By Ananya S Guha
On the eve of Teachers’ Day instead of preparing for celebrations and taking part in a one off day where we tell our teachers how they are the best persons in the world we should take stock of the educational scenario in the country keeping school teachers in mind.
The fact is that school teachers in our country as compared to their counterparts in different parts of the world, are not only poorly paid but also school teaching as a profession is not given the due importance that it not only deserves, but which is the focal point of a child’s educational career and shaping of the mind. Our emphasis is on college or university teachers and we forget that to reach the stage it is school education which lays all foundations for future educational guidance and needs. Education then must be seen in a holistic manner where the three tiers: school, college and university education are part of a contiguous whole and none of these parts are actually complete without the other. In other words they are not to be rigidly stratified but play upon one another and interact upon one another in the most marvelous ways one can think of. In fact, again the transition from school to college is a beautiful part of adolescence which college teachers must study and understand. When I taught in a college here in Shillong from 1981 to 1982 the classes XI and XII were called Pre-University and the exams were conducted by the North Eastern Hill University. But we very well knew that these boys were school students just fresh from Class X and for two years at least they would behave in a childlike manner and controlling a class of 150 to 180 boys was at times a nightmare. But these very young adults once they stepped into main collegiate education displayed a rare maturity and most of them focused their studies in an invincible manner. It was they who hunted out the teachers beyond the classroom situation to ask for advice and guidance.
But what is the plight of school teachers today? Not only are they poorly paid even in government or government aided schools, their roles as friend philosopher and guide are not taken in the larger spirit of what education needs. Thus in a state like Meghalaya where I live school teachers have been striking work for fulfillment of their demands like payment of arrears.
Secondly, what is happening to the teachers in private schools? Most of these schools are business houses with little sense of social responsibility. They pay the teachers a pittance and expect them to do grueling work as and when the authorities ask them to do so. That is fine, teachers have extended responsibilities but unless these responsibilities are matched with monetary incentives they will be vapid in their work, and will only complain – rightly so.
It is high time that we think of the evolution of common school systems and neighbourhood schools where these will function under the direct supervision of the governments. Private schools should be brought under this ambit. And what about those unfortunates who cannot even go to school? We call them street children, or drop-outs but what kind of an educational system have we thought for them, with all the talk of Right To Education? It may be a right but who will implement it?
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan maintained that his birthday should be known as Teachers’ Day. Instead of paying lip service to our teachers year after year like a rigmarole, let us take stock of what we can do to improve their lot, in terms of finances and creating a much better work ethos for them. This is a pre-condition to the overall improvement of the quality of teaching and learning, no matter how many teacher training programmes we develop, and how many awards we bestow on teachers.