By Mona Verma
Of late, we come across news reports narrating instances of beating of students, ill-treating them and in case of many government schools absence and shortage of teachers on a quotidian basis. I still remember vividly that no matter how mischievous students of our times would be, their eyes used to be set on ground when at fault and they used to answer the teachers in a low and polite tone. Times have changed, undoubtedly, and the faces and methodology as well. But what makes me deeply disturbed is an implicit question that is the noble career of teaching simply in doldrums in today’s scenario and if yes who is/are responsible for this gradually degrading situation.
As a thinker, I attempted to look at this problem from different perspectives and found that each section involved viz. Teachers themselves, Parents, Students, Educational Institution and Media are somewhat responsible in an inter-related manner for this major issue of concern. Each community often tries to make the other as a scapegoat, but who is the real sufferer- the Students and Education System as a whole.
Teachers of Today
With passage of time, better exposure and understanding of concepts has come into vogue and hence we evidently see well-qualified, confident, tech-savvy and career-oriented professional teachers especially at urban locations who have umpteen opportunities in hand and better pay packages. But this exposure and opportunities have posed some problems which we will never be able to gauge if think as professionals but will understand the gravity of the situation as a real teacher.
A school offers a decent pay scale and additional facilities to a teacher and in many cases the same teacher is seen associated with some other school of repute in next few years due to better growth prospects. Everybody has a right to take such decisions to grow but then will that individual be able to imbibe values like importance of stability, patience, positive complacency and relationships to the younger ones.
And if no, what is the difference between a professional working in a big corporate house who is ready to turn to other organization in terms of a better hike and a teacher who is firstly responsible for the growth of the nation and then his self-growth, unfortunately, this feeling is somewhat lacking in many cases. I do not urge everyone to agree with me in toto but there is an urgent need to strike a balance between the personal aspirations and duty towards the nation as they play a key role, whether they admit to it or not.
On the contrary, the teachers based in smaller towns and cities grow wary of the fact that their counterparts in the cities are privileged with all kinds of monetary and fringe benefits. The fact, in many situations becomes a cause of frustration amongst the teachers, especially the young and bright ones and some instances of mishandling of students occur, though the number of cases reported and registered are on ever-high.
But I have one small question with Parents and Media- Have we not been punished by our teachers in the past. Have they not beaten us or indicted corporal punishment. Indeed they have with no exception. Then why is such hue and cry about the entire episode. I do not state that the incidents shall not be reported at all or brought to the notice of the public, but not all trivial instances. In the end, it develops a feeling of distrust between teachers and students and the teachers are unable to exercise their rights to discipline students fearing dire consequences and hence the students in some cases act unreasonable with their gurus.
During recent times, Education has been turned into somewhat commercialized form and the Educational Groups are the biggest beneficiaries. Certainly, the higher standard of living and disposable income blended with exposure and facilities provided by the Educational Groups have grown manifolds and hence the fee charged. However, the fact remains that an Educational Institution is widely known and acclaimed for its biggest asset i.e. teachers and all other facilities and amenities fall way behind. Of course they add value but cannot substitute the lifeline of an Educational Group. Bringing the best resource on board is appreciable but retaining it for a longer time is the art and this is somewhat missing in most of the Educational Groups. It will be absolutely wrong to comment that the value of teachers is witnessing a downfall, but yes now the Educational Groups have started acting as an organization and not as a fraternity or a family. The schools attempt to woo the quality teachers from other schools and this exercise of association and dissociation becomes a routine affair, hence bringing the loyalty level to the zilch.
Of course, every Educational Group has sole right to provide best of the teachers, teaching tools, facilities and amenities to the students but there should be an anti-poaching agreement, though verbal between the Educational Groups wherein a teacher if not completed atleast 6-8 years with a particular school cannot apply to any other school in the entire region. This practice if made teacher and school centric certainly provide an opportunity to the Educational Groups to retain the teachers but also to understand them and for teachers to prove their abilities at a particular location.
The key factors that may make such an arrangement highly effective are
Such an arrangement shall be free of coercion.
If a teacher under normal circumstances cannot quit the job, the Educational Group shall also have no rights to terminate the duties of the teacher except for extreme situations.
Teachers once employed shall be provided competitive remuneration and other benefits including annual hike.
In case of occurrence of a problem, teachers and management shall sit and resolve the issue amicably.
Parents and Students
With advent of technology into Education System, a lot has been changed. The students get enough exposure to various topics right from the beginning and hence the chances to learn and grow increase manifolds. But the student community shall be only encouraged to the level that the digitization of content may act as a support system but can never replace teachers at any given point in time. Certainly, with growing awareness especially about the rights, the younger generation has got complete right to voice their concerns and may raise objection towards the attitude towards the teachers if necessary, but when we talk of rights we shall not let forego our duties as paying due respect to a teacher is the prime responsibility of a child.
“Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwara”
It might sound impractical in today’s world but the people we find who have become luminaries have believed in this ideology and still believe in it and it has played a key role in what they have got transformed into.
Parents, of today’s age have become a bit more sensitive towards the child and they are overly concerned. It is highly appreciable but this attitude becomes a bottleneck for the teachers and the schools to operate in an effective way and make the children get ready to face the challenges in the future. Today, majority of the schools focus on making the lives of the students most comfortable which in turn is making them ignorant of the real-life problems that they inevitably have to face at a later stage. A small instance sometimes leads to become a factor of high dissatisfaction amongst parents. In my viewpoint, what is needed is that the parents shall draw a line between themselves and day-to-day operations of the school and give a free hand to teachers and the school authorities to implement the best practices for the growth and development of the child and encourage the child to treat the teachers as parents for mutual respect and understanding. Needless to say that they shall act as ambassadors towards the endorsement of the best practices and raise their concern if some aspects are not taken care of properly, however, by maintaining sanctity and decorum of both the school and teachers. A little understanding and freedom to work is all which is required.
In a developing nation like India, Media has assumed a dominant role and has become vox populi. Agreed and much appreciated. But one negative aspect that has got added with this eye-and-ear concept is exaggeration of even matters of least importance. No doubt, everyone has a right to know that what is happening across the globe and particularly in our own nation, but presenting an exaggerated version, in many cases, make the matters worse and especially in case of Education. The news regarding the instances of beating of a child ruthlessly by a teacher poses many questions but presenting it in an unusually inflated way leads to dip in the morale of the teacher community as a whole and increases the gap between teachers and students and their guardians which is quite alarming and not a healthy sign of development. Presenting the facts in a proper form and at the same time prioritizing the news in terms of what is important and what is trivial may eradicate many such problems that have occurred unnecessarily.
In the end, I would like to say that all the communities involved, elements and factors we discussed about and their roles and reasons, if realize their responsibility and importance, this problem of teachers turning into mere professionals may be curbed and the noble profession of teaching may turn into a career in true sense.
(Mona Verma is an Education Thinker and Edupreneur)