Where’s the teacher?

The global meltdown may have hit India, but one sector that has weathered the storm so far is school education. No other country perhaps displays such a wide range of school within the system. There is the government sector with it’s municipal schools, Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas and non government sector with its playschools in larger cities, missionery schools and finally top- end private schools, last but not least conventional public schools.
These all schools have one thing in common, they are desperately crying out for teachers. We may have our periodic overabundance of doctors, engineers, MBAs and IT professionals, but we never seem to have enough teachers. Though everyone knows that the bedrock of any country is its education system but no one is unduly concerned about this glaring lacuna. Little wonder that we are docile or better say paying a heavy price in terms of the quality of our leadership.
This pitiful state of affairs (teaching profession) has much to do with the way we, as a nation, view the teaching profession. Teachers are not considered frontline professionals in the same manner as, doctors, lawyers or engineers. It is believed that anyone irrespective of qualifications or training can teach. And that is exactly what happens. From the village schoolmaster who could be a labour contractor (teaching when time permits) or a disheartened chap who has found teaching as the last option as a breadwinner, to the bored or desperate urban housewife who is more eager to earn something rather than contribute, teaching is open to all. Add the fact, it is a relatively poorly paid profession, and you have a deadly mix (various and ambiguous reasons to join teaching). Teaching then generally becomes the domain of the ‘bored’ or ‘failed’ individual. This is not to suggest that we do not have some of the world’s finest teachers. Ranging from NGOs to private schools we have extremely competent and motivated teachers. But when you consider India’s billion one population, their number appears disappointing.
Another area of concern is the dwindling number of men in the profession. It seems all the men have hopped off to greener pastures (the other so called luring or challenging vocation). The IT sector has recently claimed a larger number. While women do make great teachers but they also have the role of homemaker. Being a teacher for a woman is not as professional as, say being a corporate executive. And the men, who remain, have largely embedded themselves in the tuition market, as opposed to being genuine mentors as school teachers. The most sensitive issue in this sector is there are no top-of-the-line teacher’s training institutions, certainly not one of the statures of a St. Stephen’s and IIT or IIM. What we do have is an excess of ‘fly-by-night’ B.Ed courses, in most cases not worth the paper the degree is printed on (mostly in Bhopal and in U.P). Nothing in the higher education scenario will attract bright young boys and girls to enroll for a teacher-training course. Yet all we can do is to talk of increasing the number of IITs and IIMs!
Career growth in teaching profession is also very slow. Surprisingly, not too many teachers today aspire to be principals. Women feel it puts too much strain in their role as homemakers: men feel the seat is not worth the trouble it brings. Moreover, the system does not provide for any systematic grooming of principals. Most are there either by accident or ‘teachers on promotion’, certainly not as a result of some long term scientific plan. So where does one go as a teacher? Becoming a head of the department may well be the end of the road for most. The profession itself suffers from a sense of low self esteem. Teachers do not see themselves in the same category as lawyers, doctors, civil servants or engineers. How many of us are being proud as teachers? Are we less than those engineers who construct building while we construct future of the nation? Are we less than those doctors who are to stand guard against fatal diseases while we are to safe guard our society against social hitch (through making students a better individual). Do we need to be less proud than an IAS who governs and deals with state affairs; whereas we direct the thought process of a child who can be tomorrow’s Vivekanand or Sardar patel. We are no less than an industrialist who manufactures the most expensive product as we are in the exertion of MAKING OF MAHATMAS. What do you think friends? How noble but vulnerable this profession is? It is nothing apologetic about being teachers. The irony is that we are still supposed to be the epitome of all that is noble and good. A redefinition of our attitude to the profession is highly required.

Submitted by: Seema Joshi