Sunday, September 4, 2011

TEACHERS - Enablers or Service Providers?

GURUR BRAHMA,
GURUR VISHNU,
GURUR DEVO MAHESHWARAH
GURUR SAAKSHAAT PARA-BRAHMA,
TASMAI SHRI GURUVE NAMAH.

For many of us the above mantra is not something new. A sloka or a prayer saluting  the teacher, it equates the teacher or " Guru " with the creator, to the one who sustains and the one who annihilates!

The " Guru Shishya Parampara"  or the " tradition of teacher and student"  in the quest for knowledge has been written about a lot in our ancient scriptures. The teacher is said to be the guide who helps students  in this endeavour.

I wonder how this relates to today's context, when knowledge is no longer the privelege of a chosen few but a fundamental right that is guranteed to all citizens? 

I remember  those days when I was at school..! Teaching was serious business. Teachers joined a school and usually retired from it. Every teacher ( and I mean each one of them! ) who taught us at school saw our learning as a sacred responsibility entrusted to them- not just by the management of the school that they were employed in but  by their own concience! Ms. Mazumdar-who taught us English and History in classes 6-7 always corrected homework thoroughly often writing at  the end of some badly written eassays - " SEE ME" which meant that we had to meet her during our lunch break when she would point out the mistakes we had made. She kept track of the mistakes each of her 40 odd students usually made alerting us each time they were repeated. Mrs. Ghosh in class 8 read out the best written eassays to the entire class pointing out all the good parts. She saw to it that every good eassay written by every girl in her class found recognition of some sort! Mrs. John ensured that we understood chemsitry almost as well as she did. Chemistry to me always takes on the form of this plump lady in a cotton saree ,  wearing glasses -  a trifle hot tempered but never one to bear any grudges! She ruled her lab like an empress and taught us how to handle the chemicals safely. There were so many others... right through school and college who I will never forget and neither will I forget what they taught - so clear was the way they instilled those concepts in us.Now that I think back, I realize that it was not just knowledge that they tried to give us. They also instilled a lot of values in us - values which they demostrated through their own behaviour.  

 Those days education was not  a Fundamental right yet, teachers did the best that they could with what they had. There were no fancy pedagogic methods and salaries were very modest.  They enjoyed a lot of respect not just from their students but from society in general. There is a flat next to our house in Chennai today which is still called " Teacher amma's house". The flat has been built on the land on which stood the house where she lived for over three decades. Teacher amma  has been gone from this world for over two decades though  her presence  still lingers!

But I am pained to see the way things have deteriorated today! Education has become highly commercialized and with that there is a change in the way teachers are being perceived. In the Private schools, parents have started behaving like consumers - looking at "value for money"  and teachers as service providers while in government schools teachres behave like government officers with absolutly no relationship with the community from which their students come. There is a study done by the ASER centre which brings out annually a state of the sector report for school education in India. It was shocking to see that in a state like Tamil Nadu the number of children who go for " tuitions" after school is equally high among both categories of students- those who go to private and government run schools! If private tutoring was the option then why should we have schools?

With respect to the private schools the less said the better! There is a very popular group of  private schools in Chennai where I am told that students who score lower than 70% aggregate marks in class 8 are given a transfer certificate and asked to leave the school!!! The school is very proud about the 100% over 80% scores that their students get in the class X public examinations. Now I would like to ask what is the contribution of the teachers and the school towards this considering that they are " weeding"  out all those children who may slip on the wrong side of 70%?  Admission in this group of schools is unfortunately very much in demand!!

This is so different from when teachers used to take a student's performance as a reflection of their own teaching skills! There was also what I remember fondly, a feeling of possessiveness about all students - good or bad. The words " My students" that my teachers used sounded so similar to the " My daughters" that my parents used!  I remember my Biology teacher in class XII teaching me the correct way to dissect a frog and display it on a tray saying "  I dont want anyone to  ever say that one of my students did not learn to dissect a frog properly".  I dont know how many teachers feel that way today...!  

The education system is undergoing a lot of reform with new pedagogic methods being introduced. But my question is that if the committment towards learning is not there from the side of the adult who is to implement them then how can a child be expected to benefit from them? Why, most private schools are not even able to ensure continuity of the same teacher for more than two years? The high teacher turn over is shocking! No longer do teachers retire from their job- they seem to be hopping around just like others in the corporate sector from job to job.

The government schools are obsessed with maintaining a high enrollment ratio as the headmaster/ headmistress is afraid that they would otherwise be pulled up by the district education officer. For the private schools it is a business just like another...!! For many men and women ( women more than men) today education is an employment sector for which they aquire a B.Ed degree and join the bandwagon of service providers/ government officers.

So what happened to the Guru- Shishya tradition? The God who guided us through the darkness of ignorance towards the light of knowledge?

Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan whose birthday on the 5th of September is celebrated as TEACHERS DAY must be pulling out his turban in despair.. Sorry Sir,, there are no more teachers like you!



 

 

17 comments:

Cloud Nine said...

Thoroughly analysed post. Sad, there are no more great teachers and no more good students these days. That generation which looked upon teachers as role models is gone...I dread the teachers my kids have at school today, the better ones have eloped to better pastures. Disgusting scenario...

SUB said...

there are few good teachers around...i was lucky to learn from few...but true, not many...

nice post

Ibhade said...

I just love this post!

Thank you Meera!....don't know what to add, becox you said it allll..teachers of nowadays are simply service providers...the PASSION is no longer there...it's to the highest bidder!.no child is dull.....it depends on how the knowledge is impacted...some are slow learners while some are fast....a teacher that cares should be able to identify such students, group them, follow-up on them...all these is missing..MONEY is now the motivating factor..& concentrates on grooming geniuses or wiz-kids...letting the mediocre ones lagging behind...jeez! for one that says she has nothing to add more, i have said too much! :D it's a topic am so concerned about.

Bikramjit said...

so true.. I have been lucky that i got teachers who actually cared of what i will do in my life .. These days i have seen teachers dont bother .. things have changed a lot ...

Bikram's

Emmy said...

True! In high school my teachers would say learn if you want to learn, if you don't your problem i still get my salary in the end. They never tried to motivate wish I meet some teachers in my future who care about their students :-)

Rhapsody B. said...

Namaste....
In answer to your question I say yes to both. They are both enablers and service providers. Too often the need for prestige take precedence over the students actual learning and competition sets up a normal discourse of losers verses winners where students who do poorly are ostracized, teased and demoralized by the students and sadly by teachers. It is one of the biggest causes of dropouts and worst yet suicides as the s students are made to feel stupid and hopeless about their future.

This deplorable behaviour is further exacerbated by the preferential treatment for students who excel.

The fact is not all students who do well in school will do well in life and not all students who do poorly in school will do poorly in life. Academic achievement while great and may present opportunities for the best schools, access to scholarships and other monetary awards it cannot be used as a bench mark for a successful existence in the real world.

Have a blessed day
Rhapsody
http://twitter.com/rhapsodyphoenix

Meera Sundararajan said...

Thanks everyone for all your comments.

@Cloud Nine, children no longer look up to teachers as role models because they are not worthy of being role models

@ Bikram, Sub yes, we were probably the lucky lot who managed to have some good teachers shape our lives

@ Ibhade the lack of good teachers today seems to be a problem across the world..What happened to passion- I wonder

@ Rhapsody phoenix- competition is an awful thing- every child is special and it is for the teacher to unearth the treasure that they bring with them.

@ Emmy dont lose hope. I am sure you will find a good teacher!

chitra said...

teaching is the noblest profession in this earth...i always have respect for the profession.there are few of my primary school teachers whom i remember even today.
nice post.

Anne said...

Great post Meera! I can sooo relate to the "my students" bit! That is exactly how my teachers used to react towards us too - it was always "my girls". In fact when I finished school and joined Engg I was shocked at the apathy and callousness of the staff. Sad that such lovely teachers are a dying breed...

I never understood the logic behind some schools admitting/retaining only extremely high achievers - what exactly is the role of the teacher there is beyond me. As a friend had posted on Facebook
"The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate 'apparently ordinary' people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people"

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

The mantra is reflective of Indian culture and values, something that families will now need to preserve because it looks like these values are in danger of extinction!

I liked the points you've brought up. Pvt schools aren't as focused on the welfare of children as their glossy brochures make out but we also have to agree that the quality and value systems of parents leave much to be desired too.

The state of government schools leaves so much to be desired and the less we go into that the better. Govt schools are avoided by so called respectable families which is really sad.

But still today is a day to revere those teachers who have contributed to our development as individuals.

Saru Singhal said...

I guess Coaching Centres has diluted the value of teachers. Teachers are invaluable part of our society. Nicely written...

Meera Sundararajan said...

Thanks Saru, Swapna, Chitra and Anne. Glad that my feelings are echoed by all of you.

Swapna there was a time during my father's generation when even government schools were GREAT,
Anne I can understand what you must have gone through at Engg college coz I went through something similar at Agriculture university

Chitra so true- even I am in touch with my primary school teachers

And Saru, yes coaching centres have diluted the value of teachers. But I would like to say here that there is no supply without demand!

KP said...

Nice post.. I am happy that i was gifted to study under some fine teachers who remember me, even after 10 years.. But unfortunately now a days it is yet another job like you have pointed out..!
The perception of students towards the teachers have also changed a lot.. else why is there so many suicides/attempts by students blaming the teacher as a reason..!

Santosh Kumar said...

Hi! Thank u Meera for raising concerns about the very poor status of our Education system.

First of all , we should fight for increasing literacy rate. I agree with you, we should revive "Guru-Shishya" tradition, it is still in practice by some Classical musicians.

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ KP and Santosh, thanks for the kind words about this post. Santosh I would like to point out that there is a difference between literacy and education. Teacher enable education. We can literate without being educated.

Sunil Deepak said...

As the son of a struggling municiple school teacher, her job helped me finish my education after my father's death, I used to think that the world never properly appreciated teachers, even more so, the teachers of poor government schools. But now I think that I needed to look at her from her students' eyes and not from the salary she got for the job!

Very nicely written post :)

theextraaamile said...

very nicely written :) I do remember my teachers, actually not all of dem..they remember me more for I was one of the few rare ones that gave them every opportunity to remember me... :) I was a gentle student, with streaks of naughtiness ;)

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