Saturday, September 22, 2012

From a Teacher's Diary

I am a teacher in an exclusively residential boy’s public school in Delhi.  The parents of each of my students pay an annual fee of about Rs 200,000.  That’s nothing much compared to the fees charged by international schools in Delhi. Yet that’s quite a lot compared to the annual per capita income of an Indian.  So I, as a teacher in such a school, would expect certain standard of behaviour from my students.  For example, I would expect that the students want value for the money that their parents are paying (paisa wasool, is that the right phrase?)  I would expect my students to gain as much as they can from the classes, from the sprawling playgrounds (which most Delhi schools cannot afford), and from the very routine of a residential school.
What do I, as a teacher, actually see?  I see my students trying to bunk off from classes.  Ok, you can blame the teacher for not trying to make the classes as interesting as Kapil Sibal’s CCE envisages them to be.  I see my students running away from games!  I see them running away from co-curricular and extra-curricular activities which are actually supposed to be fun. I see them running away from everything that’s presented as their duty, but which are actually quite fun.
CBSE [Central Board of Secondary Education] introduced certain changes this year in the class XI English.  One such change was meant to inculcate a taste for reading among students.  I assigned the task to my students.  I liberalised (since liberalisation is the accepted policy these days) the task further to make it easier and more interesting for my students.  Finally I called them one by one for the viva voce examination which carries 10 marks.
The examination proved that most of the students had not bothered to read the book on which they had to do the project.  Even my liberalisation policy which suggested that they could read any book of their choice did not work!  Forget the classics suggested by CBSE.  My students chose to copy the summary of some book from the internet.  Some chose to write about the fairy tale they had studied in class IV or V. 
When I persisted with my intention to make them read something, a few of them condescended to say, “Ok, sir, I’ll read a book for the next project.”  At least a few were polite enough to make it appear not condescending, thank my stars.  And most were honest enough to admit that they had not done what they were supposed to do.
I appreciated their honesty.  And I gave them grades generously.  Because the viva voce exam was meant to check their spoken English, not their moral values or psychological merits. 
The English teachers can produce students who can speak English fluently.  The subject teachers can make students pass the entrance exams of IITs or such prestigious institutions.  But who will produce values in them?  Qualities?  And how?
CBSE is introducing questions in every subject to test the moral values of students!  I’m not joking.  There will be a question in every subject from now on to check the moral values of students. 
I’d like to laugh. 


  1. I remember in my high school, my language teacher chose to assign everyone a two part book - it was a fiction thriller(at that time, this extra reading thing wasn't a part of the course) but the school had this noble idea of trying to make all the students well read. What the teacher did was that she narrated and recited the first part of the thriller in such a manner that our curiosity forced us to read the second part of the book on our own!
    Another teacher of a different section made it compulsory for all the boys to read any two books of Chetan Bhagat and the girls to read any two books of Mills and Boon. Although both the section of these books are like comics without illustrations but all she wanted to do was to get them to start reading on their own.

    1. Sid, different teachers employ different strategies... Earlier I used to narrate a part of the story of some modern classic (e.g. A Tale of 2 Cities) so that an interest would be created in the students to read the book. A few would read the books too. That was quite some time ago. Slowly the computers and phones with the internet came and the students got busy with Orkut, Facebook, etc. Who wants to read now? Who has the time?!

  2. Take it easy Matheikal:) Who am I to preach or advise? I'm just thinking aloud! The times have changed since our schooldays and will continue to be changing( ..they aren't Wordsworth's Rainbow!!)

    1. The times have changed, Amit. And I'm not alarmed really. Just concerned, that's all. I'm lucky in a way that there are still some students who still value my rather conservative views - conservative for the social networking generation.

  3. You are not going to like what I am going to say, Matheikal. Science cannot be taught without a big dollop of morality. For example, can evolution through natural selection ever be devoid of moral questions about whether it is good or bad that tigers prey on antelopes in a cotillion performed in the forest? Or, going to physical sciences, should we have at all unlocked the secrets of nuclear energy? Or, figured out how medicines help the healing process (the inevitable concomitant discovery of how chemicals can kill people also arises out of this)?

    Morality through science seems to have a stronger foundation. However, whether it would reach into the minds of the students is a difficult question. Ultimately it may even turn out that it cannot.


    1. Who told you I wouldn't like this, Raghuram? I think you look at my writing from a particular angle. Probably, a problem with scientists! :)

      I was not laughing at the impossibility of teaching moral values through any particular subject; I was laughing at the concept that values could be examined this way. In psychological testing there are a few aspects that should be guarded against: faking, seeking social acceptability, etc. How is the teacher of any subject able to identify such strategies employed by a student in answering the 'values questions'? There are other practical problems, too, if you think about it seriously. Can values be really taught in a bookish way like we do with other subjects? If they could be why did our moral science and religion classes fail so miserably?

      I agree with you absolutely that science can be the best teacher of morality. What better morality is there than learn scientific outlooks, thinking, reasoning, and temper? Again, did all the teaching of science so far achieve anything much in this regard? If not, why? These are the questions that rise in my mind making me laugh at CBSE's attempt to create values in students by adding a question in each subject. I don't know if I have made myself clear enough to you. But the situation as I see is ridiculous enough for me.

  4. Hi M,

    Yes teaching is turning out to be a very worrisome profession day by day. I am also a teacher at the same lvel +2, in South Africa. You may not believe this, my learners come on empty stomach. We teachers have to organise some soup kitchen for them to see that they do not go to the classes on empty stomach. This is a no fees government school. there are some government and private schools here with an annual fee within the range of 3 to 5 lakhs RS. there the stories are different.

    Indian education is also lacking when it comes to learning for citizenship. Cramming in some knowledge for getting scores was generally considered as the educational objectives there or in all schools globally.

    But now all are changing. The current objectives are for knowledge, value creation,, right choices etc. Though value education may appear to be a big joke in India people like KS are seemingly under pressure to bring India's education in line with the above objectives.

    And south africa is no exception.

    Here we do have gone through a lot of experiments on Outcome Based Education and one such outcome is moral values.

    I am not saying it is any easy. But that is the demand. But how do you train the teachers for all these new approaches in India? or let me put in in another way, do you get trained?

    I am interested in the new CBSE curriculum you mentioned . Can you please send me a link of that if available.

    1. I understand the problem you face, especially when you have to go beyond the job of teaching...

      The link for the CBSE curriculum is here:
      Once you enter that site, you'll be directed to an array of links depending on which session, which subject... that you wish to look for.

      In some places in India, the situation is not much better than the one you're facing there. I'm lucky to be working in a different kind of school. But there are hundreds of schools in India's rural wilderness where the situation is pathetic. Will Kapil Sibal's vision work there? What can a teacher in a govt school with 70 students in each class, and no infrastructure worth its name, do to implement the grand vision?...



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