Shobhana Verghese,DH, Sep 5, 2014, DHNS
We need to return honesty to the centre stage and respect teachers' time better.
Current political posturing over ‘Teachers’ Day’ or ‘Shikshak Divas’ or ‘Guru Utsav’ leaves me quite unmoved because what really matters is not what the day is referred to as, but what it symbolises. On this day pupils lovingly express appreciation and gratitude to their teachers who are second only to parents, while government and private school owners often go the extra mile with a grant of largesse in one avatar or another. Altogether, an especially warm and fuzzy ‘feel good’ day for us in the teaching fraternity!
And this is how it should be since teachers in a few hundred elitist schools along with a few thousand more in government and private schools around the country are doing a great job from most perspectives. Their pupils emerge with progressive attitudes and productive skills which makes them either highly coveted by universities/employers in India and abroad.
However, my concern is for the remaining millions of teachers who work in urban/rural and government/private schools wherein this kind of success is rare. Unfortunately, these teachers can’t work or won’t work as effectively as they have the potential for. Bearing testimony to their under performance are millions of children who either dropout or fail at every significant stage along the 12-year continuum. Add to this the tragic fact that almost half the number of government school pupils in Class 5 cannot demonstrate language and math skills at the level of Class 3, and we have a problem of mammoth proportion.
Let’s take the ‘won’t’ first since throwing stones at ourselves will preclude others doing it. In my view there are no politically correct answers here. Indulgence in corruption and nepotism comes to mind immediately. Who does not know of the fictitious BEd colleges that give out thousands of fake degrees each year to completely unscrupulous persons who then proceed to masquerade as ‘teachers’ to get well-paid government jobs? And who does not know of the large number of well connected teachers who indulge in unethical and unprofessional activity with gay abandon. When dishonesty is almost a way of life in common society, schools cannot escape an unethical work culture. We all need to smell the rot and accept that corruption and nepotism are personal choices with disastrous long-term outcomes.
And now, let’s have a look at the ‘can’t’ aspect of teacher under-performance! A critical factor is that all government teachers lose over 30 working days each year when on deputation for census duty, election duty, immunisation duty and whatnot. A further 10 days is lost every year to mandatory off-site training conducted by a plethora of agencies. Out of a possible 190-200 working days available annually, nearly 25 per cent of classroom time in all government schools is lost. Further, neither technology nor multi-grade teaching skill is generally available to help mitigate the missing-teacher syndrome.
As a people, we need to return honesty to the centre stage of life and have our government respect teachers’ time and purpose better for the ground reality to improve.