale for developing students’ competencies. This finding can lay a good foundation for teachers to guide and shape the comprehensive school guidance programs.Hui (2002) found that majority of teachers’ interpretation of whole school approach has gone beyond merely the involvement of all teachers in guidance to a more sophisticated level, involving whole-school planning, administration and a positive school climate. It can be viewed as the guidance programs are being an equal partner in the educational system.Hurdles suggested by local literaturesIn a study (Hui, 2000), a caring climate as a crucial factor for the implementation and development of developmental guidance. In nature, the SSSs are stratified by the admitted students’ ability. All of the four SSSs were in essence called band three schools in Hong Kong. The students in SSS are mainly characterized by their underachievement, low motivation, behavioral problems, etc. Cheung (1997) pointed out academic performance in school may be associated with deviant behavior. Poor academic results may generate a low self-concept and a low perceived personal control, which may, in turn, be conducive to involvement in delinquency. Hue (2007) reviewed several journals concerning Hong Kong discipline style. He noticed most teachers managed school discipline in a custodial style and importance of discipline was emphasized more than guidance. In some schools, the positive aspect of the caring system was distorted as part of the provision of discipline. It was mainly the effect of an overdeveloped discipline team while guidance was underdeveloped. In a guidance training workshop, some of the SSSs teachers also shared the observation made by Hue, they thought discipline was always on the fore front for handling students’ behaviors, counseling and guidance were being placed on a lower priority with lesser teachers’ support. Rationale and assumptions for guidance programs may shift towards control, problems rather than nurturing students’ positive developmentIn another study for investigating teachers’ perceptions towards whole school approach to guidance, Hui (2002) found that majority of teachers did not regard schools were practicing whole school approach. Teachers having a common guidance goal and as integration of guidance themes into subject teaching were not perceived as shared view of other teachers. Crucial factors such as team spirit, communication, an inviting school ethos, and teacher involvement in policy making were perceived as less apparent in schools. Teachers’ reservations about parental involvement in guidance also suggested a resistance to working with parents as partners.Section Two (Desirable program design)Four program components including guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive services and system support. The major program component is the system support. Without continuing support, the other three components of the guidance program are ineffective (Gysbers, 2005). For the program components, Yuen (2002) suggested the guidance curriculum should offer opportunities for all students to experience growth and change enhancement through classroom and school-wide activities. Individual needs of students are met through individual guidance and planning. Student problems are solved through consultation, personal counseling and referrals.Strengths in Hong Kong schoolsCheung and Ngai (2007) pointed out that friendship among delinquents is a risk factor for delinquency. While time with friends intensifies the benefit of developmental group activities, friends’ support is unlikely to be responsible for the enhanced benefit. This is because time spent with friends has a significant positive effect on the youths’ delinquency. Programs designed for this group of adolescence is required to defuse the detrimental influences of delinquent friends and apply developmental group work to restructure their companionship. Since the SSSs enroll all new Form four students every year, it poses serious challenge to the SSSs because students come from diverse backgrounds. Some of the SSSs do design orientation programs for the students as their guidance curriculum and teachers act as the observer and leader for the groups.Hui (1998) suggests in evaluating the helpfulness of various guidance activities, guidance offered by teachers whom students knew well had a higher ranking for both teachers and students groups, whereas group guidance programs, class periods and talks ranked the lowest. Luk Fong (2005) suggested that unlike many other places in the world, guidance lessons in Hong Kong are taught mainly by class teachers rather than school counselors. This may be related to the traditions in Chinese communities, particularly the Confucian traditions, which stress a teacher-directed and didactic approach. Programs mainly focus on collective rather than the individual and on effort rather than ability, while emphasizing a holistic and idealistic tendency. This characteristic is beneficial to the comprehensive school guidance work in schools and students can nurture their competencies.In Hong Kong, many western concepts may not fit the local context. Some teachers also reported Western idea like ‘I-Message’ and empathy did not work in the classroom. Then teachers tried the best to make the lessons more personal yet more solid to suit the age of the students and relate more to the students’ selves. It enabled students to understand themselves at a deeper level and self-reflection (Luk Fong, 2005). This kind of guidance curriculum can provide all students opportunities to experience growth and change enhancement through classroom and school-wide activists.Hurdles in Hong Kong SchoolsLuk Fong (2005) suggested that being able to read and handle pupils’ emotions and to resolve conflicts is of paramount importance for teaching guidance lessons. This is especially so where indirectness and subtlety in emotional and personal expressions are the norms of Chinese pupils in Hong Kong. Students in SSSs are also characterized by their over-sensitive to criticism and self-protection, self disclosure in classroom is deemed to be impossible. In conceptualizing students’ needs and competencies to be developed, teachers are of paramount importance, but the lack of training in this area may pose greater challenge to implementation and design of comprehensive school guidance. Also, the large class size in Hong Kong may pose challenge to teachers who are responsible for implementing the programs. The constant struggle between allowing the students’ freedom to talk and keeping a large class under control necessitates a well-defined set of classroom routines. Another hurdle is the lack of assessment tools for assessing students’ needs and evaluating programs’ effectiveness.As Khoo and Oakes (2003) points out misbehaving students would perceive that coping with the outgroup-derogation strategy rather than individual-competition one would be more effective in coping with negative social comparison, when failure is attributed to a lack of ability rather than a lack of effort. Their observation is that male misbehaving students would have higher evaluation for the outgroup-derogation strategy compared to female misbehaving students. It means a collective approach for group programs may not be effective and different programs should be adopted for different groups of students are much important. But Luk Fong (2005) pointed out the East focuses on collective rather than individual and it may not be effectively response to individual needs, therefore collective approach for group programs may not be effective and different programs should be adopted for different groups of students are much importantSome of the themes are introduced as piece-meal during form assemblies. Talks or group programs are usually’ add-on’ activities to the schools’ timetable. It reduces its effectiveness. Although SSSs put emphasize on the life skills development, students’ characteristic poses new challenges to the program designers. In the SSS, guidance or counseling team were overwhelmed by case work, as suggested by Hui (1998), low band schools a greater amount of time was spent on handling referred case work in comparison with middle and top band schools. Low band schools higher priority was given to case work referred and case work (responsive services) initiated by students, while lower priority was assigned to developmental group programs, whether with voluntary or required student participation. Time and resources are stretched to the limits and little time and resources can be mobilized for developing guidance programs.Brief Section summaryThe rationality of programs shared by school personnel are conducive to students’ development, but the cultural differences, lack of training and staff support may greatly jeopardize the effectiveness of guidance programs and services at this moment. Little time and resources can be mobilized for developing guidance services due to the much essential development of the new school system.Comprehensive School guidance in SSSs (Resources)Three kinds of resources are required; they are personnel, financial and political resources (Gysbers, 2005).Strengths possessed by SSSsChan (2005) found that the least endorsed or more firmly rejected positions were those that dealt with views that people were basically evil, and that a counselor should become an expert in one theory. This openness and flexibility of these teachers indicated that they more likely endorsed not restricting themselves to practice under one theory. He suggested it prove to be beneficial to the comprehensive guidance and counseling programs in Hong Kong.In view of the students’ problems, some SSSs employed teachers who have social work or counseling training as their school guidance team leaders or members. In one SSS, they got a full-time student counselor and even employ an Auxiliary Police officer as their staff for handling students’ affairs. The expertise possessed by the staff is very conducive in planning and developing comprehensive school guidance programs.Some of the resources outside schools could be mobilized for students’ development of competencies are the programs offered by the Education Department and various Hong Kong disciplinary force called ‘SMART teens’, the programs are offered free to schools and students can develop various strengths during the 6 days 5 night training camp. Teachers are also invited to the camp for participation and observation so that some of the strengths of the students can be further developed after the camp and brings its effects back to school and everyday life.One of the characteristic of SSSs is the Applied Learning (APL). It was firstly introduced into the senior secondary school system in 2005 to diversify the learning opportunities. It is intended that students of different abilities, especially those who will benefit from a strong practical orientation in their learning should gain from APL to enrich their learning experiences. The core courses will be offered in six areas of studies, it includes applied science, business management and law, creative studies, engineering and production, media and communication and services. All these courses are closely related to the future development of Hong Kong economy. APL is the policy set by the Hong Kong government to offer alternative educational opportunity for students to further their study. As suggested by Khoo and Oakes (2003), misbehaving students who see little prospect of enhancing their own low academic status because of their ability, would perceive that a hypothetical student would show relative preference for coping with negative social comparison by using the group strategy of outgroup-derogation to the individual strategy competition. The APL do provide a context for students to’re-develop’ their sense of control and sense of self-efficacy. With this entry point, teachers can facilitate the development of competencies of students through the policy and academic training. It also provides chance for students to develop their career identity.HurdlesAlthough guidance is regarded as an essential part of a teacher’s role, many teachers do not appear to have had any training in guidance during their teacher-education programs. In 2002, only about 58% of the guidance team leaders and 20% of the guidance team members have been trained at certificate level (Yuen, 2002). Since the launch of SSSs is to response to the needs of disadvantaged students, the needs of the students are much complicated. Without adequate training, how to figure out the competencies of students may pose a serious challenge to teachers. Luk Fong and Lung (2003) also found a majority of schools (59 percent of their research sample) have only two members (out of an average of 6-11 members’ guidance team) who have received guidance and counseling training.Apart from pre-service training, Hui (1998) found that in 27 out of his research schools, only 7 schools organized staff development programs by the guidance teams, it means the in-services and pre-services training are inadequate. Luk Fong and Lung (2003) found relatively few schools have provided school-based training for the whole staff (only 30 percent of the sample) or have provided supervision for guidance and counseling team members (41 percent of the sample). Since the SSSs is under the Government Direct Subsidize Scheme, one of the advantages is its flexibility in employing teaching staffs, but on the other hand, some of the teachers are recruited base on the subject knowledge, some of them do not have the teacher-training qualification. Lack of supervision and training may pose serious challenge for teachers to increase their sensitivity in designing and implementing whole school guidance activities. Yuen (2002) suggests more guidance and counseling training opportunities should be provided to teachers, guidance personnel and administrators. On the policy level, the government and the school administrators can make specific policies that balance academic, personal and social development in the educational goals.Another factor concerning the resources is that teachers in SSS are facing continuing disciplinary problems of students. Leung and Lee (2005) suggests school disciplinary problems in Hong Kong were mainly less serious offences such as habitual lateness and failure to do homework, while rebellious behavior such as fighting, vandalism and taking soft drugs comprised only a very low percentage. Most teachers were confronted with ‘trivial but regular incidents of misbehavior’; it creates tension when teachers in SSS are facing many of these misbehaviors. When implementing a larger scale of program and implement some class-based guidance programs, the tension accumulated may hamper the effectiveness of programs. This difficulties were mentioned in Hue (2007)’s article, he stated that teachers experienced difficulties in playing both their caring and disciplinary roles when facilitating students’ learning in the classroom, this may be the reason why some of the classroom-based guidance programs are not well-received and supported by teachers..Since all SSSs are providing education from Form four to Form seven, some of the programs provided by other organizations may not be applicable, such as the PATHS program, the target of the PATH, AHP and UAP program is for Form one to Form three students, schools personnel in SSSs may need to coordinate or initiate programs themselves rather than inviting outside organizations and professionals to provide services, but with little assessment tools, the task for programs design may prove to be daunting and overwhelming.Brief Section SummaryHiring professionally trained staffs for designing and initializing programs are good initiative. In reality, lack of in and pre-service training and outside supporting resources/networks may not do well for the implementation of comprehensive guidance programs.Suggestions for SSSs’ Adaptation of Comprehensive Guidance ProgramsLehr and Sumarah (2002) summarized researches on comprehensive guidance programs and the result shown that comprehensive guidance programs has generally yielded positive outcome results, including enhanced student learning, students were more likely to earn higher grades, better prepared for their future, had more career and college information available to them, and schools had a more positive climate.Due to some of the western idea may not be totally transferable and applicable to the SSSs’ setting. Some of the focus may need to be directed into the reactive resources due to the students’ characteristic and needs and schools’ nature. With enhanced knowledge and understanding, comprehensive guidance programs could be developed in different stages.
Comprehensive school guidance services can be incorporated into school setting through different level, stages and spectrum. It is not an all or nothing question. Generally speaking, teachers in SSS schools do think guidance and counseling are necessary service and services provided are conducive to students’ psychological development. Students in Hong Kong also agree guidance programs offered by their teachers are useful in nature.Out of school elementsThe comprehensive guidance programs in Hong Kong are still in its infancy. In order to facilitate the implementation of comprehensive school guidance in SSSs, the possible adaptation depends on government investment and the government should devote more resources for supporting programs which are targeting the senior forms students. Pre-training teacher training should put more focuses on developmental and comprehensive counseling so as to prepare teachers who are capable for designing and implementing the programs.Additional resources could be mobilized to better support the SSSs in developing its own comprehensive guidance programs, some resources could be allocated for hiring additional School Social Workers or guidance personnel, developing guidance programs for SSSs students. More researches could be conducted to evaluate the programs’ effectiveness and to assess the students’ needs.Schools’ elementsGysbers (2003) suggests the percentage for guidance curriculum programs for high school students should be 15-25 percent, individual planning as 25-35 percent, responsive services 25-35 and system support are 15-10 percent. In views of different constraints, SSSs can develop its own comprehensive guidance programs in different stages and with different resources and time allocation.At stage one, schools can develop the staffs’ resources so as to response effectively and efficiently to students’ needs. Different resources should be identified for ‘thickening’ the resources required for the implementation of comprehensive guidance programs. Teachers should be provided more chances for enhancing their capabilities and knowledge in students’ needs, supervision training should be provided for mid-level school personnel. Greater sensitivity should be placed during the group design, some programs should cater different genders’ needs, and some should put different class characteristics into consideration. At this stage, articulate and conceptualize of students’ needs and characteristics should be given higher priority.At stage two, with enhanced knowledge and experienced leaders, different school personnel can try to participate and implement the comprehensive guidance programs. Parents and students can also take part in the programs.In the final stage, the matured personnel and policies could spare more time and resources for a much comprehensive and proactive kind of guidance implementation. School based or localized programs are encouraged in this stage

Wong Chin PangBSW (Hons), MSSc, EdD (Candidate)

rootmaster

Promoting Reading In Schools In Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTIONHelping children and adults to develop skills they need to fully participate in an information society is central in a librarian’s mission of providing the highest quality library and information service in society. Books help children read. They are more helpful than reading schemes because they promise and provide pleasure in reading. Both teachers and school librarians should be influential in the child’s reading process but they need good knowledge of children’s literature so that they can choose and help these young readers at all levels (Samara, 2002).

Children and young pupil: LA guidelines for public library services

The Library Association (1991) singled out four areas as being enhanced by reading and use of a variety of sources of information namely: intellectual and emotional development; language development; social development; and educational development. In view of this there is every reason for teachers and librarians to promote reading in school. What then is reading?READINGCurrent attempts to define reading tend to regard it as a thinking process with attention focused on comprehension. That is to say reading is a mechanical and thoughtful process requiring the reader to understand what the author is endeavoring to communicate and to contribute his own experience and thoughts to the problem of understanding. As far back as 1913 Huey began formulating such ideas as can be noted from his frequently quoted words:until the insidious thought of reading as word pronouncingis well worked out of our heads, it is well to place the emphasisstrongly where it really belongs, on reading as thought-getting independently of expression.In 1937 Gray posited that..

and Lonsdale, Ray, Eds

.the reader not only recognizes the essential facts or ideaspresented, but also reflects on their significance, evaluates them critically, discovers relationships between them, and classifies his understanding of the ideas apprehended.Such ideas about the nature of reading continued to expand so that in 1949 Gray wrote that the reader…does more than understand and contemplate; his emotionsare stirred; his attitudes and purposes are modified; indeed his innermost being involved.

This endeavor should be creative and well organized

Reading is perceived as a progressive social phenomenon in that it is a means of forming people’s social consciousness; it is used as an instrument in implementing the task of continuing education and raising pupils cultural standards. In brief it is a means of increasing professional knowledge and skills and drawing people into a more creative life. In Sierra Leone, however, the task of ensuring that children learn to read, and of finding ways of helping them to do so is one of general concern to all teachers in both primary and secondary schools. One of the reasons why teachers are eager to help pupils to learn to read is that in modern society literacy is essential. In helping children to read they will not only be able to read but that their reading will develop into life-long habit. Thus a great deal of attention in schools is paid to:- the promotion of children’s interest in books- the supply, deployment and classification of books- guidance in selection of appropriate books- training in study skills and provision of time in which to read.READING IN THE SCHOOL CURRICULUMReading in schools in Sierra Leone is embedded in the curriculum and is a continuum starting from pre-primary through primary to secondary schools, as an important studying skill. At both the pre-primary and primary school levels specific reading periods are slotted on the timetable ranging from fifteen to thirty minutes. Reading and Comprehension is a stand alone subject and children are taught not only to learn to read but also to read to learn for self-enhancement, experience sharing and recreation. Thus varied forms of literature are used notably poetry, fiction, drama magazines, newsletters and newspapers as well as non fiction, with the latter cutting across the subjects taught in school.At pre-primary level teachers help pupils read by giving each pupil a copy of primer readers and encourage them to glance through pictures and ask questions about them as a way of stimulating their curiosity. Slips of papers bearing each pupil’s name are clipped to the primer for them to assume responsibility for keeping them clean. The teacher also demonstrates to pupils how to open these books carefully and flipping pages from front to back at a time to avoid damage. A few short sentences consisting of three to four letter words are read with pupils following in their books. After a while pupils are called upon to re-read each sentence orally. The main purpose of such a lesson is to introduce pupils to books and to teach them something useful regarding their care. Each lesson is different in design from all subsequent ones in order for the reading lesson to be of value to pupils. Typical lesson plans for teaching reading in schools include the following:- Preparation for reading i.e. teacher shows pictures and stimulates pupils to tell related experiences, play games and tell stories;- Guiding reading from the reader; and- Skills-building procedures.At the primary school level pupils read for a much longer time entire passages and if possible a whole story. They are also taught either to read as a class or divided into groups, and this exercise could be teacher-guided silent or oral reading; silent study with workbooks; dictionary or practice reader, or dramatization and choral reading exercises. Chief exercises of oral reading include reading aloud from books especially readers, notices, stories, poems and adverts. The value of oral reading exercise in school include:1. It gives practice in using current grammatical expressions.2. It helps to overcome speech and aid literary appreciation.3. It makes pupils more conscious of the need for current pronunciation in speech, and to contribute to the fundamentals of reading.4. It helps to serve as an index of pupils eye movement.At secondary school level no special period for the art is slotted on the timetable but reading is one of the main thrusts of English Language and Literature-in-English classes. At this level pupils are expected to read in relation to their problems and are taught to master information and improve their oral skills; they are also assisted in their critical thinking, search for information and or to answer specific questions, proof-read and get a general view of a book. Such exercises are a build up from those taught in the primary school. Thus pupils are encouraged to read not only prescribed texts for both English Language and Literature-in-English subjects but also those prescribed in the subjects offered in school. In all these activities the school library is expected to play a reading role by offering a full complement of programs to include pre-school hours, clubs, homework help and Internet to assist in developing reading and information skills. It should also promote the habit of reading for pleasure and provide a systematic training in the care and use of books (Barbara, 1994). The library should also be able to stimulate reading with the provision of relevant reading materials (Hannesdottir, 2000) and provide working area for pupils to complete their assignments according to their own ability rate. Teachers alike use the library to enhance their teaching performance and to carry out research (Connor, 1990)SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN SIERRA LEONESierra Leone has a 6-3-3-4 system of education with six years of primary, three years of junior secondary school, three years senior school and four years tertiary education. The system emphasizes basic and non-formal education with the education of the girl-child as one of the key elements. The over-riding objective of this system is to raise standards at all levels of ability; make higher education widely accessible and more respectable to the needs of the country’s economy; and achieve the best possible returns from the resources invested in the education system. To attain this objective there is a need for the establishment of libraries in schools to support the formal teaching/learning programs with a rich collection of book and non-book materials.Not withstanding school libraries in Sierra Leone are not given much recognition as the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST)has no clear-cut policies on these institutions. Their development depends on the enthusiasm of head teachers and the quality of service rendered by the few existing school libraries depends on the type of school the library is serving. In primary schools the provisions of libraries are inadequate as compared to those in secondary schools where the level of organization is dependent on who is sponsoring the school. For example old well established mission schools like the Sierra Leone Grammar School, the Anne Walsh Memorial Secondary School for Girls and Saint Edwards Secondary School in Freetown, and a few government maintained schools like the Government Secondary School in Bo, have better collections than the majority of schools in the country, especially those that started as self-help schools. These schools have poor library collections because of the uncertainty of funding. Old Students Associations fund some schools and in turn have good collections. A few private schools, especially those run by internationals such as Lebanese International School has good collections. The majority of government supported schools offer the poorest quality of education especially those run on commercial enterprises. These hardly have libraries and pupils of these schools have to rely on the services of the Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) and other libraries like the British Council and the United States Information Services (USIS),where available. Some of the few existing school libraries are fast disappearing making way for classrooms because of increased intake.Most schools lack qualified staff to run their libraries because of the non-availability of funds to pay professional librarians. The trend has been to employ library assistants who in most cases are school leavers with or without West African Secondary School Certificate of Education (WASSCE). Some schools put the library under the charge of a teacher.IMPROVING READING IN SCHOOLSTo start with research is indispensable in improving the current reading situation in schools. Reading has not been researched on for long in the country. It is therefore difficult to ascertain the practical problems associated with the teaching of reading, which reading tests should be implemented in schools, and what role the school librarian should play. Only through research can teachers identify the reading needs of pupils and which methods are suitable enough to be implemented in the teaching of reading in schools and the subsequent provision of suitable materials in the school library.Libraries should be established in schools with the aim of providing suitable and relevant reading materials for their respective institutions nation-wide. Trained and qualified librarians should be recruited to man these institutions and paid salaries commensurate with their status to avert staff turnover. Provision should also be made for their continuing education through attendance of seminars, workshops, conferences and formal courses in the field and related disciplines such as Information Technology. In this vein the schools need the support of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), Community Teachers Associations (CTAs), and donor agencies by providing grants for the acquisition of such reading materials as readers, textbooks, teaching manuals and supporting library resources.There should be scope for the production of reading materials locally to be used in schools. For far too long there has been a dearth of local publications in reading used in schools. The vast majority of reading materials in the school library is foreign and is sometimes not suitable to the needs of society. Government and the public/national library, Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB), should address this situation by encouraging local writers to publish a developmental range of reading materials aimed at the specific sub-skills of critical reading and to provide practice materials in which these sub-skills could be integrated and consolidated. Equally so the SLLB should re-visit its role to schools. Since it has a Children’s Department and sometimes gives assistance to a few schools, more appealing reading materials geared towards meeting the needs of pupils should be provided. There should be regular book fairs, exhibitions and displays to inform schools and the public in general about what is on offer in the library.In parallel Teacher Training Institutions should give greater priority to the teaching of reading in initial professional courses. These institutions are still concerned with beginning reading; they should go beyond this point especially for the elementary and junior secondary school levels. They should train reading specialists that would be closely working with school librarians to promote reading in school.Teacher training is judged by the success with which it satisfies the demands of the school for better professional training and also by the degree to which it satisfies students that the courses are relevant. With increasing sensitivity of the needs of schools, all Teacher Training Institutions should include the teaching of reading as a compulsory element in the training of teachers. Similarly in all secondary schools time for reading should be provided on the timetable. Pupils need time to learn; in order to guarantee that important things are taught and learnt well, time has to be allocated in proportion to the relative importance of subjects. For a country with less than 40% literacy society expects that children become literate and numerate in whatever they are engaged. As literacy is basic to the learning of almost every subject in school, reading should have priority over all subjects.A dynamic teaching approach is necessary. Teachers should have confidence in the teaching methods used to develop children’s reading ability. They should show that they mean business and that they can deliver the goods. Children who have failed many times are hesitant at each new beginning and suspicious of, and uncooperative towards, those who teach half-heartedly. Teaching must be individualized as rarely will a child’s reading needs and problems at any one time are precisely the same as those of another. Therefore, teaching poor or non-readers in groups will seldom be effective. For efficiency of purpose reading should start with the child’s own language more so when the teaching of local languages is now introduced in schools. Children, especially beginning readers, will have confidence in books containing the printed speech and ideas in their local languages. In this light what then should be the role of the librarian in promoting reading in school?THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL LIBRARIANThe education of the child is vital for the existence of society as it is the child that would grow into adulthood for society’s very survival and continuity. Thus it should be the concern of everybody to contribute immensely to the development of the child. In Sierra Leone however, many children grow in homes with little or no experience in reading because of widespread illiteracy, poverty and the unwillingness of some parents to acquire reading materials for their children. Public library services all over the country are poorly stocked with children’s reading materials. Invariably the problem is left with the school teachers and librarians to play a major role in developing the reading ability of children. As Hannesdottir (2000) opined ‘school librarians can be a major factor in promoting the use of the library and its many purposes is not only related to the academic aspects of studies but also for experience for skills development and for enjoyment’ (p.10). As information professionals librarians have the opportunity and responsibility to educate teachers, school authorities and the public about the essence of reading in school and the need to expand the role of the library. Since information literacy is the key to life-long learning, creating a foundation should be at the heart of the school librarian.One of the key components for a good reading program is the library collection itself. The school librarian intending to promote reading should keep up with the literature and know what is on offer and what type of reading materials that pupils need (Samara, 2002). Efforts should be made to analyze the collection when processed so that pupils can have access to it by either theme or subject. In addition to books, the balanced collection provided should include recordings, tapes and slides to reinforce the reading program as well as pictorial encyclopedias and atlases. There should also be a sound establishment and maintenance of folktales, storybooks, newspapers, science and historical fiction to create a natural appeal to children (Lewis, 2000). These will help keep children’s imagination alive as the reading development of the child is not only for enjoyment but also for knowledge and information.In the light of the afore-mentioned provisions the school librarian should keep abreast with the library and know what is available and what kinds of books that can fulfill particular pupils’ needs. He should be able to properly arrange his catalogue so that pupils can access the collection with ease (Barbara, 1994). He should keep in touch with the pupils to know what they are interested to read. The school librarian should find out from teachers the reading syllabus, and from both teachers and parents about the most popular materials on the market and then acquire them with specific references based on local circumstances. He should also get in touch with public library services in his vicinity to know what they can offer to promote the reading ability of children in school and see how best this could be availed. Once availed the school librarian should be involved in publicity activities such as displays and preparation of brochures, newsletters, booklists and if possible, offer seminars and book talks to children. In this regard he should work closely with teachers especially those that teach national languages such as Mende, Temne, Limba and Krio and those that teach international languages like English and French. Even senior pupils could be involved in the exercise. These programs should be creative and well planned and directed to a class, individual groups and individual pupils on a special basis. As Gayner (1997) asserted, in all these moves the school librarian should love children and enjoy their company to show a desire in satisfying pupil’s reading needs.Equally so the school librarian should organize special and regular reading programs in the school community such as Book Weeks and Library Days and promote Book Clubs. He should give book talks at school Literary and Debating Society(L D S) meetings and provide reading awards as a way of encouraging pupils to love and read books. Pupils should be encouraged to write book reviews as a way of expressing their personal opinion and develop critical thinking. This endeavor should be creative and well organized. To gain the support of teachers, school authorities and the community, the school librarian should be a good leader actively involved in school and community affairs and constantly advocating support for the library’s role in school, School Management Committees and decision makers at all levels of government. He should make reading central in all forms of his library’s mission, educate pupils, teachers school authorities and parents about the changing information environment and its impact on the school campus and community at large (Connor, 1990). In order to sustain this program in school the librarian should solicit funds from donor agencies like DFID, USAID, UNICEF and UNESCO and should be involved in collaborative effort with local literacy providers and supporters in their respective communities in order to translate their support for the library.Now that there is gradual improvement in the national power supply grid as well as hopes that come 2008 the country’s Bumbuna Hydro Electric Project would come into fruition attempts should be made by the school librarian to bring on board the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in promoting reading in school. The school librarian should take leadership role in utilizing these technologies and creating and identifying quality web sites in much the same way he organizes and recommends print materials. He should be able to teach pupils and teachers alike how to find the best sources of information using print and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Such moves will help improve their reading skills and raise pupils’ standard as readers and life-long learners (Hannesdottir, 2000). In all these ventures there should be cooperation among stakeholders if reading is to be promoted in school. Teachers, parents, booksellers, reader advisors and pupils should be involved in the planning and implementation of reading programs aided by specialist expertise like psychologists and children librarians.CONCLUSIONIndeed the school librarian should acknowledge the part he plays in promoting reading in school and in molding the child’s ability for life-long learning. In this regard he should be an enthusiastic and skillful reader himself. He should have an enthusiasm and a knowledge to work and share ideas with teachers, school authorities, parents and interested members in the community in promoting reading in school so as to put the right reading material into the right hands and at the right time. Keeping in touch with the afore-mentioned will help him relate the problems of the school library in the local community and how best he could approach the problem of promoting reading in school. This, in effect, will provide an opportunity for the development of the child.REFERENCESBarbara, Jinks (1994).”The stars come out for reading’, School library journal, 45(3), 162-170.
Connor, Jane Gardner (1990). Children’s library services handbook. New York: Oryx Press.Gayner, Eyre (1997).”Promoting libraries and literature to young people”, In Elkin, J. and Lonsdale, Ray, Eds. Focus on the child, libraries, literacy and learning. London: Library Association Publishing; 174-193.Gray, W.S.(1937).”The nature and types of reading”, Quoted in Southgate, Vera, Arnold, Helen and Johnson, Sandra (1983). Extending beginning reading. London: Heinemann Educational Books; p.23.Hannesdottir, Sigrum K (2000).”Ten effective ideas to promote reading in primary schools” , The school librarian, 48(1), 10-14.Huey, E.B.(1913) “The psychology and pedagogy of reading”, Quoted in Southgate, Vera, Arnold, Helen and Johnson, Sandra (1983). Extending reading .London : Heinemann Educational Books;p.23
The Library Association (1991). Children and young pupil: LA guidelines for public library services. London: LA Publishing.Lewis, C. (2000). “Limits of identification: the personal, pleasurable and critical in reading response”, Journal of library research, 23,253-266.Samara, Dennis J. (2002). Why reading literature in school still matters: imagination, interpretation, and insight. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.

AUTHOR’S NOTESJohn Abdul Kargbo is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Library, Information and Communication Studies, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. Mail can be sent to him on johnabdulkargbo@yahoo.comPOSTAL ADDRESS JOHN ABDUL KARGBO INST OF LIBRARY,INFORMATION COMMUNICATION STUDIES FOURAH BAY COLLEGE UNIVERSITY OF SIERRA LEONE PRIVATE MAIL BAG FREETOWN SIERRA LEONE, WEST AFRICA

rootmaster

How to Choose a Martial Arts School – 10 Steps Guaranteed to Save You Time and Money

What are the most important things to look for when comparing martial arts schools?
What are the tell tale signs of a quality school that you can spot immediately?
What are the best questions to ask, and how do you know if they can really deliver?
What part of a contract can you negotiate?These are just some of the important questions you need to know how to answer before shopping around for a martial arts school.A commitment to martial arts is an investment in time and money, so knowing exactly what to look for in a school, and knowing what questions to ask, will give you the clarity and confidence to make a smart choice.A bad choice in a martial arts school can be an expensive lesson, so use this guide to educate yourself.

Practice may also encompass elements of spiritualism

There is a huge variety of martial arts schools out there. Facilities range from expensive health-club-like facilities to open space warehouses. Martial arts schools aren’t regulated to insure quality of instruction or business practice. There is no official governing body and no universal grading standard in martial arts. Almost anyone can open a school and appear to be an expert.What do you look for beyond price, amenities and convenient schedules? While most people first consider price and the facility, there are more important factors that you need to consider first!These 10 steps show you how to make the best decision in choosing a martial arts school:Objective
Instructors
Class Dynamic
Student Results
Curriculum
Style
Facility
Service
Price/Fees
Instinct1. OBJECTIVE:Before you start looking into martial arts schools, determine your true goals for martial arts practice. To get the most out of your training, clearly identify your real goals and the specific benefits you want to have.

STUDENT RESULTS:The students provide tremendous insight as to the quality of instruction

Ultimately, you just want to feel good about yourself and feel super confident, right?However, this is usually not enough of a specific emotional motivator for consistent practice.The majority of people who start martial arts rarely make it past a few months of consistent practice. It’s not just a lack of motivation. Not having clear goals is usually why people don’t follow through in practice.To determine what you really want from training, start by narrowing down what you wish to focus on.The focus of your practice can be broken down into several areas.

If you ever have to deal with the billing company you can expect the type of service you get from a collection agency

There’s no right or wrong – it comes down to personal preference.For starters, you can number these in order of importance.Physical Fitness as the main goal, with martial arts aptitude as a secondary benefit.
Purely Combative Focus, with fitness and personal growth as added benefits
Creative and Artistic Expression, aesthetics, beauty and WOW Factor
Competitive Focus, sports aspects such as one on one competition
Mental and Emotional Growth, catalyst for self-discovery and spiritual growth, cultural and philosophical interestsAsk yourself clarifying “Why” questions, so you can identify what you’re really going for.This is the first step in filtering the selection of schools to choose from. Once you’ve identified your goals for martial arts practice and understand why they are your goals, you’re ready to search for a school.2. INSTRUCTORS:An instructor plays the key role in how you will achieve your goals.Finding a good instructor is more important than choosing a style, and is probably the biggest factor in your decision to join a school. It’s nice to have impressive amenities and expensive equipment, but ultimately a martial arts school is only as good as it’s instructors.Being a black belt doesn’t qualify someone to teach!A competent instructor is knowledgeable, experienced, and has the ability to effectively pass on his craft.
A good instructor possesses leadership and communication skills.
A great instructor will also display sincere empathy, showing a genuine interest in helping you achieve your goals, bringing out your individual strengths.Look for other attributes that increase an instructor’s ability to add value to your training:Proven competitive track record, such as World Champion Titles
A degree in an area such as psychology, sports medicine, kinesiology or related fields
Military, law enforcement, or security experience
Involvement in a credible martial arts organization
Extensive knowledge of a culture or philosophy that you’re interested inAlthough an instructor’s experience and background provides some credibility, don’t be overly impressed with awards and certificates.Their mindset and level of experience will be apparent through subtleties in character and by their actions.Quality instructors are sincerely interested in helping You and won’t feel the need to boast about their own credentials or prove themselves. Instead of boosting their own egos, high-level instructors are very attentive on coaching you to achieve your goals.You can often measure an instructor more accurately by their students’ results and satisfaction than by credentials alone. The students themselves may be the greatest indication of the quality of instruction.Just like a good business is constantly researching and developing, high-level instructors research and develop methodologies in order to continually improve. A lifetime training in martial arts isn’t enough to reach human potential!A high level instructor portrays noble characteristics of a role model and leader.Confident instructors welcome feedback and respond to your questions with patience and insight. They are usually very humble, and rarely speak negatively about any other school or style.Also, find out if the school’s head instructor is actively teaching. Some schools have classes primarily taught by an assistant or senior students, while the head instructor only makes an occasional appearance.While assistant instructors may be totally capable of teaching, watch out for schools that “sell” you on the instructor but have someone else teaching.3. CLASS DYNAMIC:Make sure you know how to evaluate a school in two parts, the content and the context.The context of a martial arts school is made up of the training methods and environment. What kind of setting is the school providing?A supportive learning environment is crucial to maximize the assimilation and retention of material. The context of training can be more important than the content, (or material), intended to be learned.Look for context such as:The collective mood or energy of the instructors and students
The class dynamic – structure and flow
How the amenities and equipment are used
The training methodologies
How the ranking system is structured
The quality of serviceOne of the best ways to evaluate a school is to watch or participate in a class.You can watch videos, visit a website and read all about the credentials and features of a school. However, you can only get a true feel by “test driving” the actual group classes. Many schools offer free consultations or introductory private lessons.If a school allows you to watch, or better yet, participate in a class without obligation it speaks highly of their confidence and transparency. The class dynamic is the best demonstration of the instructor’s martial arts aptitude and ability to teach. It reveals how the students interact with each other and the instructor. It’s also the perfect opportunity to see how their curriculum is implemented into training.Consider the size of the classes and how that may effect your training. The make up and flow of the classes will either help your learning experience or hurt it.Look for the following:Is there a significant age difference among students that may restrict your practice?
Is there a significant difference in the students’ experiences or physical abilities?
How formal or informal are the classes? And, how does that effect your practice?
How much supportive individual attention do the students receive?
Is there anything about the facility that’ll hinder your practice? such as cleanliness, stale air, too cold or hot, distracting noises, etc.Many beginners prefer large classes. It can be easier to follow along with the examples of many other students. There’s also less intimidation as the collective group dynamic can conceal individual insecurities and lessons the pressure to keep up.On the flip side, there is a key benefit to smaller classes that’s important to consider. There is more opportunity to receive personal attention from instructors that can greatly accelerate your learning curve.Again, instructors are the backbone of a martial arts school. The instructor consciously, or unconsciously, dictates the energy of the entire class.Here are some other things to look for:Does the instructor facilitate class with control and safety? (Notice if the students are enjoying themselves or seem uncomfortable and hesitant).
Is the instructor passionate and actively teaching or seemingly going through the motions and mechanically calling out commands?
Do the students seem inspired?A martial arts school provides the setting of a controlled environment where you’ll train to overcome future or potential challenges. In order to maximize results, good schools teach in a context that anticipates and matches the actual environment of those future and potential challenges.The classes must simulate the intended environment and must provide the necessary emotional stress in order to engrain instinctual trained responses.For example:If you’re seeking a combative style for self-defense, look for schools that safely facilitate reality based, high-stress scenario exercises.
If you’re training to fight in a ring or cage, look for a school that teaches you how to maneuver in the confines of a ring/cage under the same guidelines of the competition.
If you’re goal is to perform in tournaments, look for a school that can facilitate your training in a loud, distracting environment with large mirrors and an audience.
If your goal is to have fun getting in shape, look for classes that use good training equipment, have high energy, exciting exercises and a social atmospherePay attention to the flow of the class and notice how much of the class time is instructional. Some schools implement a lot of conditioning drills while others teach with a lot of verbal explanations. Notice if they have a lot of unnecessary “filler time”.It’s also a good idea to inquire about the school’s ranking system. Most traditional schools use some modification of a belt system, but what’s required to earn each belt can vary drastically from school to school.Is there a clear standard for aptitude and execution of techniques at each level? Or are the requirements based on time and the amount of classes taken?Many schools test for promotions after a set number of classes. This gives the perception of building capable intermediate and advanced students, which can be an important aspect of a school’s perceived value. Not to mention, belt promotions are a crucial source of income for some schools.Remember that there’s no official governing body in martial arts, so belt levels may not be valid outside of that school or organization.4. STUDENT RESULTS:The students provide tremendous insight as to the quality of instruction. You can often tell more about a school by the students’ results than anything else.The students are the products of the school’s training system and methodologies. If the advanced students don’t model your martial arts goals go find another school!When observing the students, pay attention to the ratio of beginner to advanced students. It’s a good sign if there are a lot of intermediate and advanced students. That means the school is able to retain their students, and usually equates to student satisfaction.Just as you probably don’t want to eat at a restaurant that’s always empty, be cautious of a school with a few students. What’s considered a small student base? Depending on the size of the facility and how long they’ve been in business, classes that have less than 10 students is a pretty strong sign that there’s something lacking in the school.Consider the characteristics and personalities of the students as well. It’s important that you are comfortable with your classmates cause you may be spending a lot of time with them.Are they the types of people you’d like to be around and train with?
Would you feel comfortable and safe training with them?
Are the students supportive of one another or are they highly competitive and trying to outdo each other?The student dynamic may also reveal how the instructor instills leadership and other life skills that you may wish to develop. Watch how the advanced students handle both challenges and successes.Take the initiative to speak to some of the students. Getting insight from existing students can make all the difference in your decision to join.5. CURRICULUM:Remember that a martial arts school can be evaluated in two parts, content and context. The curriculum and style of a school make up the content.Whether they call themselves a martial arts school, studio, academy, gym, or dojo, they are still businesses. They will promote themselves in creative ways to gain an edge over the competition. You can expect them to entice you with price incentives, boast their credentials, amenities and equipment, or make claims to get you results in the shortest amount of time possible.Don’t allow marketing tactics to distract you from determining if the school can actually support your training goals.Whatever a school claims to provide in your martial arts training, their students, classes and curriculum will give you a good indication of the school’s quality and true emphasis.The martial arts curriculum, (content), is made up of the techniques and material you will be learning at a school.The focus of your training must be supported by the curriculum and training methods.There are key points to look for in determining the quality of a curriculum. Begin by identifying the school’s emphasis. Take into consideration that when there is more focus on one aspect of martial arts, other areas are compromised to some degree.Forms and jump spinning kicks in the curriculum? You’ve most likely found a school with an artistic or traditional focus that may participate in tournaments. If this is what you’re after, the curriculum should consist of aesthetic techniques that have dynamic kicks and beautiful forms with and without weapons.
Are the techniques based on kickboxing and wrestling? A lot of sparring and no weapons in the curriculum? This is probably a school that focuses on one-on-one sport competition. Schools that build towards competition usually emphasize physical conditioning to reach peak performance.Although physical fitness may not be the primary goal in many styles, fitness is generally a by-product of training. You get in shape by default in martial arts practice.The majority of schools have a curriculum designed to provide a general overall perspective on fitness, sport competition and self-defense. For most people who are just beginning martial arts, a school’s curriculum and interpretation of martial concepts should be comprehensive enough to support you through many years of practice. If this is the case, start to look into other components of the school like their class dynamic.For those who have martial arts experience, or seeking a specific area of focus, determine if the school’s curriculum actually supports the emphasis you’re looking for.It’s not uncommon for a school’s true emphasis to be different from how they market themselves. Take note of the techniques in their curriculum and their applications.For example, let’s say your primary reason for martial arts training is purely for self-defense on the streets. You visit a school that claims to be proficient in teaching self-defense. Yet, they teach fixed stances and forms and only implement weapons training in advanced levels.This is a big red flag! This doesn’t mean it’s not a good school. It only reveals that their true emphasis is not truly combative.70% of assaults on the street involve some sort of weapon and over 90% of attacks go to the ground. Any school that claims to teach true self-defense while neglecting weapons training and ground fighting is just plain negligent.You should seek elsewhere if this is your focus. Modern combative styles will implement training in weapons and ground fighting right from the beginning.Training methods also implement high stress scenario drills with multiple attackers. You won’t find fancy acrobatics in the curriculum.Remember the old adage, “A jack of all trades is master of none.” Be cautious of a school that claims to deliver health and fitness AND teach you culture and philosophy AND turn you into a professional fighter AND prepare you for the streets AND promise personal or spiritual growth.6. STYLE:Martial arts can be compared to a huge tree with many branches or styles. All “styles” are based on the mechanics of the human body. Every style has strengths and weaknesses as they each focus on different aspects of the arts.The true measure of a martial art lies in the practitioner, not the style.Having a general understanding of the different types of styles and their focus will help you in achieving your goals. In martial arts there are hard styles and soft styles.Hard Styles focus on striking techniques where the body is used as a weapon for attacking and defending – force against force. Much of the training is external, based on physical conditioning for strength and agility.
Soft Styles focus on redirection and physical manipulation through leverage and positioning – using an opponent’s force against him. There is often more focus on internal training, training of the mind as well as developing the body’s sensitivity to energy.
Blended Styles incorporate concepts from both hard and soft styles in a complimentary method, flowing and transitioning from hard to soft and vice versa.Depending on the area of focus, each style differs in philosophy and training methods. Applications obviously differ as well.Among styles the emphasis of training will primarily focus on one of the following areas:Artistic Expression – Schools with an artistic focus emphasize creative physical expression – the “art” aspect of “martial arts”. Artistic styles implement forms or choreographed techniques in training. They typically have more aesthetic beauty, as movements are fluid and graceful like a gymnast or dancer.Tradition – Traditional styles are rooted with Eastern culture and philosophy. Traditional schools implement both external and internal training for the development of the mind-body-spirit relationship. With this emphasis, martial arts practice serves as lessons for life skills. Practice may also encompass elements of spiritualism.Competition – Competitive styles generally focus on the sports aspect of martial arts. Competitions can range by category including weight class, level of experience, geographic region and specific style. The emphasis is on winning recognition such as rankings, awards, and trophies that is based on a fixed set of rules.Combat – Combative styles focus on street defense or military application, including law enforcement. It’s the “martial” part of “martial arts”. The emphasis is on practical application over aesthetic form or physical conditioning. Training includes weapons and reality based scenario exercises.Fitness – Schools that focus on fitness use martial arts as a catalyst for holistic health. Classes usually consist of fun, energetic physical exercises based on martial arts techniques. Classes will typically implement a broad and general combination of styles and areas of focus.There are also Modern Styles, which are evolved blended styles that are the result of further researched and developed methodologies. Their focus can be artistic, competitive, combative, or emphasize physical fitness.While it may be a good idea to blend styles, it can be counter productive to combine your area of focus. Be clear on which area you wish to predominantly focus on.Again, there’s no right or wrong style. It’s a matter of personal goals and preference.7. FACILITY:The first thing to consider is the school’s location in relation to your home or workplace.Creating a new habit can be challenging, so convenience plays a big role in supporting consistency. You may be commuting several times a week for training, so make sure the facility is close enough so it doesn’t become an excuse for you not to go.Martial arts schools come in many forms. They can be part of a franchise, belong to an organization, or be a one man show run by a single instructor. They may resemble a fitness gym, yoga studio, gymnasium or warehouse.Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and don’t judge a martial arts school by it’s facility.Although you can’t measure the quality of a school by the facility alone, it does reveal a lot about the owners mindset, aptitude, emphasis of the style and curriculum, as well as the school’s level of professionalism.The degree of cleanliness may reflect the standard of service. You can get a good idea of the school’s style and emphasis by the school’s design.A school should have the amenities and equipment that support the context of it’s curriculum, such as a cage or ring for MMA or kickboxing, proper mats for Jiu Jitsu, etc.Consider what the school puts money into and determine if it actually adds value to your training.Also notice the subtle details of the facility that may effect on your training. Does the air stink? Does the lighting or colors of the facility effect your energy and mood? How’s the parking? Is it noisy?Remember, expensive equipment, and other luxuries equals higher tuition fees. Be aware of the costs of extra rooms and large offices that don’t directly add value to your training.With a good instructor and some basic equipment you can practice anywhere!8.SERVICE:Some schools have great sales and marketing techniques to get you to join. But, it’s the quality of ongoing customer service that really counts.Choosing a school that’s skilled in customer service will potentially save you from a lot of unnecessary headache. Poor customer service can ruin your martial arts experience at any level.Make sure that there are open lines of communication and that staff members are readily accessible to answer questions to your satisfaction.You may be with a school for many months or even years. Choose a school that cares enough to build a relationship with you.Know how to distinguish sales techniques from service.As mentioned, some schools are great at getting you in the door with attractive features and promotions. The question is, once you have signed up are you just another enrollment?A good comparison is the large franchised fitness gyms. Their amenities, equipment and low monthly fees are hard to pass up. However, once you join there’s virtually no service whatsoever. There are too many people who have gym memberships and don’t use them. They already have your financial commitment – a contract. Rest assured their service will pick up when it’s time for renewal. But is that service or just another sales technique?The level of transparency is the greatest measure of a school’s integrity. It’s a reflection of their standards of service.Does the school fully disclose all the costs involved in your training? Some schools have additional fees, like mandatory programs or association fees, that they don’t mention until you reach a certain point in your training.
When you have questions, do you get a clear answer right away or do you get an evasive response? The response you get is a good sign of what kind of service you can expect.
Many schools require you to sign a contract in order to take classes. Some schools offer a trial period where you can pay for a number of classes before you agree to a contract. A contract is simply a written agreement between you and the school, and it can always be negotiated. They should be willing to explain the details of the contract to your full understanding and agree to make any changes you feel are important, as long as it’s mutually beneficial.9. Price and Fees:How important is price to you? For many people, it’s the only real limiting factor.Since most people don’t know how to compare value to price, martial arts schools generally don’t advertise their prices – unless they’re promotional.Be honest. Before you read this guide, what’s one of the first thing you wanted to know about a martial arts school?Fees are usually priced by:Term period – specified time period with flexibility of the amount of classes taken, usually monthly or yearly
Number of classes – specified amount of classes taken
Combination of term and number of classes – usually a monthly fee based on the number of classes taken per week
Specific Programs – packaged programs such as Black Belt Clubs, Instructor Programs, Certification Programs, Seminars, etc.Tuition can range anywhere from $50 per month to $500 per month, depending on the school. Nowadays, the average tuition is about $150 per month for 2-3 classes per week.Tuition isn’t the only cost to consider. You will eventually be investing in training equipment, to some extent. Keep in mind that some styles require more equipment.While price is important, a common mistake is to compare price without comparing value.Consider the previous steps and the benefits before you focus on price. This way you can place some sort of dollar value on each component of a school and then shop around.Think of the convenience of schedule and location, the suitability of teaching style, class dynamic and level of instruction in relation to your personality and goals – can you put a price on that?With the knowledge you gained by reading this guide, you can make an educated choice in “how to invest” in your training instead of “being sold” a membership.Most schools require annual contracts. The contract should clearly explain the details of your membership. Generally, schools don’t offer any refunds on tuition.In most cases, a school will agree to make reasonable changes to the contract if you ask them.If you’re committed to your practice and have found a school following this guide, signing a contract is usually not an issue. However, knowing potential costs and understanding school policies will help you negotiate any changes, if necessary. What you’re really after is “peace of mind”, isn’t it?A contract should be mutually beneficial, so you want to insure that the contract also benefits you. This can mean discounted rates, as an example. A contract is also an incentive for you to get your money’s worth by coming to class regularly.Ask about:Price incentives for paying in full
Discounts for family members
Training equipment – and if they have to be purchased directly from the school
Belt testing fees
Any federation or association member fees
Cost for programs such as Black Belt Clubs and any other mandatory programs
Membership freezes in case of travel, injury, or maternity
Policy for relocation or moving
Fees for early cancellationIt’s also a good idea to ask whether the billing is managed directly by the school or if they use a billing company. Many schools use a billing company to help manage your tuition payments.If the school out-sources their billing, you will be dealing with the billing company for the payment of your tuition fees. The billing company will generally only contact you if you are late on your payment. If you ever have to deal with the billing company you can expect the type of service you get from a collection agency. They can also make negative reports on your credit.A high-quality school has the confidence to earn your business without requiring a contract. But they are rare. These schools are clear about their role. They focus on their core responsibility of providing quality instruction and guidance in your martial arts practice. Schools of this caliber don’t need to use creative sales and marketing techniques. Their business is built by their reputation, word-of-mouth.10. INSTINCT:Pay attention to your intuition when visiting a school. While going through the 10 steps outlined in this guide, you’ll instinctively know when you’ve found the right school.How long the school has been in business? Are they stable?
Are you confident in the instructor?
Do you like the instructor’s teaching style and personality?
Are the students friendly?
Did you have fun? Did you feel inspired?Ultimately, we make decisions based on our emotions and we justify them with logic. Your decision should be instant and definite. If you find yourself thinking too much or having to convince yourself, something is out of whack. Go back to step 1 or keep looking.

Congratulations! If you’ve read this far, martial arts is obviously for you!Now you have the foundational knowledge that will add tremendous value to your training and save you precious time and money!Make the decision and begin your journey! Follow your heart and follow through! It’s the only path to true happiness. You’ll thank yourself as the quality of your life improves as a result of martial arts practice.Have a fun, safe and fulfilling martial arts journey!Share your experiences and visit my blog!http://stevesdragon.com/

rootmaster

Business Practices in Language Schools

An English Language School’s key goals, strategies and objectives should provide the fundamental planning and operational tool for the development and continuous improvement of the school.The business practices that a school chooses to follow will set the boundaries and dynamics of development. This is why it is very important that managers understand the complex nature of this market. In doing so they must establish an organizational structure that creates the best possible environment for both staff and students to develop their capabilities to the fullest.

Sales staff must be fully trained, and must have deep knowledge of all the products (courses) on offer

The underlying reason why any organization (with the exception of non-profitable ones) goes into business is to generate profits. In the English Language School business, managers must balance profitability with educational value. This is to say, profits must be maximized while excelling in product value and quality. In such a sensitive market, schools cannot just focus on cost cutting to become profitable. Managers must concentrate on efficiency and the marketing value proposition in order to optimize resources and performance.This article’s purpose is to show the reader how to structure and utilize business resources that can help increase a school’s efficiency, and so its profits.Management Structures:The organizational structure that a school follows depends greatly on its size. A small school will have a very much centralized decision making structure, while larger schools are more decentralized.

• Providing catering services which are hygienic give value for money and encourage healthy eating

It is common to find roll-overlapping in smaller schools, as resources are scarcer and staff take on a series of rolls. This is neither a weakness nor a problem when the number of students is limited. However as a school grows, its organizational structure must extend to become as efficient as possible.The larger the school the greater the number of staff in each department resulting in tasks being outsourced.The optimum number of staff in each department depends on each and every single school.

The finance department is also then responsible for monitoring and guarding the inflows and outflows of cash, the credit provided and the debts obtained

However, managers must always remember that under-staffing is just as detrimental as over-staffing.Marketing Department:Any organization which wishes to be successful in the 21st century must follow a marketing oriented strategy. This means, finding out what are the consumers needs first, and then matching them to the schools capabilities. The reasoning behind the marketing concept is that although a school may offer excellent products, if learners are not interested in them and do not want them, the school will make no profits.Marketing ResearchIn an English Language School research is extremely important in order to determine key factors such as:• Market size
• Potential Demand
• Potential Profitability
• Product characteristics that potential customers would prefer
• Who the competitors are and what their position in the market isMarket research must be carried out constantly in order to attract new learners as well as to maintain the current learner’s loyalty to the school. However, a strong argument against marketing research is the fact that it may become very costly. Schools should always remember that without research it is very hard to obtain a clear image of the schools positioning and value in the learner’s mind. So although outsourcing research can be costly, some forms of research are inexpensive and can be conducted internally. For example start and end of term surveys in the form of multiple choice questionnaires can obtain information on learner’s perceptions and their experience.Advertising and CommunicationsIt is through Advertising that a school can create brand awareness, product awareness and can place the full offering to the target markets. The target markets are not always the learners per se, but parents who wish to enroll their children as well. Through Advertising the schools must communicate its achievements and successes in order to gain students and retain the loyalty among existing ones.Effective advertising can be achieved by determining who the target market is, and so conveying a message that they would not only understand but be attracted to. This may sound simple, but believe me when I say it is not. Outsourcing advertising is usually the best alternative for all schools who can afford it. Smaller schools usually resort to simple leaflets and word of mouth, which must by no means must be underestimated. Outsourced or not, the Marketing, Advertising and Communications functions must be synergistic and congruent with all the other marketing activities.Sales and PromotionsIt is recommended that this activity is not undertaken by the school teachers, as it happens in many cases. The reason for this being, that it is very confusing for a learner to discuss financial aspects with his/her teacher. However it is recommended that teachers endorse the part of the sale in which academics are discussed. Sales staff must be fully trained, and must have deep knowledge of all the products (courses) on offer.The school may use as promotional tools not only in-house Attendance Certificates, but also International exam preparation courses such as Oxford and Cambridge ESOL, IELTS, TOEFL and others. The Internet is a magnificent tool for sales and promotions as web-sites let interested consumers have a good look at the school’s offerings and have an inside look at its infrastructure and atmosphere without actually visiting the school. So the Sales and Promotions team must always work closely with the ICT department in ensuring that the school web site is clear, has reliable information, is up to date, and keeps a record of all interested visitors.Public RelationsPublic relations activities are designed to generate goodwill and to create a positive image of the school and its courses. The PR function is to ensure that members of the school’s community are aware of the events, achievements and future developments of the school. Keeping in touch with ex-students and exposing their achievements is a typical PR strategy.In general, the marketing activities are meant to generate a positive brand recognition that carries the value and benefits of the school’s offerings to the target market. The Marketing Manager must ensure that all marketing activities are coordinated to maximize their effect on student enrolment.Finance Department:An English Language School must ensure that it has sufficient financial resources to support its overall strategic objectives as well as its tactical goals. It should also ensure that the school has a comfortable liquidity ratio, meaning that there are no negative cash flows. The finance department is also then responsible for monitoring and guarding the inflows and outflows of cash, the credit provided and the debts obtained.In terms of credit, the Finance department must ensure that fees are paid timely and that bad debt is reduced to a minimum. Many schools adopt a “cash up front” policy, although it may not always work. Credit records must always be obtained before providing credit to anyone.The Finance Department is also responsible for determining and forecasting costs for every term. These costs are the basis on which fee structures are developed for each course. When developing fees, the Finance Department must set realistic enrollment targets that are congruent with the facilities available and the optimum teaching class sizes.In the case of schools that are privately owned by a small number of partners, pressures on performance are not as high as for schools owned by large numbers of shareholders. The Finance Department must not only follow cost cutting strategies to improve performance, but should focus on efficiency. In education, quality must never be compromised.An English Language School should attempt to establish financial policies and standards to provide a systematic approach to financial resource management, and evaluation of performance and accountability by:• Maintaining and regularly reviewing the following financial policies:
– Accounting Manuals
– Accounting Policies
– Budgeting Procedures and Guidelines
– Corporate Manual• Yearly analysis on audited financial statements
• Ensuring the contents of all financial policies are communicated to relevant members of the staff.It is common in small schools, where decision making is centralized, for accounting services to be outsourced. In such cases the financial decisions would be taken by the CEO.Information Communication Technology:The importance of this department is sometimes undermined, but doing so can be strongly detrimental for the success of the business. An English language school must understand the importance of keeping up with the technological changes of the market, both inside and outside the classroom.The ICT department can ensure that the school has the appropriate technological infrastructure by implementing an ongoing system for assessing the school’s technological needs. This department is also responsible for generating a budget that obtains approved funding from school fees.This department is responsible for implementing security programmes on all:• database access
• document recovery
• document backup
• web page accessAn English Language School should attempt to design and develop a universal platform which allows interfacing of all existing and new computer-based systems by:• Maintaining standard specifications of hardware, software, networking and communication equipment.
• Practicing standard operating procedures throughout the school.As discussed earlier, it is essential for the school that the ICT department provides constant support to all other departments and their needs. In order to do that, all members of staff must have a certain level of technological and ICT skills. In house or outsourced training must be provided in order to constantly improve the general level of ICT skills throughout the school.ICT is an ever developing arena, so when necessary ICT services must be outsourced in order to keep up with change. It is also important that the school benchmarks the levels of ICT used by other school nationally and internationally to ensure its success.Human Resources:An English Language School should attempt to attract and select a suitable, highly qualified and competent workforce, through effective human resource planning, innovative recruitment programmes and appropriate selection techniques by:• Identifying annual manpower recruitment needs:
-identifying sources of recruitment
-recruiting appropriately qualified staff
-reviewing remuneration packages to ensure competitiveness with similar employers.Through effective line management, and a system of recognition, rewards and incentives, together with career and growth opportunities the school should be able to retain a high percentage of its workforce.The HR department is responsible for:• Ensuring that all staff share an awareness that the core business of the school is teaching and learning.
• Encouraging greater staff stability.
• Providing for career advancement of all staff in ways that are consistent with their own professional needs of the school.An English Language School should attempt to provide opportunities for staff to participate in relevant training and development programmes so as to continually enhance staff expertise. This can be achieved by providing appropriate training for academic and non academic staff, as well as by encouraging teachers to upgrade their qualifications. A way of doing so is by maintaining and improving the Professional Review and Development Programme.The HR department is also responsible for nurturing a supportive and productive work environment that fosters teamwork and promotes optimum benefits to the individual and the organization. The organizing of events that foster better relations among staff can help in ensuring a harmonious working environment. Providing an attractive and physical environment which allows staff to work effectively is also an important responsibility for thus department.Academic Department:The Director of Studies should attempt to recruit teachers of the highest quality in terms of academic and professional qualifications and who possesses the qualities of an ideal teacher by:• Ensuring that individual teachers’ qualifications and professional experiences are relevant.
• Providing a salary and benefits package which attracts teachers of the highest caliber.
• Ensuring that the recruitment and induction programme is conducted to the highest professional standards.Under the supervision of the Director of Studies the department is divided into 3 different areas (that will depend largely on the courses offered by the school). Each area has a designated coordinator i.e. Business English Coordinator, Young Learners Coordinator and Adult Learners Coordinator. Each coordinator is responsible for the running and organization of their designated arenas.The Academic department is one of the most important departments because its staff are responsible for creating and delivering the service (English language teaching) to the consumers. This is why an English language school should ensure that teachers constantly review and deliver the following:• A broad and balanced curriculum which is subject to ongoing review and development.
• Information and advice concerning education, career opportunities and development.
• A love of learning and encouraging students to develop as responsible members of society.
• Recognizing that the acquisition of academic, personal, social, emotional and health skills and knowledge are central to realizing individual potential.
• Ensuring that academic policies are regularly reviewed and updated in relation to the needs of students.
• Recording, reporting and utilizing the results of assessment in order to set targets to enhance teaching and learning.
• Promoting parental links.
• Identifying and addressing the academic, personal and social needs of individual students.
• Providing challenging and open-ended tasks promoting independent and critical thinking.
• Supporting and praising individual effort and achievement to develop self-esteem and confidence.Physical Infrastructure:An English Language School must equip and maintain its campus facilities and amenities, ensuring that they are functional, aesthetic and provide conducive and safe environments for students and staff.A capital expenditure budget must be set in order to have physical infrastructure development priorities and provide for maintenance and upgrading of physical resources.It is fundamental that the school provides sufficient classroom and specialist accommodation appropriate to the age of the students to meet curricular requirements. The facilities must be sufficiently attractive to encourage interest and application from prospective entrants to the school. From a business perspective, effective maintenance must be followed to retain the capital value of the site, buildings and equipment.An English Language School should attempt to systematically monitor standards and quality against established benchmarks and industry best practices. The constant review and use of new technology is vital for improving the functionality and efficiency of physical resources. It is also important that the school carries out its business in a socially responsible way. So it should attempt to promote good energy management and maintain a clean and healthy environment by:• Providing sufficient, high quality and hygienic washroom facilities for both students and staff.
• Providing catering services which are hygienic give value for money and encourage healthy eating.
• Promoting efficient use of energy and minimize wastage.
• Providing an attractive and clean school environment.An English Language School must comply with statutory and regulatory requirements including those relating to safety and health, environmental standards and other industry-related requirements. A good method of control is auditing. The school should attempt to audit space needs and usage on a regular basis for optimum use of physical resources and to ensure cost effectiveness in their upkeep and maintenance by:• Carrying out a physical infrastructure condition audit.
• Determining the basis of carrying out an annual audit of the use of all school facilities.Overview of Business Practices:An English Language School should attempt to ensure that the management system is comprehensive and generates appropriate information in a timely manner for decision making by:• Periodically reviewing the type of information that is required for efficient decision making and ensuring that the management information system can provide such information.
• Maintaining an information system which allows all required information to be easily stored and retrieved.
• Promoting links with other related agencies to set-up potential customer information.
• Establishing direct links with other schools and institutions to update knowledge of new management technologies.An English Language School should attempt to continually streamline and update systems and processes to enhance effectiveness and efficiency through use of technology by:• Developing a systematic process for good practice and management of change by fully utilizing ICT facilities.
• Establishing consistent quality processes and standardized frameworks throughout the system.
• Ensuring all implemented systems benefit the development of teaching and learning.An English Language School should attempt to ensure that the system and processes implemented accord all customers the highest level of service, benchmarked against leading English Language education providers by:• Establishing a quality system that focuses on student and community needs.
• Ensuring that the system implemented is an effective means for control and monitoring for effective corrective action.
• Establishing the feedback channel within the school for effective corrective action.
• Benchmarking with other English Language Schools and with English Language Teaching bodies.An English Language School should attempt to establish internal and external communication processes which are capable of receiving, responding to and disseminating information in a timely manner by:• Identifying areas of weakness and ways of improving the existing communication system.
• Implementing new communication technology facilities.
• Organizing events that help promote relationships between the different divisions.An English Language School should attempt to enhance internal controls and audit mechanism to better manage risks and improve productivity by:• Improving and streamlining the internal audit system.
• Establishing methodology for measurement and accountability based on real data for effective decision making.An English Language School should ensure that the systems and processes incorporate adequate security features to protect intellectual property and maintain system integrity by:• Conforming to national and international regulations on intellectual property rights.It is here stated that no profit maximization strategies should be followed if their result is detrimental towards the quality of the courses. But where to draw the line between cost cutting and lowering service quality depends on the nature of each and every single school.

Jason Geyser

rootmaster

Private Schools – What Types Are There?

You’ve made the decision to begin searching for a private school for your child. With 25 percent of all the elementary and secondary schools in the nation listed as private or independent, where do you begin? A good place to start is understanding the different types of private schools.Independent vs Private SchoolsAlthough “private school” and “independent school” are often used interchangeably the two are different. Usually a private school is part of a larger organization such as a church or religious community.

Many include a JROTC or Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and are a path to the country’s military academies

In contrast an independent school is just that, independent of other organizations with its own board of governors or trustees. What they have in common, is that both are funded with tuition, fees and donations.Private School Grade LevelsMost private schools are divided by grade levels. Students in kindergarten through grade five attend an elementary school, while those in grades six through eight go to a middle school. Junior high is a variation of that idea since is serves students in grades seven through nine. Private high schools are for students in grades nine through 12 or freshmen through seniors. College Prep are just that: schools with a heavy emphasis on academics which prepare a student to go to college.

Catholic schools are sometimes called parochial schools and are the most common type of religious school in the United States

Day Schools/Country Day SchoolsDay or Country Day schools are private schools which students attend during the day and then go home at night. Usually Country Day Schools are located in the country or suburbs.Boarding SchoolsWhen many people think of a private school, they think of boarding schools. Although only one type of private school, boarding schools where students live in dorms or halls on campus, are the stereotypical independent school portrayed in movies or books. A residential school, where students live on campus Monday through Friday or all week long, these institutions offer students a highly structured day with set times for classes meals, athletics, study and recreation. Most American boarding schools are for students in high school. The con of going to a boarding school is being away from home and having the faculty and advisers making some daily decisions usually left to parents.

Generally they also offer a strong academic curriculum

Being away from home is also an argument for boarding school since it allows students to exert their independence and build confidence. Some parents also like the daily supervision their child will receive.Special Needs SchoolsSpecial needs private schools serve a wide range of students. Some are geared for those with learning or physical disabilities, while others focus on those with emotional needs. Still others offer students who are extremely bright an atmosphere where they can blossom or those who want to focus on one talent – a place where they can hone their ability. Searches for these types of institutions are very specific and should be done with the needs of your child in mind.Single Sex / Coeducational SchoolsAt one time most private schools were single sex schools where boys went to school with boys girls went to school with girls. That has all changed. Most private schools are now co-educational with boys and girls going to school together. Some single sex schools remain and many parents and educators are again interested in this type of program, especially for older students. According to some educational experts the single sex school create opportunities that don’t exist in the coed classrooms as long as teachers are trained to capitalize on the difference by employing strategies geared for girls in an all-girls school and those for boys in an all-boys school. Administrators and teachers both believe the major benefit of single sex schools is decreasing the distractions to learning with a corresponding increase in student achievement. Educational research has shown the benefits of single sex schools are greatest for at-risk students and some ethnic minorities. More modest benefits are realized for other students. In contrast many educators believe we live in a coed society and students need to learn how to interact with each other.Military SchoolsIs your child dreaming of a military career? Then one of the 30 military schools in the United States might be the perfect fit. This type of private school, which are primarily boarding schools for those in grades nine and up, focus on personal and team discipline along with academic curriculum and technology. Leadership and patriotism are emphasized at these selective private schools. Many include a JROTC or Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and are a path to the country’s military academies.Religious or Parochial Private SchoolsIf you have a strong faith or want your child to receive religious instruction, a religious school might be the right choice. Religious schools are supported by one faith and usually teach the tenets, philosophy and practices of that religion. Generally they also offer a strong academic curriculum. Some religious schools are more relaxed, providing classes in world religion or philosophy instead of those about their faith. Others are stricter, requiring students and families to be members of the religion, signing a profession of faith and adherence to its religious practices and beliefs. Catholic schools are sometimes called parochial schools and are the most common type of religious school in the United States. But almost every faith has religious schools in this country.Montessori SchoolsBased on the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, a medical doctor and educator, this type of private school works to teach the whole child in classrooms filled with hands-on materials that stimulate students’ senses and motor skills. Emphasizing multiple-intelligences, Montessori schools promote self-directed learning, independence and individuality. Students of various ages are mixed in classrooms with flexible, non-competitive environments and a lack of grades, rewards or punishments. Most Montessori programs in the U.S. are for elementary age children.Waldorf SchoolsEmphasizing discovery and imagination as a basis of learning, Waldorf schools were created by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and writer. Steiner’s philosophy, anthroposophy, states that to understand the universe an individual must understand humanity first. Stressing music, art and language along with traditional subjects, Waldorf teachers encourage students’ creativity in learning. Based in a roomy, homelike classroom with a teacher who has progressed through the grades with them, students may focus on one subject for as long as a month as they slowly learn all about it. Students often create their own toys and learning objects in this type of private school and are not graded on their work. Waldorf schools go from preschool through grade 12.

Selecting a private school [http://privateschoolu.com] can feel overwhelming, but PrivateSchoolU.com [http://privateschoolu.com] has the resources you need to make an informed decision.

rootmaster

Record Keeping In Schools

Over the years, Nigerian school administrators, especially, the lslamiyyah schools had paid Lip services to the proper keeping of records. All these schools do is simply teach and graduate students. However as observed by NTI, (2000:12) in 1964, a headmaster of one primary school in our neighboring Bauchi State was faced with one serious experience.

Facilitate the supply of information to parents or guardians for effective monitoring of the progress of their children in school or performance

A form containing many questionnaires about one of the old pupils of the school who was nominated to be appointed as the chairman of the Federal Public Service Commissioner was given to him to complete. The pupil graduated many years before the headmaster even went to primary school. Therefore, the headmaster did not know the man personally and did not know what to write about him.The only solution available to the headmaster was to turn to the school records. The school records showed the year the pupil was admitted, the year he passed out, the records of his good academic performance, records of annual prizes given to the pupil among others.It was these records that helped the headmaster to correctly and accurately filled the form that assisted the person to be successfully appointed.DEFINITION OF CONCEPTSSchool records keeping: This concept according to NTI (2000:12) is the history of the school kept systematically. This means that the systematic growth of the school at various points in time need to be thoroughly recorded and kept by school administrators.

EJGENERAL RECORDS:A school also need the following records:i

it is the authentic register of instruments of officials accounts of transaction or accurance which are preserved in the schools office (Olanrewaju 200S).Aleiyideino SC et al (202) defined record as a written statement about a happening. School record keeping according to these scholars are records that give a lot of information about the school that will enable the authority to take decisions and asses the progress of the school. Head of School shall refer to both head teacher and principal.Student: It shall be used to refer to both pupils and students. These records according to Dibu-Ojerinde,00 and Tukur(ed) (2005:21) classified school records into (a) Statutory Records (b) Academic Records (c) Finance Records (d) Staff Record(e) General Records.

FINANCE RECORDThe school needs account records such as:i

Also linking Muslim schools to the category of voluntary agencies interested in educational development, Eke, et al (2000:46) explained that the Izalatil bid’a Wa Iqamatis Sunnah group, the Jama’atu Nasrul Islam, is the Islamic Trust of Nigeria (ITN) among others have contributed immensely not only to the development of education but also to proper school records keeping in Nigeria. Here cognitive and effective domains are highly exhibited unlike public schools that deal with only cognitive domain.It is in light of the above that we are going to discuss the classification of school records as listed by Dibu-Ojerinde 0.0 and Tukur H.as follows:A). STATUTORY RECORDS1. ADMISSION REGISTERThis is a register of admission, progress and withdrawal of students, it should contain the following particulars about the admitted students.(a) Admission number (b) Name in full (c) Sex (d) Name and address of parent/guardians (e) Day Month and year of birth (f) Previous school attended (g) Last class read (h) Day, month, class, of admission (i) Records of progress (j) date of leaving school (k) Reason for leaving etc (1) Transfer certificate number.All the entries should be hand-written and corrections should be made in such a way that the original entry and the correction are both clearly distinguished. It should be kept for not less than fifteen (15) years from the date of last entry.2. ATTENDANCE REGISTER.This is register that is kept for each class containing the particulars in respect of every student until such student leaves the school. Students’ regular attendance or otherwise can be traced here easily, it should contain (a) Admission number (b) Name in full, sure name first etc.3. LOG BOOK.This book contains records of important events happening in the school. The history of the school can be compiled from this record. It should be kept under lock and key.4. VISITORS BOOKThis is a record showing names, address of all important visitors to the school as well as the purpose of such visit.5. PUNISHMENT BOOKThe education law permits only the head of school or his representative to inflict corporal punishment on erring students. A proper reoord is kept containing (a) The name of the offender (b) The date of such punishment (c) The nature of offence (d) the person who administered the punishment etc.This record helps to protect the teachers against aggrieved parents. It can serve as witness for the school to trace the trend of such students.6. EDUCATION LAWThe school should keep Education Law with its regulations to assist the school in operating in line with such regulations.7 NATIONAL POLICY ON EDUCATIONEach school must have a copy of the National policy on Education.8, INSPECTION REPORT FILEThis is a record containing the reports of visits to the school by inspectors as it helps during follow-up inspections.9. STAFF DUTY BOOK.This is a record that shows a brief report of happenings in the school on daily basis. In secondary schools, the perfects also write daily report in prefect duty book.10. MINUTES OF MEETING BOOKThere should be a hard cover book to be used for recording of minutes of meeting for easy reference to the decisions taken in meetings.B). ACADEMIC RECORDi) Approved copy of syllabusii) Academic Syllabus files1. APPROVED SYLLABUS:Academic programme of institutions are based on approved syllabus of the course to be run, it could be primary school syllabus, NTI syllabus for teachers colleges, WAEC/NECO syllabus etc. the school need a syllabus to follow.2. SCHEME OF WORKThis is the aspect that breakdown the syllabus into teaching units. It is broken down into topics, performance objectives, etc. lit has to be kept by every teacher to be marked and endorsed by the headmaster.3. RECORD OF WORK BOOKThis aspect further break down the scheme of work into weekly records of what the teacher has taught. It should be kept by teachers and cheeked and endorsed by the headmaster.4. LESSON NOTE BOOKOne may call it lesson plan, it is like the site plan for the architect. It is prepared so that you follow it without forgetting a process. it reduces your energy of remembering the next step to do while teaching. It should contain topic, date, time of the day, duration of the lesson, age, sex, and class. Others includes: aims and objective, previous knowledge introduction, presentation evaluation and conclusion.5. MARKS BOOKSThis is used in compiling continues assessment (CA) record. It is used to build up CA as it is either on weekly, fortnightly or monthly as the case may be.6. CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT DOSSIER/REPORT SHEETSchools used C.A dossier for examination records for every student. Two copies are needed for a student, one for the school and another one for the student. It should contain cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of the student.7. SCHOOL TIME TABLEThis shows the daily activities of the school, class by class, period by period and the names of teachers handling them. It sums up the number of period allocated to a subject and the number of subjects arid periods taught by a teacher in a week.8. LESSON ATTENDANCE REGISTERIt is kept by the class captain of each subject to be signed at the end of the period by teachers. It can cheek teachers who do not go to classes as and when due9. TRANSFER CERTIFICATEThis is in a booklet form issued to students who leave the school before getting to the terminal class. It helps both the school releasing the students and the schools receiving students.10. LEAVING CERTIFICATEUnclaimed certificates testimonials etc should be kept under key and luck11. FILES FOR ACADEMIC RECORDS OF DIFFERENT SUBJECT MATTERS NEED TO BE KEPTC). FINANCE RECORDThe school needs account records such as:i. Salary and payment voucher:- these are kept in labeled files to show salary payment and other payments made in the school.it School fees register:- It is kept to give the financial transactions in the school. It gives information about income and expenditure items. It promotes accountability and prevents corrupt and sharp practices.iii. Fees receipts:- It is issued to students as they pay fees while the duplicates is kept for auditor and inspectors.iv. Cash Book:- It shows the receipts and payments of the school.v. Ledger Book:- It is used to record all the debit and credit transacts of the school.vi. Bank Reconciliation to Reconcile the School Transaction with the bank (to come into agreement)vii. Stock Book:- It is used to keep the inventory of the landed property and other assets of the school with liabilities shown.viii. I.O.U Book:- This is used to service short term financial assistance to staff, payable on payment of salary.D). STAFF RECORDS:i. Staff Time Book:- This is for staff attendance, it shows the tune each staff come to school (late corners cab be easily detected)ii. Staff movement Book:- This is the record that indicate when staff move out of the school during school hours and when they returned.iii. Staff Confidential Report: (ANNUAL EVALUATION REPORT FORM-APER FORM) This is used for staff promotion and reward.iv. Staff Files: Each member of staff should have a personal file, which contain the record of service with proper references.v. Staff List:- List of staff suppose to be kept including the school organization.vi. Files on Subject matter in the accounts need to be keptE). EJGENERAL RECORDS:A school also need the following records:i. Parents Teachers Association Minutes bookii. Parents Teachers Association Account Bookiii. Board of Directors minutes Booksiv. Suggestion files and Boxv. Instruction Book or Internal Circular Filevi. Correspondence Files on various SubjectsIMPORTANCE OF RECORD KEEPING IN THE SCHOOLSThe importance of record keeping in schools according to Olgboye Cited in Olararenwaji I.T (2009:1) and Dibu Ojermde and Tukur (ed) (2005:27), include;1. It tells the history of the school2. It facilitates continuity in the school administration3. It facilitates and enhance the provision of effective guidance and counseling service for students in the social career domains4. Provides information needed on ex-students by higher and other related institution and employers of labour for admission or placement.5. Facilitate the supply of information to parents or guardians for effective monitoring of the progress of their children in school or performance.6. Provides data needed for planning and decision making by school authority7. Provide’ a basis for the objective assessment of the state of teaching and learning in the school, including staff and students performance by supervisors and inspectors.8. Provide information for the school community, the general public, employers, researchers for the advancement of knowledge.9. It ensures that the headmaster keeps strictly to the education regulations.10. School records can be used as reference materials for both the teachers and the administrators.ABUSES OF SCHOOL RECORDSSome time according to Aleiyideino, Sc et a! (2000:79) some school abuse records keeping by:1. Non availability of records:- They do not keep such records and cannot produce same when the need arise.2. Problem of storage:- Some school have these records but are not properly stored according to subject matter.3. Ignorance on the part of head teachers:- Some head teachers are not even aware of the importance of records keeping in school or how to even keep these records.4. Poor Supervision by Head teacher or supervisor:- Some Head teachers do not keep records because no body request for such records.5. If the information given are false or incomplete, it cannot give us accurate information needed.CONCLUSION:This means that we must know the importance of keeping records and with truthful and complete information This will enable our schools to be up to date and respond to any question or fill any form about our school without difficulties.REFERENCE:Olanrewaju, I.T (2008) Importance of Record keeping In School” being Paper Presented to the Department of PHE University of Ilorin PP 1-10.2. Aleiyideini, SC et al (2002)”Record Keeping” in NTI (2002) School Management Course Book On Education pp 69-783. Eke E(2000)”School Administration and Management” In NTI (2000) education Cycle 4. PP 12-134. Dibu Ojerinde, 0.0 and Tukur, H (2005) “Record Keeping” Inspection manual in NTI PGDE by DLS. PP2 1-27.BY
MAL. ABDULKARIM N. BELLO
COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, JALINGO
TARABA STATE, NIGERIA.

rootmaster

What Are Charter Schools? Choices in Education

Choices in EducationParents want the best of everything for his or her kids, but when it comes to education, sometimes it is hard to know how to make that happen. Private school? Public school? Charter school? What is the difference and which can provide the most effective chance for our individual children, as well as for the strength of our economy and our country.Public SchoolThough it appears a given that a sturdy public education system is part of the American way, it wasn’t until 1918 that all American kids were required to attend at least elementary school.

They’re public schools that operate under the same testing requirements, are funded publicly, and have open and equal, tuition-free enrollment, just like a neighborhood public school

Prior to that, and despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson had argued that the newly independent nation required an academic system, suggesting that tax dollars be used to fund it, the thought for a public school system wasn’t realized for nearly a century.As public schooling, and of course taxation for education, proliferated, obvious questions arose. What IS the government’s role in educating the populace? Who is to receive the education funded by the public? How is quality to be measured and ensured?Private SchoolEven in its early stages, public schooling was only available to those that could afford it. A sort of hybrid of public and private, schools were open solely to landowners who could pay for their kids to attend. Considered public faculties because they were government run, not religious establishments, they still excluded those that were too poor.Private school applies to anything from a personal instructor employed to teach youngsters in their house, to a variety of institutions with their own curriculums. The common thread is that parents opt for the school, pay tuition, and abide by its rules and regulations. Often those rules include school uniforms and compliance to other codes of conduct. Students may be expelled for violations.

Grant promised that “Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar of the cash appropriated to their support shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school; that neither the state or nation, not both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford to each child within the land the chance of a good common-school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheistic dogma

Since problems of social inequality arise with Private schools and education of only the rich, a solution of vouchers, paid by the government to assist poorer families to pay private tuition, has been offered. Some may find it surprising that some of the concepts debated today have extremely early foundations. School choice, or the concept of vouchers to assist in obtaining private school attendance, was introduced as early as 1778, by Adam Smith, who proposed that the government give parents money to get teachers for their kids, as a result of parents are in the most effective position to judge their own children’s needs. In 1798, Thomas Paine agreed with Smith, advocating money for poor families to educate their kids. These founders might not have known it, but they were the genesis of the voucher movement.But, there are a number of objections to the voucher program.

What once was few and far between, can now be an overwhelming choice

The primary complaint is the very fact that several private schools are also religious establishments, and by an interpretation of the separation of church and state, government vouchers to attend those religious schools would be tantamount to the government funding that faith. As early as 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant promised that “Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar of the cash appropriated to their support shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school; that neither the state or nation, not both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford to each child within the land the chance of a good common-school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheistic dogma.” In 1970 1971, respectively, vouchers were both approved and ruled by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional if used for religious schools. Several states currently have voucher programs, whereas as early as 2000, voters in California and Michigan rejected voucher initiatives at the polls. Mired in controversy, vouchers are clearly not THE answer parents are trying for.Charter SchoolWhile several individuals think that Charters are Private schools, they are, after all Public Schools. Throughout the 70’s, innovative district schools were founded in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and St. Paul. These faculties rejected the notion that “one size fits all” and sought to form distinctive schools that give choices to parents and students. In the Nineteen Eighties, Minnesota allowed public funds and looser administrative requirements for brand new schools, laying groundwork for the first official Charter School legislation in 1991.”Charter Schools are distinct legal entities. They’re public schools that are financed by public funds but are governed by their own specific charter and not by the regular public school rules. State Legislatures enact charter school enabling legislation and determine the framework for charter approval. New schools may be created or converted from existing public schools under the direction of educators, parents, community members or private concerns.”Charter schools are, thus, not an indictment on public schools, but really a natural outgrowth of the public school system. It’s not a question of charter school vs. public school – they are two sides of the same coin. Charter schools supply parents options and choice among the framework of the system. They’re public schools that operate under the same testing requirements, are funded publicly, and have open and equal, tuition-free enrollment, just like a neighborhood public school.The distinction is that every charter school has its own mission, or “charter” within the community it serves. This charter, approved by the government, is custom fit to fulfill the requirements of a specific student population or offer a unique academic philosophy, approach, or curriculum not obtainable elsewhere. So, for a child who is not succeeding in the classroom because she or he has an unconventional learning style, there is likely a charter school option. Or alternately, a child that is succeeding, but is not being challenged enough might find a charter school better suits her needs. These are some of the charter school benefits – choice, customization, parent involvement, smaller class sizes, innovation, accountability based on performance and market forces. Many parents who might have had a bad experience with an educator at a public school openly embrace the charter school’s ability to hire and fire without Union ramifications and District regulations, but based on performance alone. However, the flip side of that coin ends up in insecurity for teachers, potential for favoritism, and with loose administrative requirements to encourage innovation, it can sometimes mean lack of educational background informing decision making. Other criticisms include waiting lists that limit the claim of “choice” to attend, the push towards innovation leads instead to creation of laboratories for curriculum that risks kids in its testing, and lack of oversight for quality – relying instead on market forces to determine quality, i.e. ‘if the school is not great, they won’t be able to maintain attendance.’ Finally, the diversion of public funds from public schools has many teachers unions angry as the charter movement gains momentum. The funds determined for a child move with that child to their charter. If, however, the child decides part way through the year, to return to public school, the funds do not travel back. The public school must carry the burden of the student.

Charter School InformationMany communities invested in the well-being of its children, has, not-surprisingly, latched on enthusiastically to the charter movement. Schools appear to be springing up on every corner sometimes. What once was few and far between, can now be an overwhelming choice. How do parents even begin to search out information? Especially when there is no centralized source for information. That is what Charter School Authority hopes to offer – ONE place to get your charter school [http://www.charterschoolauthority.com] questions answered. For parents, they provide Utah charter school names, locations, easy access to school websites, and answers to commonly asked charter school definitions and queries.For charter schools and educators, they supply charter school job listings, current information and news, and a great place for the general public to find out about your school.Everyone curious about charter schools will find something of interest in the Charter School Authority blog, which will offer updated information about and of interest to the charter school community.Charter School Authority’s purpose is to partner with parents and educators by providing a comprehensive informational site to help negotiate your educational optionsGet all of your charter school questions answered at [http://www.charterschoolauthority.com]

rootmaster

Protecting Our Schools on a Budget: Are SRO’s the Only Answer?

If you are the Chief, a patrolman, detective, a school resource officer, or a parent there is a good chance you have found yourself in conversations with friends, colleagues, or citizens about school violence in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Whether these conversations take place in the squad room, a City Council meeting, or over dinner, it becomes obvious that there is no clear answer to the prevention of school violence. The depravity of the Sandy Hook shooting has shed a very public spot light on the dark reality of how vulnerable our youngest citizens can be at school.School violence is unfortunately part of our American history dating back to the 18th Century.

Unfortunately, as time has marched on, school shootings in the United States have only increased

The Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre of 1764 was regrettably our first introduction to this type of violence. On July 26th, 1764, four American Indian attackers shot and killed over eight school children along with their schoolmaster outside of what is now Greencastle, Pennsylvania. As our history progressed, school shootings did as well. Many believe the increased incidents of school shootings are a product of modern times. However, it has been deemed newsworthy as early as 1874.After a Los Angeles high school student was shot and killed, the September 11th, 1874 edition of the Los Angeles Herald declared “This boy lost his life through the too common habit among boys of carrying deadly weapons. We do not know that this habit can be broken up. We do not know that school teachers have the right, or would exercise it if they had, of searching the pockets of their pupils, but it seems almost a necessity that some such rule be enforced.

Acting as counselors and role models for youth is certainly important, however the elementary school SRO would find themselves very far removed from actual police work, and in the context of school safety, acting as little more than highly trained deterrents of external criminal activity

.. Nearly every school-boy carries a pistol, and the power of these pistols range from the harmless six-bit auction concern to the deadly Colt’s six-shooter.”Colorado has the unfortunate distinction of being home to two of the worst school shootings in history. Columbine (1999) and Platte Canyon (2006) have not only changed the landscape of how law enforcement responds to such incidents, but they have been permanently imprinted into the national consciousness of school violence. With the infamy of these incidents, it is easy to forget that Colorado school shootings can be traced back almost 4 decades prior.

The ‘good idea fairy’ has unfortunately been making the rounds

On October 17th, 1961, a Morey Junior High student in Denver was shot and killed by a fellow student. Unfortunately, as time has marched on, school shootings in the United States have only increased. Any one even casually paying attention already knows that it’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when. For those of us in law enforcement, we must honestly ask ourselves not if it will happen, but will it happen on our watch in our jurisdiction.As the tragedy of Sandy Hook was broadcast into the nations’ family rooms on December 14th, 2012, there has been a renewed outcry for increased protection of our school children to shield them from such evil. Before the crime scene was even cleared, the politicians and special interest groups were climbing over each other grabbing headlines to assign blame and offer irrational ‘solutions’ that fit their political views above that of our own children’s safety. On one side of the political aisle are politicians who would have the public believe gun bans, whistles, and call boxes are the only solutions. Politicians on the other side of the aisle want the public to believe armed teachers are the best answer. Members of academia have advocated scraping the Constitution and have told their students to vomit or urinate on potential attackers. Not to be outdone by the stories they cover, even journalists were jumping into the political absurdity by defending ‘Gun Free Zones’ and advocating for the development of bunker-like environments for schools while publicizing businesses who are pushing Kevlar backpacks to alleviate parents’ fears. The ‘good idea fairy’ has unfortunately been making the rounds.As local and national politicians continue to play the blame game and fail to offer relevant, common sense approaches, communities are naturally turning to their local Police Departments and Sheriffs Offices for reassurance that their children are protected in their schools. On the national level and the local level, the only proposal that seems to have a wide base of support from all political sides is having an increased police presence in our schools.A December 18th, 2012 (post Sandy Hook) national Gallop poll showed a whopping 87 percent of adults feel ‘Increasing the police presence at schools’ would be either a “very effective” or “somewhat effective” approach to “preventing mass shootings”. A closer examination of the poll results indicated the consensus crosses political affiliation showing 55 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats, and 53 percent of Independents feel “Increasing the police presence in schools” would be “very effective” in “preventing mass shootings”. Other proposed solutions included the banning of assault and semi-automatic firearms, arming teachers, and increased government spending on mental health yet none of these enjoyed a consensus and each showed considerable political bias towards one party or another.The concept of Police Officers in our schools is not a new one. The National School Resource Officer Association credits Flint, Michigan with the first deployment of a School Resource Officer in 1959. Over the years, the popularity and successes of the SRO program have grown and made it widely accepted among the general public as well as the Law Enforcement community. A 2006 study by Hickman and Reeves published in Western Criminology Review showed nationally “SRO programs were operational in an estimated 43 percent of local police departments and 47 percent of sheriff’s departments.” Given the current political scrum over various ‘answers’ to school shootings, the SRO program has been under a microscope and has still managed to be widely adopted and come out of the debate relatively clean from partisan politics.The public has clearly decided that they overwhelming favor an increased police presence in our schools; however, does that necessarily mean that the expansion of SROs into every school is the best solution for school safety? Law Enforcement agencies know that it is not as easy as waving a magic wand to create not only hundreds of new SROs to be placed in every school, but the millions of dollars of funding it will take to hire, train, equip and retain these SROs. Politicians on both the local and federal level like to talk about additional funding for these programs, but there is little hope, with or without additional grant dollars, of increasing the SRO ranks without considering the massive amount of money that would be needed to fund such an expansion.Presently there are no bills in front of the Colorado Legislature requesting funding specifically for SROs despite public support from numerous legislators. Colorado State Senator Steven King (R-Grand Junction) recently submitted the “School Resource Officer Programs in Public Schools” bill, SB13-138. A close examination of the bill reveals that it does not request any funding for anything. Rather than adding School Resource Officers to our schools, it only adds an SRO to the School Safety Resource Center’s Advisory Board and requires them to hire a full-time grant writer to help school districts apply for grants to be used for unspecified school safety uses.If a legislator wanted to author a bill that would fund a SRO in every Colorado school, what would it look like? The most recent data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment listed the average Colorado Police Officer salary at $59,791. According to the Colorado Department of Education there are 1,780 public schools, which if an SRO was placed in each of them, would cost a staggering annual total of $106,427,980. This astronomical amount does not include the $23,796,818 it would cost to provide the same protection to the 398 Colorado private schools would also benefit from an increased police presence. While placing an SRO in every school would significantly address the public’s plea of escalated police presence in educational institutions it is clearly not economically feasible.Even if the money were available to fund such a project, it is still unlikely that an effective expansion of SROs would be possible. The SRO position is a unique and specialized assignment requiring a unique and special individual to fill it competently. Not every Police Officer can or even wants to be a SRO just as not every Police Officer can or wants to join K9 Units, SWAT Units, Motor Divisions or any other highly specialized unit. Even if an expansion of SROs to every school in Colorado were completely funded, there simply are not enough officers with the special skills that an SRO assignment would require.During a January 13th, 2013 Wyoming Tribune Eagle interview when asked about expanding the Cheyenne Police Departments SRO program to elementary schools, former Avon (CO) Police Chief Brian Kozak (Currently Cheyenne, WY Police Chief) correctly noted “An added complication is that there wouldn’t be much traditional police work that an officer could do in an elementary school”. Even if criminal activity occurred amongst the students, beyond an armed response, there is little an SRO can do that a school administrator could not given the fact Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-801-Insufficient Age clearly states “No child under ten years of age shall be found guilty of any offense.” While an assigned SRO would still be able to quickly respond to violence, their daily police oriented work load would be minimal. “I believe that it is just as important to assign SROs to elementary schools, however their role would be vastly different than those in middle and high schools. The elementary school SRO would be more of an informal counselor and teacher. Of course they would take reports of child neglect and abuse and other crimes where children are the victims” says Sergeant Damon Vaz of the Aurora Police Department, who supervises their SRO Program. Acting as counselors and role models for youth is certainly important, however the elementary school SRO would find themselves very far removed from actual police work, and in the context of school safety, acting as little more than highly trained deterrents of external criminal activity. This begs the question, is this the best way to spend our limited resources? Likely, the answer is no.If law enforcement agencies have decided to answer the public demand for increased police presence in the schools, but we have determined that the wisdom and funding needed to put an SRO in every school is unsustainable, what are we to do? How can we increase the time an officer spends on a school campus without affecting the budget or taking regular officers away from their regular duties during school visits?
Enter the substation. Thousands of agencies nationwide already employ substations. Despite their widespread use, the function of a substation varies widely from agency to agency. Some larger substations include detention cells, intox machines, interview rooms, and AFIS terminals. Others are slightly larger than a broom closet with a few computers to write reports. The locations of substations are as varied as their functions being placed anywhere from shopping malls to convenience stores.Line level officers across the nation spend a considerable part of their day writing reports and filling out paperwork. Currently this takes place at either the police station, a substation, or in their patrol vehicles. From my experience working with numerous law enforcement agencies in Colorado, at least 30% to 40% of an Officer’s shift is spent completing reports, warrants, warrantless affidavits, citations, accident diagrams and returning phone calls and emails. Often times after a high call load day, an Officer may spend his/her entire shift completing paperwork.That time could be better much better spent if it was completed at a substation on school grounds. A limited focus substation placed on school campuses that do not already have a dedicated SRO would maximize police presence in schools with little to no additional budget consequences. The amount of time Officers would be spending at the school substation would be the same amount of time they would already spend at a non-school substation, the Police Department, or parked in a quiet parking lot. That time would have the additional effect of placing a visible deterrent with parked police vehicles outside the school and it would drastically improve the chances that a Police Officer is on campus if an attack where to take place.The school substation would have a limited but useful focus on paperwork and the clerical duties of police officers rather than suspect processing or equipment storage historically used in more traditional substations. This focus would keep potential costs low, as they would only require a small amount of space and a few computers, and it would reassure school districts that the police are not introducing criminal suspects or dangerous items to the school environment.School districts are no less immune to limited budgets than Law Enforcement agencies. With many Colorado school districts already financially strapped, asking them to help fund a vast expansion of the SRO program to every school would likely be given the cold shoulder. However, a law enforcement agency willing to provide hours of officer presence for only the cost of a desk or two in the school office would undoubtedly get a much warmer response.Budget sensitive law enforcement agencies will find that the school substations’ need for only limited equipment ensures low costs. The already low costs may be further reduced by relocating existing substations currently requiring commercial rent payments. Many departments could find additional savings by utilizing existing MDT’s for report writing thereby only needing a quiet place for the officer to sit down. I am confident the addition of a good coffee maker could entice officers to utilize these areas but in my experience officers need little motivation to make good use of a properly equipped substation. Over my law enforcement career it was clear the rank and file viewed substations as a sanctuary from excessive supervision endured at headquarters and preferred to complete their paperwork at the substation if given the opportunity.The public mandate to prevent future Sandy Hook, Columbine, and Platte Canyon tragedies is loud and clear. Law enforcement agencies also have to meet the limited budgets provided by their county commissioners and city councils. Every agency, every school district, and every community has different needs, circumstances and fiscal environments. The school substation is not the magic wand solution for every agency and should not be used as a replacement for qualified School Resource Officers if funding is available. It should, however, be explored further as a viable option in light of current financial realities and the unlikelihood of them changing in the foreseeable future. School substations not only have little to no budgetary expenditures, but they squarely address what the public, with bipartisan support, has overwhelmingly expressed would be the most effective preventative measure. Before the ‘good idea fairy’ makes a visit to your agency, please consider the idea of school substations in your jurisdiction.

About the author: Ryan Millbern is an 11 year veteran of law enforcement and public safety serving as a Patrol Officer, Detective, Sergeant, and K9 Officer with the Vail Police Department. Since 2011 Ryan has been an Explosives Detection K9 Handler on the United States Department of State Embassy Security Force in Baghdad, Iraq. More about the author can be found at http://www.ryanmillbern.com.http://www.RyanMillbern.com

rootmaster

The Jury Is Out On Independent Public Schools… You Be The Judge!

Recently, our new Liberal Government’s Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne MP, planned to introduce a new modus operandi in our education system, namely public schools being phased out in favour of ‘independent’ public schools. According to the Coalition’s “Policy for Schools” dated August 2013, Christopher Pyne stated, “A programme to implement independent public schools will lead to higher productivity and better quality education outcomes for students.” This may sound good in theory, but many questions need to be asked regarding the details of this proposed new system, and just as importantly, the concerns of private citizens and anxious parents, need to be addressed.We have not been fully or accurately briefed as to the details of how our proposed independent public school will work, for example, giving greater autonomy to Principals to determine how school funding is spent as well as giving Principals greater power to hire and fire staff, may well be positive measures.

Personal biases and prejudices would most certainly arise in such circumstances

As long as all schools have to adhere to the Australian Curriculum such change in the modus operandi of schools may well be beneficial. Alternatively, however, if independent schools in Australia are required to mimic those Charter Schools in America, we should all have grave concerns.Many people are under the impression that ‘independent’ really means ‘private’. This is not true, although these schools will be governed by methods which very closely mirror private schools. Theoretically, advantages do appear to be part and parcel of this educational system. These schools would have greater autonomy and a development programme would be put into place by Principals. The main focus of this programme would entail an in-school “preparation plan” concentrating on an individual school’s circumstances.

As long as all schools have to adhere to the Australian Curriculum such change in the modus operandi of schools may well be beneficial

Some independent public schools would join clusters, which may translate into shared resources and perhaps brainstorming of ideas that could be implemented across the cluster. School Curriculums would be decided on the premise of what would work in the best interest of the children. These independent schools would still remain an integral part of the public school system; nevertheless, the school’s curriculum would be determined by the Principal and parents involved with the running of the school. Personal biases and prejudices would most certainly arise in such circumstances.Already Western Australia accommodates this type of schooling. It was first introduced in 2009, and to date there are two hundred and fifty-five independent public schools.

Surely we owe it to the school children of today, and future leaders of tomorrow, to make sure that we get it right and not rush into this new form of education, when comparisons with other countries with similar educational institutions, have been proven to be less than effective? Australia’s students deserve the best start in education they can possibly have, and our government must ensure that equality is within each and every student’s grasp, not beyond their reach, and not just benefiting a select group of students

Supposedly, the advantages to this system were to promote greater control, improved operational efficiency and reduction in bureaucracy. A core difference between traditional public schools and independent public schools is the fact that Principals are appointed centrally by the Education Department in public schools, whereas School Boards play a pivotal role in the decision making appointments of Principals, in independent public schools. The makeup of School Boards represents interested parents, members of the community, as well as business representatives. The direction that the school would be heading towards would be primarily decided by this group of people known as the ‘School Board’.This is where the dilemma lies. Is too much power being handed to the School Board, which would wield extraordinary influence and power over the Principal, members of staff and students? This form of education is a reflection of the Charter Schools in America. The Centre for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, declared that on a national level, performance by students at Charter Schools were substantially worse than that of traditional public schools in the subjects of mathematics and reading. ‘Proceed with caution’ should be the adage if the Coalition government is determined to borrow other countries policies. As yet, there is no solid evidence to suggest that they would improve student outcomes.Disadvantages of this form of education are many. Strict admission requirements may deter certain children from being accepted into this school. Facilities and resources may be less than optimal in some schools compared with others. More importantly, it may not be compulsory to follow some government regulations pertaining to curriculum etc. Teaching standards and perhaps teacher certification may be jeopardised in these scenarios, especially schools unable to attract sufficient funding.To help make the transition to independent public schools, the government would provide grants. Already in the schools operating under this system in Western Australia, the Education Department is not responsible for choosing staff, the schools have that power. Finances are governed by the schools and changes to the Curriculum can be made “in school”. For example, a Principal and interested parents may prefer Creationism to be taught in lieu of say, Science. This change in Curriculum may proceed if the majority voted for it. Such a change may well have significant impact on the development of critical and analytical skills normally an adjunct to the teaching of Science. The same could apply if the topic of global warming is debunked in favour of the climate change sceptics’ views regarding our planet’s future. Such is the ambiguity of changing school Curriculums when members of the public are involved.It is estimated that almost a third of Western Australia’s eight hundred and twenty-nine public schools will become independent by the end of 2013. Eventually all public schools state-wide will become independent. On the agenda as well is the establishment of a ministerial advisory board. Schools will be given more autonomy over school budgets and staff requirements, as well as the power to waive compulsory fees, as they remain publicly funded. Of course the School Board will hold enormous influence in the overall operation of these schools.Underpinning the concept of this type of education is the threat of a two-tiered government system. This system could be deeply flawed as Principals are normally appointed for their educational skills, not their administrative business expertise. As already mentioned previously, concerns have been raised about the correlation between independent public schools and the Charter Schools in the United States, given that the United States performed poorly on rankings carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.In contrast, Finland has proven to be the world benchmark in educational excellence. They have neither Charter Schools, Independent Schools, private schools nor selective segregated schools, preferring to opt for a complete public school structure. Equitable educational outcomes are commonplace in this country. Our government’s determination to establish independent public schools Australia wide, would promote a two-tiered system which would potentially widen the gap between schools in the distribution of resources and the like.All educational policies should demonstrate improved outcomes for all students, not just a select group. Research on independent schools approach has been performed in other countries, and it has been demonstrated that it does not improve educational outcomes, and in fact it could well exacerbate inequality. The risk of Principals becoming business managers is very real, as raising money for the schools through sponsorship and parents would be high on the Principal’s job list. This correlates to the government handing over more responsibilities to schools, for schools to be run more as a business rather than an educational institution, ultimately with it being a cost saving measure for the government. Is this the path which we want our educational system to go down? Creating a greater divide of ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’ is not the answer. More competitiveness would also result when schools are pitted against other schools, in an effort to attract students and by implication Government funding. This could very well happen if all public schools within Australia become ‘independent’, under an Abbott led Coalition government.I am reminded of Nelson Mandela’s famous quote… “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”. Surely we owe it to the school children of today, and future leaders of tomorrow, to make sure that we get it right and not rush into this new form of education, when comparisons with other countries with similar educational institutions, have been proven to be less than effective? Australia’s students deserve the best start in education they can possibly have, and our government must ensure that equality is within each and every student’s grasp, not beyond their reach, and not just benefiting a select group of students. They deserve to not be let down by the system and eventually succumb to a second rate education.

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Promoting Literacy in School Libraries in Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTIONThe heart of information literacy is contained within definitions used to describe it. Traditionally librarians have given ‘library induction’ or ‘library skills training’ in a limited role. Library users need to know where the catalogue is, what the services are, and most importantly where the enquiry desk is.

London: Library Association Publishing

This is not to reduce the value of traditional library induction, but libraries and information are also changing. The provision of information through a library in a traditional form has gone through radical alterations. Already in most library and information organisations staffs are adjusting their services with the provision of new media and access to information provision within these organisations. Thus librarians are talking about social inclusion, opportunity, life-long learning, information society and self development.A plethora of definitions for information literacy abound in books, journal papers and the web. Some of these definitions centre on the activities of information literacy i.e. identifying the skills needed for successful literate functioning. Other definitions are based on the perspective of an information literate person i.e.

(1996)

trying to outline the concept of information literacy. Deriving therefore a single definition is a complex process of collecting together a set of ideas as to what might be, should be, or may be considered a part of information literacy. For example Weber and Johnson (2002) defined information literacy as the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to obtain, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, together with critical awareness of the importance of wise and ethical use of information in society. The American Library Association (2003) defined information literacy as a set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. While CLIP (2004) defined information literacy as knowing when and why one needs information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.

The official age for primary school pupils is between six and eleven years

Succinctly these definitions imply that information literacy requires not only knowledge but also skills in:• recognising when information is needed;
• resources available
• locating information;
• evaluating information;
• using information;
• ethics and responsibility of use of information;
• how to communicate or share information;
• how to manage informationGiven therefore the variety of definitions and implied explanation information literacy is a cluster of abilities that an individual can employ to cope with, and to take advantage of the unprecedented amount of information which surrounds us in our daily life and work.STRUCTURE OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEMSierra Leone’s current educational system is composed of six years of formal primary education, three years of Junior Secondary School (JSS), three years Senior Secondary School (SSS) and four years of tertiary education-6-3-3-4. (The Professor Gbamanja Commission’s Report of 2010 recommended an additional year for SSS to become 6-3-4-4). The official age for primary school pupils is between six and eleven years. All pupils at the end of class six are required to take and pass the National Primary School Examinations designed by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to enable them proceed to the secondary school divided into Junior Secondary School(JSS) and Senior Secondary School (SSS). Each part has a final examination: the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) for the JSS, and the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) for SSS, both conducted by WAEC. Successful candidates of WASSCE are admitted to tertiary institutions based on a number of subjects passed (GoSL,1995)The curriculum of primary schools emphasizes communication competence and the ability to understand and manipulate numbers. At the JSS level, the curriculum is general and comprehensive, encompassing the whole range of knowledge, attitudes and skills in cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Social studies are compulsory for all pupils. At the SSS level, the curriculum is determined by its nature (general or specialist), or its particular objectives. Pupils are offered a set of core (compulsory) subjects with optional subjects based on their specialization. Teaching is guided by the teaching syllabuses and influenced by the external examinations that pupils are required to take at the 3/ 4-year course. English is the language of instruction (GoSL,1995).The countries two universities, three polytechnics, and two teacher training colleges are responsible for the training of teachers in Sierra Leone. The Universities Act of 2004 provides for private universities so that these institutions too could help in the training of teachers. Programs range from the Teacher Certificate offered by the teacher training colleges to the Masters in Education offered by universities. Pre-service certification of teachers is the responsibility of the National Council for Technical, Vocational and Other Academic Awards (NCTVA). There is also an In-service Teacher Training program (Distance Education Program) conducted for teachers in part to reduce the number of untrained and unqualified teachers especially in the rural areas.LITERACY IN SIERRA LEONEIn Sierra Leone as it is in most parts of the developing world literacy involves one’s ability to read, write and numeracy. It is the ability to function effectively in life contexts. A literate person is associated with the possession of skills and knowledge and how these could be applied within his local environment. For instance a literate person is believed to be able to apply chemical fertilizer to his crops, fill in a loans form, determine proper dosage of medicine, calculate cash cropping cost and profits, glean information from a newspaper, make out a bank deposit slip and understanding instructions and basic human rights.Literacy is at the heart of the country’s development goals and human rights (World Bank, 2007). Wherever practised literacy activities are part of national and international strategies for improved education, human development and well-being. According to the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of 34 %.Implicitly Sierra Leone is an oral society. And oral societies rely heavily on memory to transmit their values, laws, history, music, and culture whereas the written word allows infinite possibilities for transmission and therefore of active participation in communication. These possibilities are what make the goal of literacy crucial in society.In academic parlance literacy hinges on the printed word. Most pupils are formally introduced to print when they encounter schoolbook. School teachers in Sierra Leone continue to use textbooks in their teaching activities to convey content area information to pupils. It is no gainsaying that pupils neither maximise their learning potential nor read at levels necessary for understanding the type of materials teachers would like them to use. Thus the performance of pupils at internal and public examinations is disappointing. Further pupils’ continued queries in the library demonstrate that they do not only lack basic awareness of resources available in their different school libraries but also do not understand basic rudiments of how to source information and materials from these institutions. What is more worrisome is that pupils do not use appropriate reading skills and study strategies in learning. There is a dearth of reading culture in schools and this situation cuts across the fabric of society. In view of the current support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) to establish literacy standards in school this situation has proved frustrating as teachers do not know how to better help pupils to achieve this goal. Thus they look up to the school librarians to play a more proactive role.LITERACY DEMANDS ON SECONDARY SCHOOL PUPILSIn everyday situations school pupils are expected to be able to identify and seek information they need. Providing a variety of reading and writing experiences using varied materials in the school library can help develop pupils’ literacy ability (Roe, Stoodt-Hill and Burns, 2004). The mode of assessment in schools in Sierra Leone includes class exercises, tests, written and practical assignments, as well as written examinations to see pupils through to their next levels. These pupils, for example, need to read content books and supplementary materials in school for homework. Pupils have even more literacy needs in their activities outside school. They need to read signs found in their communities, job applications, road maps and signs, labels on food and medicine, newspapers, public notices, bank statements, bills and many other functional materials. Failure to read and understand these materials can result in their committing traffic violations, having unpleasant reactions to food or medicine, becoming lost, losing employment opportunities and missing desirable programs. Equally so pupils need to write to their relatives and loved ones, instructions to people who are doing things for them, notes to themselves about tasks to be completed, phone messages for colleagues and many other items. Mistakes in these activities can have negative effects on them. Good literacy skills are especially important to pupils who plan to pursue higher education studies. The job market in the country calls for pupils to be literate. For instance most jobs advertised these days require people who have completed their JSS. The fact is that workers need to be able to understand graphic aids, categorized information and skim and scan to locate information. Also the nature of reading in the workplace generally involves locating information for immediate use and inferring information for problem solving. The reading and writing of a variety of documents like memos, manuals, letters, reports and instructions are necessary literacy skills in the workplace.SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN SIERRA LEONESchool libraries in Sierra Leone are perceived as integral aspect of the county’s educational system. These institutions bring together four major components of the school community: the materials, pupils, teacher and library staff. The main purpose for the establishment of these institutions in schools is to complement the teaching/learning process, if not to support the curriculum. This purpose is achieved in two ways: by providing pupils with the means of finding whatever information they need; and by developing in pupils the habit of using books both for information and for pleasure. Pupils need information to help them with the subjects they learn in school. The textbooks they use and the notes they take in class can be an excellent foundation. They may also be sufficient for revision purposes. But these could not be enough to enable pupils to write good essays of their own or to carry out group projects. School libraries then are expected to complement this effort and therefore are perceived as learning centres.Pupils need information on subjects not taught in school. School libraries are looked upon as places pupils find information to help them in their school studies and personal development. Through these institutions pupils’ habit of using libraries for life-long education is not only developed but also school libraries could be used to improve pupils’ reading skills. In the school community both pupils and teachers use school libraries for leisure and recreational purpose and for career advancement. The culture of society is also transmitted through use of school libraries. Because of the important role school libraries play in the country’s educational system they are organised in such way that pupils as well as teachers can rely upon them for support in the teaching/learning process. Most of these institutions are managed by either a full-time staff often supervised by a senior teacher. Staffs use varied methods to promote their use including user education.JUSTIFYING THE LIBRARIAN’S INVOLVEMENT IN PROMOTING LITERACY IN SCHOOLA pre-requisite for the development of autonomous pupils through flexible resource-based learning approaches is that pupils master a set of skills which gradually enable them to take control of their own learning. Current emphasis in teaching in schools in Sierra Leone has shifted from “teacher-centred” to “pupil-centred” approach thereby making pupils to “learn how to learn” for themselves so that the integration of process skills into the design of the school curriculum becomes crucial (GoSL,1995). It is in this area of “learning” or “information literacy” skills that one can most clearly see the inter-relationship between the school curriculum and the school library. For pupils to become independent users of information and for this to occur it is vital that they are given the skills to learn how to find information, how to select what is relevant, and how to use it in the best way possible for their own particular needs and take responsibility for their own learning. As information literate, pupils will be able to manage information skilfully and efficiently in a variety of contexts. They will be capable of weighing information carefully and wisely to determine its quality (Marcum2002). Pupils do recognise that having good information is central to meeting the opportunity and challenges of day-to-day living. They are also aware of the importance of how researching across a variety of sources and formats to locate the best information to meet particular needs.Literacy activities in schools in Sierra Leone are the responsibility of content area teachers, reading consultants and school librarians. Of these the role of the school librarian is paramount. As specialist the school librarian is expected to provide assistance to pupils and teachers alike by locating materials in different subjects, and at different reading levels by making available materials that can be used for motivation and background reading. The school librarian is also expected to provide pupils with instructions in locating strategies related to the library such as doing online searches and skimming through printed reference materials. The librarian is expected to display printed materials within his purview, write specialised bibliographies and lists of addresses on specific subjects at the request of teachers. He should be able to provide pupils with direct assistance in finding and using appropriate materials; recreational reading can be fostered by the librarian’s book talks or attractive book displays on high-interest topics like HIV/AIDS, child abuse, child rights, human rights and poverty alleviation. In view of this the fundamental qualities expected of the good school librarian include knowledge of his collection and how to access it; ability to understand the needs of his users more so those of pupils; ability to communicate with pupils and adult users; and knowledge of information skills and how to use information.ROLE OF THE SCHOOL LIBRARIANPupils’ success in school depends to a large extent upon their ability to access, evaluate and use information. Providing access to information and resources is a long-standing responsibility of the school librarian. The school librarian should provide the leadership and expertise necessary to ensure that the library becomes integral in the instructional program of the school. In school the librarian is the information specialist, teacher and instructional consultant. He is the interface responsible for guiding pupils and teachers through the complex information resources housed in his library (Lenox and Walker, 1993). He is looked up to assist and guide numerous users in seeking to use and understand the resources and services of the library. In this respect the school librarian should inculcate in these users such skills as manual and online searching of information; use of equipment; developing critical skills for the organization, evaluation and use of information and ideas as integral part of the curriculum (Lonsdale, 2003). The school librarian should be aware of the range of available information retrieval systems, identify that most suitable to the needs of pupils and provide expertise in helping them become knowledgeable, if not comfortable, in their use. Since no library is self-sufficient the school librarian can network with information agencies, lending/renting materials and/or using electronic devises to transmit information (Tilke, 1998; 2002).As information specialist the school librarian should be able to share his expertise with those who may wish to know what information sources and/or learning materials are available to support a program of work. Such consultation should be offered to the whole school through the curriculum development committee or to individual subject teachers. The school librarian should take the lead in developing pupils’ information literacy skills by being involved with the school curriculum planning and providing a base of resources to meet its needs. He should be aware of key educational initiatives and their impact in teaching and learning; he should be familiar with teaching methods and learning styles in school; over all he should maintain an overview of information literacy programmes within the school (Herring, 1996; Kuhlthau, 2004).Kuhlthau (2004) opined that information seeking is a primary activity of life and that pupils seek information to deepen and broaden their understanding of the world around them. When therefore, information in school libraries is placed in a larger context of learning, pupils’ perspective becomes an essential component in information provision. The school librarian should ensure that skills, knowledge and attitude concerning information access, use and communication, are integral part of the school curriculum. Information skills are crucial in the life-long learning process of pupils. As short term objective the school librarian should provide a means of achieving learning objectives within the curriculum; as long term information skills have a direct impact on individual pupils’ ability to deal effectively with a changing environment. Therefore the school librarian should work in concert with teachers and administrators to define the scope and sequence of the information relevant to the school curriculum and ensure its integration throughout the instructional programs (Tilke, 2002; Birks and Hunt, 2003). Pupils should be encouraged to realise their potential as informed citizens who critically think and solve problems. In view of the relationship between the curriculum and school library, the librarian should serve on the curriculum committee ensuring that information access skills are incorporated into subject areas. The school librarian’s involvement in the curriculum development will permit him to provide advice on the use of a variety of instructional strategies such as learning centres and problem-solving software, effective in communicating content to pupils (Herring, 1996; Birks and Hunt, 2003).Literacy could be actively developed as pupils need access to specific resources, demonstrate understanding of their functionality and effective searching skills. In this regard pupils should be given basic instruction to the library, its facilities and services and subsequent use. Interactive teaching methods aimed at information literacy education should be conducted for the benefit of pupils. Teaching methods could include an outline of a variety of aides like quizzes and worksheets of differing complexity level to actively engage pupils in learning library skills and improving their information literacy. Classes should be divided into small groups so that pupils could have hands-on-experience using library resources. Where Internet services are available in the library online tutorials should be provided. Post session follow-up action will ensure that pupils receive hands-on-experience using library resources. Teaching methods should be constantly evaluated to identify flaws and improve on them.Further the school librarian should demonstrate willingness to support and value pupils in their use of the library through: provision of readers’ guides; brochures; book marks; library handbooks/guides; computerization of collection; helpful guiding throughout the library; and regular holding of book exhibitions and book fairs. Since there are community radio stations in the country the school librarian could buy air time to report library activities, resources and services. He can also communicate to pupils through update newspapers. Pupils could be encouraged to contribute articles on library development, book reviews and information about opening times and services. The school librarian could help pupils to form book and reading clubs, organize book weeks and book talks using visiting speakers and renowned writers to address pupils. Classes could also be allowed to visit the library to facilitate use. More importantly the school librarian should provide assistance to pupils in the use of technology to access information outside the library. He should offer pupils opportunities related to new technology, use and production of varied media formats, and laws and polices regarding information. In order to build a relevant resource base for the school community the librarian should constantly carry out needs assessment, comparing changing demands to available resources.The Internet is a vital source for promoting literacy in the school library. The school librarian should ensure that the library has a website that will serve as guide to relevant and authoritative sources and as a tool for learning whereby pupils and teachers are given opportunity to share ideas and solutions (Herring, 2003). Through the Internet pupils can browse the library website to learn how to search and develop information literacy skills. In order for pupils to tap up-to-date sources from the Net the school librarian should constantly update the home page, say on a daily basis, if necessary. Simultaneously the school librarian should avail to pupils and teachers sheets/guides to assist them in carrying out their own independent researches. He should give hands-on-experience training to users to share ideas with others through the formation of “lunch time” or “after school support groups”. Such activities could help pupils to develop ideas and searching information for a class topic and assignment.Even the location of the library has an impact in promoting literacy in school. The library should be centrally located, close to the maximum number of teaching areas. It should be able to seat at least ten per cent of school pupils at any given time, having a wide range of resources vital for teaching and learning programs offered in school. The library should be characterised by good signage for the benefit of pupil and teacher users with up-to-date displays to enhance the literacy skills of pupils and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.CONCLUSIONIndeed the promotion of literacy should be integral in the school curriculum and that the librarian should be able to play a leading role to ensure that the skills, knowledge and attitudes related to information access are inculcated in pupils and teachers alike as paramount users of the school library. But the attainment of this goal is dependent on a supportive school administration, always willing and ready to assist the library and its programs financially. To make the librarian more effective he should be given capacity building to meeting the challenges of changing times.REFERENCESAmerican Library Association (2003). ‘Introduction to information literacy.’
Birks, J. Hunt, F. (2003). Hands-on information literacy activities. London: Neal-Schumann.
CLIP (2004).’Information Literacy: definition.’
GoSL (2010). Report of the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry into the Poor Performance of Pupils in the 2008 BECE and WASSCE Examinations (Unpublished).
___________(1995). New Education policy for Sierra Leone. Freetown: Department of Education.
Herring, James E. (1996). Teaching information skills in schools. London: Library Association Publishing.
__________________ (2003).The Internet and information skills: a guide for teachers and librarians. London: Facet Publishing.
Kahlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services. 2nd. ed. London: Libraries Unlimited.
Lenox, M. F. Walker, M. L.(1993). ‘Information Literacy in the education process.’ The Educational Forum, 52 (2): 312-324.
Lonsdale, Michael (2003). Impact of school libraries on student achievement: a review of research. Camberwell: Australian Council of Educational Research.
Marcum, J. W. (2002). ‘ Rethinking Information Literacy,’ Library Quarterly, 72:1-26.
Roe, Betty D., Stoodt-Hill Burns, Paul C. (2004).Secondary School Literacy instruction: the content areas. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Tilke, A. (1998). On-the-job sourcebook for school librarians. London: Library Association.
_________ (2002). Managing your school library and information service: a practical handbook. London: Facet Publishing.
Weber, S. Johnston, B. ( 2002). ‘Assessment in the Information Literate University.’ Conference: Workshop 1st International Conference on IT and Information Literacy, 20th- 22nd. \March 2002, Glasgow, Scotland. Parallel Session 3, Thursday 21st March,2002.
World Bank (2007). Education in Sierra Leone; present challenges, future opportunities. Washington,DC: World Bank.

John Abdul Kargbo is Senior Lecturer, Institute of Library, Information and Communication Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. Mail can be sent to him on kargbojohnabdul@yahoo.com

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