Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Teaching – a cheap profession?

Teaching extends far beyond the classroom
A few of my students on the bank of the Ganga

The above ad appeared in today’s [10 Sep] Times of India (Ascent, the job vacancies supplement).  The school wants both teachers and “coaching experts.”  While the teachers will be paid a salary of Rs 22,000 per month, the coaching experts will be paid from “Rs 9 Lac to 12 Lac” annually.  Moreover, “Higher start can be considered for highly deserving candidates” in the case of coaching experts – but apparently not in the case of teachers. 
As a teacher I was amused by the discrepancy between the remunerations of a tutor and a teacher.  The job of the tutor (or coaching expert, as the ad calls him/her) is to prepare “students competing for Board Exams & for IIT, AIEEE, PMT, NDA etc.”
Why is there so much discrepancy between the remunerations, I wondered naturally.  Is it tougher to prepare students for competitive exams than teach them the subject, instil values in them and mould their personality, the latter of which is a teacher’s job?  In a residential school like mine, the teacher’s job is even more onerous; s/he has to provide counselling and guidance, spend time even in the night helping students with their studies as well as other activities (co-curricular and extra-curricular) and also help them solve their emotional and behavioural problems.  In addition, the teacher is to keep records of these activities as well as submit occasional reports on them to the Principal.  The teacher in a residential school like mine gets no extra benefit for providing the extra services!
Contrast this with the job of a tutor.  S/he has to teach the subject with the explicit goal of getting the students clear the competitive exam and nothing more.  But the tutor (expert?) is paid 4 times or more than a teacher.  Why?  This ‘why’ is what amuses me.
Is it because of the general perception that teaching is not a skilled profession?
George Bernard Shaw said in his characteristically scathing way, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”   The implication of Shaw’s statement is that teaching is a profession of the impotent.
In the beginning of my teaching career I agreed with Shaw.  I joined the profession when I failed to get any other job.  Having failed in many an interview, I came to the logical conclusion that I belonged to the group that Shaw labelled as “those who can’t.”  Eventually, however, I began to enjoy my job.  Later, when I got an opportunity to change the profession for a much more lucrative one (money-wise), I opted to stay put in my original profession.  Now, when people ask me why I don’t try to become a Principal or at least a Vice Principal, I say that I’m not interested in administrative jobs.  Teaching is my job.  Is it because I’m incapable of being an administrator?  Could be, I don’t deny that.  I don’t think I’ll ever learn the kind of manipulative strategies employed by administrators that I’ve been familiar with from the time I started working. 
But, I’d like to look at the situation in another way.  I enjoy the job of teaching.  I’m fairly passionate about it.  No other profession arouses such passion in me.  I also feel that I’m doing the job (of teaching) fairly well.  In other words, it’s not necessary that I am a teacher because I am not good for anything else, but because I am good for this particular job.
Isn’t teaching a skill just like, say, writing, engineering, acting, etc?  Teaching is, after all, not merely imparting knowledge.  It’s more about dealing with young individuals.  The patience it demands is not minuscule. 
Yet why does the profession remain so discredited?  Even teachers don’t seem to like the profession themselves.  Most teachers I know are happy to be promoted as administrators (coordinator, vice principal or principal).  Does that mean that these people became teachers because they couldn’t get any other job?  Is Shaw vindicated?
On the other hand, could it be that the meagre income derived from the profession makes it unappealing?  I’m inclined to think this is the real reason why teaching remains the last choice in the career preferences. 
Going one step further, I’d say that if the remuneration of teachers is enhanced better people (those who love the job) will enter the profession.  After all, the “noble task of nation-building” need not be a cheap endeavour.


  1. Well, it will be idealistic to say that teaching is NOT a profession ... having said that and not being and idealist, I admit I do not know what teaching is.

    But mundanely reconstructed, teaching IS a profession. But, is there any way other than by comparing remuneration, one can evaluate teaching? My father did not think so (and this was a sore point with him as it appears to be with you), but I do.

    If only my father could enjoy vicarious pride, I am ready to offer much. I am 58 years old, and the only people who have mattered to me and whom I remember in my life are teachers. I say this most sincerely and with much humility.

    Why humility? I am enjoying the lifestyle of a non-teacher (still being exploited, to be sure) but I teach, in my own way and unfettered by pedagogy, and am being respected as a teacher.

    So, I conclude that teaching from within the profession is a dead-end, but from without, its remuneration cannot be matched. I am eating the cake and having it too. So, as I am teaching I am also cheating.


    1. First of all, Raghuram, I'd whole-heartedly agree with you that teaching is not a profession; it's a mission.

      Right now I'm aware of a school that has been taken over from a trust by a religious cult. One of the first things that the cult did was to curtail the remunerations of all the teachers who were on contract. More, they shortened the contract period from one year to periods of 3 months. One of the teachers commented wryly that religious people are only used to receiving and not giving. In such a world, where religion should be the greatest mission, how can teachers afford to be missionaries?

      Personally, my concern is not as much with the remuneration as the financial security of a teacher. When holy gurus start asking questions like "Are teachers getting this much?" when they the (gurus) are wallowing in wealth and luxury, the situation is not just ludicrous, it's alarming.

  2. Thought provoking! I believe a tutor is essentially a teacher only.
    The difference in remunerations perhaps is due to the fee receipts for respective courses. I also do agree with many of your views though.

    1. Yes, Amit, students are ready to pay huge amounts to their tutors for helping them pass the exams with whatever short-cuts are available. While teachers have to do many more things than merely impart knowledge, the tutors have to do a highly focused job. We live in a focused world, focused on "success" - not on knowledge or anything else. The remuneration is for that "success".

    2. Dear sir, having been a college lecturer myself twice in my career, and coming from a family of dozens of teachers including my parents, I know everything about this profession, that is why I found myself agreeing with your views!

  3. i think this has got to do a bit with PGT, TGT thing the coaches are here what is purely my thought PGTs who are paid as per the UGC grades for lecturers...also the TGTs here appear graduates while for coaches they are asking for higher qualification. Probably a call to them should help.... all said and done teachers play a key role in anybody's life specially in formative years..

    1. No, this has nothing to do with the PGT/TGT distinction. I have been a PGT ever since I was appointed in my present school more than eleven years ago. My current emolument will not even come near half of what's being offered in this case to the "experts". Moreover, I know how some such experts were charging fees which were much higher than the school's tuition fee for their coaching classes which run for just a few hours a week.

      Coaching is just a business, and business sets its own price!

  4. dear sir,
    i have been your student for a very short time. even then, i have come to one conclusion: teaching is a noble profession which deserves much more respect and lucre than at present. you are right when you mentioned that teaching cannot be bound by the classroom walls. i never learnt anything within the classroom walls anyway. i propose a better pay-scale for professionals who are directly involved with nation-building, starting with those in the teaching profession.

    1. What students remember of a teacher is usually not what was taught from textbooks! Interesting, isn't it?


Appa is happy

Fiction “Appa is happy,” Lily said for the seventh time, or maybe eighth.   Appa smiled at Simon.   Lily’s Appa was Simon’s uncl...