28. The importance of instructor certification
Abacus and mental arithmetic are an easy discipline to get into, but a hard one to master. In addition to the basic addition and subtraction, there are multiple ways to solve multiplication and division. There are also advanced techniques, such as handling fractions, complements, bank notes, primary operations, square roots, cubic roots, omission, “one-way clear” and more. These instruction techniques are the results of centuries of improvement and innovation. The tools, materials and curriculum are all being constantly updated. To see this ancient calculator staying relevant to this day and being studied by more people around the world is an utterly amazing experience!
Abacus’s practicality and educational utilities created a lot of business opportunities and attracted many talented people. Unfortunately, there is currently no abacus and mental arithmetic programs in any university or college in the world that has a dedicated abacus and mental arithmetic program that researches the field and trains teachers, not even in countries like China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, where abacus and mental arithmetic have been around for centuries. There are estimated hundreds of thousands of teachers who are teaching abacus and mental arithmetic around the world. But there is no one who can offer training and guidance or help new teachers get started. The lack of standardization causes serious and urgent problems. Most companies obtain the knowledge via internet or short-term training overseas. They then share what they know with their teachers internally. These teachers, with little fundamental training, go on to teach students. Many of them will not seek further training and the only improvement they will make comes from their own experience. Obviously, this is not an ideal development and it hinders the abacus and mental arithmetic field severely.
Establishing an effective and trustworthy abacus and mental arithmetic instructor certification system is an important task.
The goal is to bring several standardization and benefits to field:
(1) Give prospective teachers an avenue to receive and complete professional training, allowing them to pass on the correct knowledge to students, and avoiding giving students the wrong information from unverified sources
(2) There are different levels of training for instructor. Teachers must certain criteria before they can obtain official certification, much other disciplines. I have heard teachers who spend less than a month to complete all the training. There are also teachers who start teaching students after practicing for only two weeks. It is not hard to imagine how bad the results will be. Some teachers think they can get by without former training and still have a lot of students. They have to realize that most parents choose abacus and mental arithmetic for its advantages and often are not knowledgeable about the details. From a long-term perspective, maintaining a good teaching quality is the best approach.
(3) We suggest dividing the entire training curriculum into four segments. A teacher needs to practice for at least six months before advancing to the next segment. It is very important for teachers to spend six months digesting, practicing and accumulating actual teaching experience. Before they move on to the next level, they need to pass the exam on the previous segment. Many teachers think that they get by even if they are not proficient with the skills. However, abacus and mental arithmetic is a purely skill-based field. The skills of the teachers are the biggest determinant for the quality of the lesson.
(4) First stage: Level 10 to Level 7; four levels in total. This stage mainly teaches teachers the fundamental of abacus, including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with integers. They will also learn the basics of mental arithmetic with reading and listening. Completing this stage will earn trainees the one-star certificate.
Second stage: Level 6 and Level 5; two levels in total. This stage mainly teaches teachers how to tackle multiplication and division with multiple digits and more mental arithmetic techniques. It also contains information on how to incorporate abacus with math in school. Completing this stage will earn trainees the two-star certificate.
Third stage: Level 4 and 3; two stages in total. This stage mainly teaches teachers how to tackle questions with fractions and other techniques, including bank notes, solving for square roots, primary operations and more. Completing this stage will earn trainees the three-star certificate.
Fourth stage: Level 2, Level 1 and the advanced Levels. This stage mainly provides the teachers more advanced knowledge, including how to prepare students for competition, omission technique for multiplication and division, consecutive multiplication and division, solving for cubic roots, “one-clear method” and more. Completing this stage will earn trainees the four-star certificate.
(5) Once the Instructor Certification System is underway, it will become the de facto diploma of abacus and mental arithmetic teachers. Not only will it recognize professional skills and instruction quality, it will also boost recognition and perceived value of abacus and mental arithmetic. Ultimately, it will change the long-term prospect of abacus education for the better.