Lecturers fail student teacher's degree dissertation after they themselves are criticised in it

Severin Hofer, who enjoys fame as one half of an artistic performing duo known as Hoffnung (hope)+Kiwi, is hoping to qualify as a kindergarten teacher from Zug Teacher Training College (PH Zug) this summer. However, he has failed in his dissertation, which levels criticism at the system. He is currently revising it in the hope that it will meets the examiners’ approval and thereby enable him to teach.

Failed or not, Hofer’s dissertation has already appeared in print. Indeed, since last Friday, it has been on sale at the Balmer bookstore in the city. Called “Gaining Points Through Education”, he has written about of everyday life at the PH Zug, aspects of which he thinks are illustrative of an acute problem in the system, namely a lack of meaningfulness. He mentions, for example, that, while lecturers there talk of “intrinsic motivation”, “divergent thought” and the “significance of learning outside the perimeters of school”, they (the lecturers) themselves were guilty themselves of “going down the same old tracks all the time”.

He went on to point out areas requiring attention among fellow students, too.  “There are no bad teachers,” he
writes. “It is just that there are students who do not know how to get started. They need to show greater initiative, become more proactive and show more imagination to do something to move away from this continuing hunting for more ECTS (credit system) points as part of their final qualification. I am not directing my criticism here solely at the PH Zug, but the whole education system in general. In fact it was while writing this thesis that I frequently found myself thinking about the pupils I would have to teach in the future. For my part, what is of utmost priority is acting authentically. We demand our pupils have the courage to try things out and be curious about matters they do not know. But before we demand this of children, we as adults have to practise it ourselves,” he wrote, while at the same time questioning some students’ motivation in doing a teacher training course at all.

Some of Hofer’s fellow students were pleased to see he had dared to include such a level of criticism in his dissertation. “It is not so much that I wanted to show how things ought to be done; it is just that I wanted to initiate dialogue as to what constitutes sensible education. I do not want opposing sides to dig their feet in,” he said, basking in a certain level of veneration among his fellow students as his dissertation failed.

“Unfortunately, it was a long way off what we expect from a bachelor-degree dissertation,” said the pro-rector of the PH Zug, Clemens Diesbergen. “Not that we do not recognise its quality,” he added. “Just like Hofer, we, too, are concerned about the questions he raises. Let me add I have always found conversation with him constructive and enriching. Indeed, I would like to see more students like Hofer.”

Now the student teacher (photograph), wearing his performing hat, perhaps, has organised a series of talks by various people about what constitutes meaningfulness in schools to take place from Tuesday 22 until Thursday 24 May at the Paettern LightUp workshop on Alpenstrasse. In fact Diesbergen himself has accepted an invitation to speak there.

Despite his lecturers having failed his dissertation, Hofer praised them for the way they had criticised it as at least they had taken it seriously. He now has the opportunity of revising it in such a way that it meets the college’s criteria.    

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