Come August everyone – in India and across the globe – suddenly start their wisecracks about the ‘noblest’ of all professions – Teaching. Reason? Come September 5th, we have our National Teachers’ Day. And on October 5th, that is today, World Teachers’ Day.
Yet, things are not as it should be in a teacher’s world, at least for an Indian teacher, for this is all I know about. I am one. Once upon a time when we had the Gurukula system and teachers were the most venerated lot in the society. Gone are those days. Now things and times have changed. The less said about the poor status of the teacher in our society, the better.
The best students go for the choicest of professions, which is medicine, engineering, information technology, accounting and the like. It is only the also-rans and cast-outs that enter this profession of last resort – teaching. Margaret Elizabeth Sangster’s exhortation of ‘no one should teach who is not in love with teaching’ has fallen on deaf ears. Poor wages, but compensated by less working days, you see. Which other job will give you more than 140 days holidays and pay you for that? The result?? A teaching fraternity, with less passion and even lesser dedication.
Unrealistic expectations from parents to mould their child into Christiaan Barnards, Nikola Teslas and their like irrespective of the like and dislikes of their children has made things worse for the practicing teacher. It is almost impossible trying to tell the parent that their child has other interests. The oft-heard last word in the matter is, “I wanted to be a X. I could not. I want my son / daughter to be one.’ Many also are in denial mode – I can understand that. Which parent would want to hear about his/her apple of the eye’s issues?
An overburdened curriculum which leaves the poor child to do nothing other than studying so much so that he/she unless exceptional never gets the time or energy to indulge in any kind of talent tapping or talent building. No wonder PE classes are the most favourite ones of most students. Teachers hardly make learning as fun as playing. The heavy curriculum forces the teacher to ensure that he/she has done the job, without looking into what students have got out of it. Besides the teacher learned about the nuances of teaching in a different way. And that way is not the acceptable one with changing times. No wonder John W Gardner said, “Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” Ouch. A firm nail on the coffin!
Educationists, policy makers who come up with radical changes, without equipping and educating the stakeholders – teacher, student and parent. Many a time the programmes are chalked out without foresight and hardly looking into the ground reality. Look, for example, the No Child Left Behind initiative, which went on to leave every child behind and the teaching fraternity far behind because it was extremely prescriptive, used shoddy measures and one-size-fits-all methods, besides forcing teachers to do the worst possible thing to prove their caliber – to teach to test.
Large sized classrooms is another bane. A teacher after all is only human and cannot be expected to work magic many a time in classrooms of not less than 40 students. The 40 minute classes don’t even give the teacher time to invest a minute in each child! Today in many forward looking schools, pair/group activity in classes in the norm. How can teachers have group activity in crowded classrooms? With all these challenges – poor teacher status, heavy curriculum, standardised testing, large ill equipped classrooms and a teacher fraternity that just about warming up to the needs of the 21st century skills like being a life long learner and engaging in continuous professional development – it is difficult to brag about the nobility of the profession.
Education is the panacea that can cure all that ails today’s world. Therefore unless there is more respect and status in society, high quality induction programmes and continued professional education sessions, societies cannot raise the standards of education. And unless governments invest more money into education, all articulations about what ails education and finding solutions for them, will remain hollow and meaningless.
So what is in a day for us, Teachers? Nothing really. It is just another day. Nevertheless, here’s wishing you a Happy Teachers’ Day!