Teach the teachers
Teach the teachers. For a long time, there has been a heated debate as to what ails our system of teaching and learning process.
While government statistics hold the national literacy rate to be around 74.07 per cent, most who pass out from an educational institute are unfit to be employed. Why? Perhaps, there is something wrong with the education they receive. Here is an opinion piece on who is at fault? The institute? The teachers? Or the system?
For a long time, there has been a heated debate as to what ails our system of teaching and learning process. It is a debate, wherein one naturally expects greater amount of objectivity, given the importance of the issue at hand. But, unfortunately, as in the other matters of polity, there is a partisan outlook and a tendency to pass the buck. Therefore, it is no wonder that it is the argument of Kapil Sibal, (the ex- Human resource minister) that it is the teachers, who should be taught well, before they are allowed to enter a class room.
The teachers, who are the fulcrum of the system, are not up to the mark. Hence some questions are in order, in this context. Is it because, as has been the contention of Kapil Sibal that the teachers are not properly educated, the system is rotten? Or is it because, they are not trained in the first place and retrained subsequently in the expected manner? As things stand today, any attempt to advance categorical answers to these questions is not possible. The truth is always in the grey area. Yet, one cannot escape the unfortunate reality that stares in the face. It is that this nation expects much from the teachers and they have not been up to the mark in translating the aspirations of the multitude into reality by exposing them to the creative and liberating dimension of education.
Two factors go a long way in making one a teacher of transformative mould. One is the perspective that one acquires in the course of one’s academic endeavour. Here lies the rub. To acquire a perspective is not that easy. Very often, the academic programmes are so structured that the students/the future teachers are taught for a test with the help of a text. Text as a pretext to explore different ideas of contestation and comparison is seldom done. The concept of additional reading is history. Rote learning is the order of the day. Such is the sorry state of affairs that if one is literate, one is educated. To compound the situation, the testing mechanism is totally devoid of any element of creativity. The outcome of educational process is measured in terms of pass percentages or marks. This is the root of problem.
It is the commonly held perception that the meritorious are not drawn to the teaching profession. Therefore, the system is being chipped away from within day by day. Teaching is a skill. A skill gets fine tuned with the help of the proper training. The state of teacher education today is so bad that the degrees are literally purchased. The entry of private players into this domain has done an immense damage to the system.
As a remedy, ‘TET’ is introduced. Even this test has to pick up from the available lot. Besides, for many teachers education reaches the saturation point, once, they get jobs. What makes the scenario all the more disquieting is that there is an absence of dedication on the part of some teachers. Why does dedication slacken? Where there is passion for something, dedication never weakens. As of today, despite absence of aptitude for it, great many are entering teaching profession.
Also, teaching is not an operative art. It is unlike painting. It is a co-operative art. When one says it is a co-operative art, what is being suggested is that many factors have to be in perfect sync to draw the best out of a teacher. The ambience of the institution, the love for learning on the part of the students, the work schedule, the infrastructural facilities (particularly at the university level) proper recognition, in short an academic setting that promotes the contestation of ideas are needed to promote quality education. One might as well argue that minus all or some of these, there were teachers, who did their best and there are teachers, who have been quite exemplary in their assigned tasks even today. But, there is a world of difference, between what a system instills formally and some individuals overcoming the limitations and proving themselves informally.
The above attempt may look like an indefensible defense of the teaching fraternity. It is only an effort to look at the problem from the other side. At the same time, one is well aware of the criminal irresponsibility of some of the teachers.
Over and above this, many teachers are abysmally poor in grasping the gender sensitivity and culture- specificity of first generation students. There is a clear ‘empathy deficit’ towards these students.
Whatever the limitations, it is high time the teachers rose to the occasion and proved themselves. It is high time; they motivated themselves from within and set the taught on the track of critical learning that helps them see beyond things and beyond the obvious. For, not all are so genius as Mark Twain, who said rather wittily that “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”.
Yalamudi K, Member,
Narayana I A S