In defence of coaching

By Vision Reporter

HONOURABLE Minister and Inspector General of Police, cases and threats against coaching have been so numerous in the media that one is tempted to think of the practice as unconditionally bad.

By Jude Ssempebwa

HONOURABLE Minister and Inspector General of Police, cases and threats against coaching have been so numerous in the media that one is tempted to think of the practice as unconditionally bad.

Unfortunately, most editorials on the practice do not sufficiently recognise the circumstances that have necessitated it.
This therefore, is to write in defence of coaching, so that it will be clear to the sceptics, that it is a contemporary educational need, especially during the holidays.

Bad Law

My initial thoughts are that your anti-coaching attitude is consequent upon the law, criminalising the practice, which is unfortunate because the law is bad. Contrary to the basic qualities of good laws, it is not necessary, just or effectively enforceable as I will illustrate shortly.

Coaching is giving students extra teaching lessons. This is why I am yet to be convinced on the necessity of a law against it. I dare you to draw a line between teaching and extra teaching. In many boarding schools, there are night lessons (extras).

Similarly, well-off parents, including officers of your departments, hire teachers to offer extra lessons to their children in the privacy of their homes and the law is quiet.

Where then is the justice in the same law when it criminalises the act of a day school having holiday lessons or of students choosing to see a teacher at a time and place they find appropriate, often with the informed support of the parents?

That coaching is bad, is a rhetorical allegation. In fact, it may be argued that it is good because: 1) it increases guided-study time. 2) Allows more student-centred instruction, which is dwindling in the institutionalised classroom, and 3) Students have access to upscale teachers, including UNEB setters and markers.

I am, therefore, afraid that the anti-coaching law is based on myths rather than truths.

Myths and Truths about Coaching

  • Coaching makes teachers reluctant to teach well in the mainstream classes. Irrespective of the true worth of this allegation, even education management novices discern that it suffices to set non-negotiable performance targets for the teachers.

  • Coaching gives some students an unfair advantage. Some students have textbooks that others do not have. In education, coaching at home or elsewhere is a synonym of going the proverbial extra mile, a point on which we ought to agree.

  • Coaching is characteristically spoon-feeding. This is not as problematic as we are made to believe, especially because we are not clear on the difference between teaching and spoon-feeding and which of the two schools are doing and with what results. We are, however, clear that whether we teach or coach, it is the same syllabus hence, the end justifies the means.

  • Products of coaching fail to cope with higher education.
    Substantiating this necessitates statistics on higher education failure rates that incriminate coaching. Otherwise, having been coached since nursery did not keep me from earning a good degree.

  • Coachers are extortionists. One wonders what is wrong with a teacher offering to give (optional) extra lessons to a few students during the holidays at a fee. If it is okay for us to pay to talk to doctors, why not pay to talk to teachers?

  • Coaching deprives students of rest. Whereas it is agreeable that students need a break from schoolwork, they and their parents are the best judges of when to take this break. You may realise that while you can try to bar teachers from coaching, you cannot stop students who choose to spend the entire evening or holiday buried in their books.

  • Implicating the system

    That coaching is a necessary condition for exhausting the ever widening syllabus is a truism.

    It is my prayer, therefore, that you either encourage the practice (and possibly allow for registration of teachers who coach in accordance with relevant laws), or introduce a system in which teaching is clearly distinguished from extra teaching and the latter is not a condition for success.

    The writer is a teacher

    In defence of coaching