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Teaching A Valuable Skill

How does a teacher compare with a bureaucrat? There was a time in India when a teacher was held in the highest esteem in society. Financially a genuinely poor class as compared to bureaucrats or professionals, the teacher was respected by parents, students, authorities and the public at large. Students used to feel proud of their teachers. They would fall at their feet as a mark of grateful respects for having contributed to the making of their career and position in life and society. I have seen Chief Ministers touching the feet of their teachers and bureaucrats. It was because the teachers never commercialized their profession and treated all the students with kindness and empathy. In return the student would give them “Guru Dakshina” or offerings to the teacher according to their capacity. Even after the onset of the democratic form of governance, the teacher taught relationship did not change for several years. Till about 1967, the equation continued. As democracy introduced politics in most walks of life, teaching could not remain unaffected. Most professions took to corrupt practices rather fast. It brought economic disparities in life which impacted teacher mind set. Already the best talent had started moving to other public services which offered better prospects not only in terms of pay packages but invisible benefits. Commercialization weaned away the best teachers to private coaching institutions which paid them better remuneration.These development robbed educational institutions of good teachers. Governments did not treat education as a priority. Higher education institutions have run shortages of faculty to the extent of approximately 20000 teachers. Secondary education is suffering due to teacher shortage.Primary and middle education suffers so much that students are promoted to the next class even when they are unable to read text from a book of lower class or do simple additions, subtractions, multiplications or divisions. Though these children will be treated as “educated” once they leave school, they enter a dark future for they are unlikely to get a job easily. The politician feels happy at passing hollow legislation. The Congress led UPA government of Man Mohan Singh is selling its RTE or Right To Education Act as a big achievement and trying to steal credit for something that was already there. Did the children not have a right to education before the RTE Act came on the statute book? Only an ignorant person would consider it as a unique gift of a government that has assaulted education like all other institutions for illegal gains. Ministers of this government have adorned the jails for rigging admissions to medical colleges for a price or granting sanction to open professional colleges for unholy returns.Politics, money and goons control ordinary educational institutions in India.Such a decline in a noble profession like teaching has further stressed teachers, who chose to change for their personal safety, dignity, honour and well being the profession. Nobody seems to be interested in improving the condition of teachers.
It, therefore, came as pleasant surprise when the Delhi University (DU) announced a plan to set up 60 professional chairs at undergraduate level to recognize their teachership or that special quality which makes a teacher the icon for students. After ignoring a profession that has made the developed countries developed through teaching and research for almost 5 decades, it is still welcome.A lot of Indian talent has been lost to contributing to other countries which valued such qualities, the move coming from the DU is going to prove a game changer soon. There is need for recognition of the economic value of the teaching profession. If anything can pull the individual or society out of poverty, it is quality education. not the kind politician tom tom in their Right to Education Act. Once it is acknowledged, it will need to be extended to teaching at school level too. Schools are the foundation of well groomed individual. Whether it is language, mathematics, science, law or any other branch of modern education, it can be beneficial only if it is imparted by competent, skilled, innovative, imaginative, committed and involved teachers. Besides, more than 3/4th of India lives in what is called rural areas- areas that lack in infrastructure to sustain and serve modern urban living. Teachers and doctors and other agents of change are either city born or city educated. Moreover they interact on a daily basis with their peers in other countries in this internet age.They find it rather difficult to opt for a rural posting even though most of them want to do something from their disadvantaged citizen fraternity. The government can contribute in this respect by extending the professional chairs scheme of the DU to colleges and schools through out the country. It will inspire teachers to do their job in greater devotion. The contribution that a language or maths teacher makes is so valuable that makes or mars the career and prospects for most students. A good teacher removes the fear of these two subjects at the very tender primary, middle and secondary level. Just compare the difference in the confidence levels of the students well versed in these two subjects and the others poor in them.As a college teacher of English, in the state of Rajasthan, I know the fear and failure rate of students weak in English. I found majority of my students betraying some kind of a phobia for English. This they carried to the college though it should have been shed before they qualified to enter college. It left the teacher with these limited choices: let the students suffer the consequences of their weakness; let them fail the examination; let them go for private coaching; let them leave the college (drop out); let them perform as they wished and spoil my result for the academic year. I have always been opposed to commercialization of education and hence never encouraged private coaching. Instead I took the extra burden of freeing them of thei phobia and generate interest in their minds for the language. They were from Hindi background and I could make them comfortable in learning the language.I would not suffer a single failure as I believed in the doctrine that it is not a student but the teacher who fails an examination.Nature discriminates against none. Every mind is capable of learning everything under the right conditions. I could achieve 100% success rate in exams for my students and I cherish it as a memorable instance of my performance even today. It is for the government and society to decide how to encourage teachers to stay in academics rather than changing profession.I suggest teaching should be made so attractive that it acquires the status as the first choice while choosing a profession.
As at present, we are in a state of insomnia in so far as our treasure of vast knowledge is concerned. We are happy to palm off third rate plagiarized ideas original research. Women’s studies are an illustration of such research in the land of legendary scholar Vatsayan!

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