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December 02, 2023 01:57 pm | Updated 01:57 pm IST
We need educators who are not only academically proficient but also demonstrate intellectual, emotional, social, and moral courage. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
The theme for the World Teachers’ Day (WTD) 2023 was “The teachers we need for the education we want: Addressing the global imperative to address teacher shortages”. This theme prompts teachers in India to reflect on several key questions: Does India face a shortage of teachers? Does our country truly celebrate teachers? What kind of education does it aspire to provide? What qualities should the teachers possess to align with the educational goals of the country?
Interestingly, while many countries are grappling with teacher shortages, India stands as an exception, due to its sufficient teacher population. However, regrettably, not all of these educators can be characterised as exemplary. Some lack the essential passion and qualities and many fall short in terms of the necessary skills to excel. A significant number of teachers in India can be categorised as “qualified but not necessarily productive or effective.” This phenomenon may be attributed to various factors, including the treatment and respect given to teachers in our country.
A country that values its educators is likely to attract and retain good, competent teachers because individuals are inclined to choose a profession that enjoys respect and recognition within their society. According to the 2018 Global Teacher Status Index, the top 10 countries where teachers are held in the highest esteem, ranked from highest to lowest, are as follows: China (1), Malaysia (2), Taiwan (3), Russia (4), Indonesia (5), South Korea (6), Turkey (7), India (8), New Zealand (9), and Singapore (10). If the survey results are accurate, we, in India, should take pride in our 8th place ranking.
Does India truly celebrate teachers? Is the teaching profession regarded as noble in our country? In a recent survey, I posed these questions to teachers working in government and private schools. Many believe that our society recognises the profound significance of educators and celebrates their contributions, especially when they uphold moral principles and prioritise student well-being.
However, a substantial salary gap exists between government school teachers and their peers in private institutions. This highlights the regrettable reality that the majority of teachers are not treated equally. Consequently, this discrimination has driven many teachers to leave the profession. Poor working conditions combined with inadequate remuneration deter individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. Therefore, it is imperative to attract youngsters who possess adequate knowledge, competent skills and right attitude to the teaching profession by implementing appropriate measures.
What type of education should our nation aspire to provide? True education encompasses more than simply enabling students to obtain qualifications such as degrees and diplomas. It involves acquiring knowledge, honing skills necessary for a career, shaping one’s thinking, developing a scientific temperament, cultivating the right attitude, and nurturing qualities that make us better human beings. Moreover, it entails preparing to adapt to ever-constant change and contributing to the betterment of society.
True education fosters holistic growth by providing individuals with opportunities to explore life, enhance their living standards, and equip themselves with the resilience needed to face life’s challenges. It should empower them to sharpen their creative and critical thinking skills and apply them as needed and enable them to become independent thinkers who possess the courage to question prevailing norms and conventions. Unfortunately, intellectual courage, which is essential for this development, is often lacking in many today. Even educators often hesitate to address the significance of intellectual courage and honesty.
Do teachers in India possess the ability to provide the education that we aspire for? If one asks parents and students about the qualities good teachers should possess, they would likely mention that teachers should be knowledgeable, make learning engaging, explain concepts effectively and listen to students attentively. These are fundamental attributes that every teacher should possess. However, teachers are also expected to excel as educators. In this regard, it is important to reflect on the theme of World Teachers’ Day 2022: “The transformation of education begins with teachers.” We need educators who are not only academically proficient but also demonstrate intellectual, emotional, social, and moral courage.
Such teachers raise questions and voice their opinions on various matters impacting both academia and society. They possess such open-mindedness that they consistently embrace fresh knowledge, foster innovative thinking, and challenge preconceived notions and deeply-held theories. They also effectively manage their emotions in a constructive and creative manner. Additionally, they stand up for their convictions and resist the pressure to conform to societal expectations. Further, educators with moral courage consistently choose the morally upright path, champion the truth, and speak out against injustices, even in the face of adversity.
Educators with such qualities can make a profoundly positive impact on their students’ lives. However, do such teachers exist in our society? It is imperative that we earnestly consider the measures our nation should undertake to help teachers nurture not only their professional expertise but also their emotional, social, and moral competence. A society that honours teachers will be fortunate to have such exceptional educators.
The words of John Lennon from the Beatles resonate in my thoughts as I write this piece: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us.” Yes, one day, the demand for teachers possessing these attributes will grow.
The writer is an English Language Teaching (ELT) resource person and education columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hindu Education Plus / education / higher education / students / teachers / teaching and learning / universities and colleges / university
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