Death of real teaching
India is a land of seekers for centuries and it can’t be claimed so, without great gurus who have shaped the most knowledgeable civilisation on earth
India is a land of seekers for centuries and it can't be claimed so, without great gurus who have shaped the most knowledgeable civilisation on earth. However, we seem to have regressed from the world-class standards of teaching since half a century, and very speedily since the last two decades.
Knowledge is constantly evolving and it's essential that teachers evolve too. In India, especially the school, college and higher education quality standards have been plummeting year on year. I see five big reasons for this conspicuous degeneration.
Collapse of public school system
Education, at least in the primary and secondary school level, was never a business until few decades back. It was considered essentially a government's responsibility to ensure quality education until 10th grade. That constitutional and ethical ownership by state governments have provided easy access to school education to all socio-economic classes, even to those below the poverty line.
However, as Public Schools are 'Cost Centres' and not 'Profit Centres', almost all states have given up on upgradation of government schools, as they need consistent investment and administration. Revenue- generating capital expenditure or vote-generating free cash transfers have taken the top priority.
Some state governments like in Telangana, have publicly shut over 4500 schools citing lack of admissions, while the truth is incompetence and changed-priorities.
From the first President of India to one of the recent Presidents like Dr Abdul Kalam, many leaders from across social and industry sectors were the output of government-run schools.
It's true that declining social values and insincerity to deliver assigned roles, have lowered the quality of teaching in public schools since last few decades. It's equally true that lack of good salaries, infrastructure, administrative freedom and career growth have undermined the teaching talent in these schools. Multiple factors such as those above, have pulled the screens down on affordable education and quality teaching in India.
Private schools and commercial interests
After the public school's mismanagement fiasco, it's natural that the gap is filled by private enterprises. What is shocking, is how the existing government schools are outnumbered and outsmarted by private schools just in two decades.
For example, even in the largest capitalist economy of the world – the United States of America, School system is Public and administered by the government. While they do have private schools, they are not even 10 per cent in numbers, with comparison to the public schools. Such is the priority for affordable education in USA. States and even Districts there take pride in managing best public schools in their jurisdiction.
It's natural that private schools are driven by commercial interests. Passion for quality education, affordability, accountability is mostly lip service. If few schools are driven by service at their initial stages, they too quickly sway towards competitive profiteering influenced by the commercial ecosystem.
The number of self-proclaimed 'International Schools' in urban India, mocks the very idea of indigenous learning in the formative years of children. The essential teaching of national history, indigenous culture, civilisational knowledge and civic ethos for well-grounded growth have taken a back seat. The overhyped tags have become a license to proliferate western culture, mock civilisational knowledge and indigenous culture. This tag has also become an excuse to loot, for many commercial school projects.
I don't see all private schools as parasites feeding on the changed social system. There are a few and rare private schools, which are founded on the principles of imparting quality education for all-round development of children. These schools are trying hard to deliver exceptional results.
Student appeasement and indiscipline
For private schools, students are customers. That is exactly how the profit-centric private enterprises look at their revenue generators. However, this new identity is driving unprecedented indiscipline in the young school-going children.
Discipline is a forgotten trait in schooling young people. There is almost zero regulation of behaviour as a part of school policy in many schools. In fact, many private schools are encouraging and tutoring young minds on living life on their own terms. Indiscipline of all forms are being accommodated in the name of new-age schooling and customer-orientation. Some schools are going to the extent of raising student-feedback on teacher behaviour to ensure total customer-satisfaction.
Imagine if teachers are on the receiving end to be appraised by students, how can a teacher even try imposing discipline in the classrooms? It has come to be a 'fools-cycle' - each one blaming the other for student's indiscipline, which is circling from parents at home to teachers at school.
All behaviour is learnt. There needs to be behavioural regulation with strict discipline, especially at the developmental stages of a youngster's life in school and home settings. Indiscipline at an early age can turn into brazen insubordination, devalued instruction, listening incompetence, lack of emotional intelligence and even criminal behaviour in later stages of their life.
Schools are supposed to be preparing students not just for livelihood, but also enable them for life. 'Old Public-Schooling' in India used to impart discipline, mutual-respect, civic-sense, nationalism and patriotism apart from academic education. The brazen 'student-and-parent appeasement' by many private schools, has left the institutional responsibility to just teach syllabus-led curriculum and wash their hands off.
In today' acclaimed private schools, teachers are not respected by most students nor do they pay heed to their teaching sessions. Increasingly, these youngsters don't respect their parents anymore nor do they acknowledge family and social relationships. The incompetence of schools to impart value-based education will come back to haunt them sooner than later. If it is just 'teaching sessions', students might not turn up to schools at all, in the near future. If online schooling can accomplish the same, why go to school?
Teaching incompetence- this trend is growing by the day. It is not easy to find good teachers, they are quite hard to find these days. Most of the private schools are being run by individuals who lack clear understanding of what constitutes holistic education. The school administrators, principals and other academic heads are being selected on the basis of their ability to sell the school admissions, rather than drive a knowledge-disseminating academic ecosystem.
These wrongly-chosen private school administrators seem to be populating schools with their own ilk as teachers, instead of having any scientific, objective and real-time metrics to recruit the best. The cronyism and nepotism of other commercial industry sectors has spread its wings into private school education too. Unfortunately, this work-place culture is all pervasive in India.
Well-meaning, well-trained, competent teachers, and those with old-school teaching competencies are unwelcome in many private schools. The cronies, below-average and mediocre will make it to be teachers, as favoritism is rife, and unaccountable work-culture has become order of the day.
Most teachers in copy-cat 'International Schools' are so incompetent, that they are making up for lack of subject-knowledge with entertainment. It's shocking to see how many teachers are falling from being graceful to sounding, looking and acting 'cool and young', just to be validated and accepted by their students. In the old-school teaching, it was students who would want to be validated, accepted and recognised as competent, by teachers. Teachers must teach, there are other professionals to entertain.
Google has become 'life-saver' for many teachers to remain relevant without real expertise in any one subject. I feel compelled to call them 'Google Teachers'.
Teaching methodology in India needs to revisit and learn from the ancient teaching standards of our civilisation and improvise on it. Private schools should stop copying foreign models which distort young minds and destroy their self-worth.
One can use modern technology and electronic gadgets for disseminating knowledge. However, if the central spirit and core values of education are invalidated in the immature guise of modern teaching, young Indians and the nation will suffer. If the private school industry doesn't correct course, there will be unprecedented knowledge and professional challenges in the near future.
(Author is the chief spokesperson of BJP Telangana State / organisational strategist)
(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)