Sidi Ifni, Morocco- One cannot downplay the importance of holding an oral interview with applicants for teaching careers in determining their level and their readiness to become successful teachers. Yet, the question arises: Is the oral exam a valid criterion by which to assess applicants for the teaching profession? The answer is: It depends on the jury.
If the jury asks questions about the applicants’ particular specialty, assesses their communicative competence in all respects, and distinguishes the competent from the incompetent, then the oral interview is likely to be a valid and effective criterion. On the other hand, if the jury fails to assess the applicants and is fooled into believing that sheer loquacity itself tells a great deal about the applicants’ communicative competence, then the oral interview must be re-visited. The mystery is that some teacher trainers wonder how some trainees succeeded in entering the training center, forgetting that they themselves were once members of the jury for these trainees.
Recently, a number of teaching career applicants took the oral interview for the noble profession. Many questions were posed. But, what drew my attention were a number of questions which I would consider frivolous or ineffective at gaining an understanding of the core competence of the applicant. For example, the jury asked an applicant, “What is the name of the current Minister of Education?” Here, I do not think that by answering this question, one can determine whether or not the applicant is qualified for the job. Suppose the applicant knew his name? The jury would think that this applicant had answered a question correctly. What if the applicant didn’t know the name? The jury would think that the applicant had no idea who is the current Moroccan Minister of Education. Meanwhile, the applicant would be troubled by not answering this question.
The crux of the matter is not that the oral interview is not a real criterion, but rather that some Moroccan jurors are not mature enough or experienced enough to select the cream of the cream among the applicants. Think of the questions the applicants for the position of teacher of English were asked. Nearly half of the questions were asked in Arabic despite the fact that the academic specialty is English, not Arabic. During the interview, the jury asked applicants to answer in Standard Arabic, not in Moroccan Arabic. While I have nothing against asking and answering questions in Standard Arabic, I do take issue with evaluating the spoken ability of applicants to teach English using their responses in Standard Arabic.
My point is here is that a language is just a tool to impart one’s knowledge and ideas. Applicants for English teaching can be asked in Arabic, but surely they should not be directed to answer in Arabic? Are they going to become teachers of Arabic? No they are going to teach English. Are they going to use Arabic in the classroom from time to time? Possibly. But if we are asking applicants of English to answer questions in Arabic, why aren’t applicants of Arabic asked in English or in French? And why aren’t applicants of French asked in English?
An oral interview conducted in a language other than the one the applicant seeks a license to teach will simply lead to more surprises once the training year starts and the trainees who passed the oral exam begin receiving the training. Teacher trainers themselves have admitted encountering trainees who have poor communications skills in their specialty of English, but who can communicate effectively in Arabic. For instance, if an applicant of English has excellent communication skills in English, but his or her communication skills in Arabic are poor, he or she might be surpassed by the ones whose Arabic is excellent, but whose English is average.
Some might say that one should know something about everything. If that is the case, then perhaps the same jury should judge all specialties. However, in my view, this is the era of specialization. If the jury wishes to select the cream of the crop in each specialty to qualify for the noble profession of teaching, it must focus on the subject matter of the particular specialty. If the jury selects applicants who are asked about areas that do not pertain to their specialty, they must expect to welcome incompetent trainees the minute the training year kicks off.
Actually, this is what happens every year. No sooner does the training year begin than trainers make remarks about, and criticize, the level of trainees. The trainers forget that they made the grave mistake of not being able to select the applicants qualified for entering the training center.
When they criticize their trainees, they are implicitly criticizing their assessment of the oral interview, whether they are aware of it or not. It is ironic perhaps that some trainers who have stated that trainees do not deserve to receive the training as prospective teacher have forgotten that they also took part in the outcome by failing to rule out these trainees during the oral interview.
Surprises often occur when the results of the oral interview are released. This year, surprises will likely multiply, particularly now that the oral interview now counts 50% of the overall grade, unlike previous years. It is the oral interview during which our trainers do not often succeed in telling the competent applicant from the incompetent one. It is not the nature of the oral interview or the 50% of the grade devoted to it that is at fault. Rather, the jury is to blame!
Edited by Elisabeth Myers
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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