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Masters’ Degree or Diploma

Discussion Point:

I am currently a secondary school teacher with a bachelor’s degree, and I want to continue my career in education. I have been given the option of a scholarship to do a master’s degree in education or to be trained as a teacher.  Could you advise me on what you consider is the preferred option?

Answer:

The preferred option is to take the scholarship and become trained as a teacher.  More specifically, I recommend the Post Graduate Diploma in Education from the University of the West Indies which is offered by the Teacher Education Department of the Antigua State College.

Why? Because that program would educate you in the “Science of Teaching”, no more “guess work”. One of the major learning you would glean from attending the Antigua State College is the concept of “Lesson Planning”.

 

Some of the most critical elements of Lesson Planning include the following:

a) Introduction - How to “hook” the attention of the student, and how to maintain that attention.

b) Objectives - How to write objectives. Objectives must be SMART-specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound.

c) Teaching methods - Choosing appropriate teaching methods.  Not only is it important to know various teaching methods such as the lecture method, demonstration, panel discussion, or group work to name a few, but to know which ones are most appropriate for the specific objective, the specific learning environment and the specific class.

d) Evaluation Strategies - Should you use true and false questions, multiple choice questions, short answers or essays, or is this objective better evaluated by a project, a portfolio or an interview?

e) Closure - How to bring it all together, and finally ensure impact and retention. Not only would you be taught how to prepare appropriate lesson plans for varied learning styles and different environments, but you will be clinically supervised.

 

You would be attached to a school for a period of one year where you would be supervised by a trained and competent teacher from the Teacher Education Department. That person would not only meticulously inspect your lesson plans, objectively observe your teaching but also diligently give you detailed feedback, intended to hone your teaching skills over time.

The end product is that you would experientially develop a plethora of skills which are needed for effective and efficient teaching. Furthermore, and most importantly, you would no more be locked into the paradigm, repeatedly articulated by the uniformed namely: “The student dunce; his head is just too hard”. But rather you would come to understand that with the right teaching, evaluation, and remediation strategies that that seemingly “dunce” student can get 21 grade 1’s or (let us be more modest) 10 grade 1’s.

No master’s program, even in education (that I know of), can provide you with the critical skill set needed to be an effective and efficient teacher. I challenge you to find one.

What is most regrettable is that the Master’s Degree in Education is often regarded more highly than the Post Graduate Diploma in Education - it is more prestigious. But the reality is that one is a professional qualification, and the other is an academic qualification.  We are moving on two different tracks, there is no equivalence.

So go with confidence now to the Teacher Education Department of the Antigua State College and receive your Post Graduate Diploma in Education, knowing that whether you want to remain a class room teacher or be elevated to the position of a Principal or an Education Officer, or even the Director of Education, you need to START by knowing the “Science of Teaching”.

You need to be professionally trained. The Master’s Degree can come later.

But do you agree with our preferred option or do you want to have the prestige of a Master’s Degree? 

We will continue this discussion in the next issue of our newsletter since the matter raised is just a part of the bigger issue of academic vs professional qualifications. We welcome your views on this topic.