Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wanted Teachers

With my students in the Himalayas (2012)


A friend of mine who has opened a new school in Himachal Pradesh asked me to help him get a couple of teachers from Kerala.   I rang up more than half a dozen people (friends and relatives most of whom are teachers) all of whom seemed to mock me for some culpable ignorance.   The last person whom I called the other day is a politician.  I started by mentioning the salary of Rs25000 to Rs30000 thinking that the amount would be quite attractive to a fresh graduate.  “Even if you offer Rs50000,” said my politician-cousin, “you won’t get anyone worth his salt.”

“Why?” I persisted.

“Teaching is not even a career option for today’s generation,” he said.

Teaching as a profession is facing the threat of extinction, I mused.   I had a reason to grin sarcastically.  A few minutes before I called my cousin I had signed a circular sent by my boss.  The circular was to inform the teachers of my school that the hostel supervisors would be keeping a daily record of the hostel duties performed by the teaching staff right from morning 5.30 (waking up students) to the bedtime of the students (10.30 pm). 

It must be mentioned here that mine is an exclusively residential school and the teaching staff are expected to help in the management of the hostels.  Earlier the help meant counselling the students as and when required and helping them with their studies or participation in certain competitions.  For the regular hostel duties there is a full time hostel supervisor in each hostel.  Moreover, teachers cannot spend so much time in the hostel; they are all people with their own families to look after (and not monks and nuns who have renounced the world) and they also have to prepare the lessons of the next day as well as check notebooks and test papers.  Nowadays they also have to fill in pages and pages of details about each student in the name of CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation which may require a teacher to know such details as how many times a student passes urine a day).  Yet why does my school think that teachers must be given more duties?  That’s a mystery I’m still trying to unravel.

What amuses me particularly in this episode is this: the qualification demanded of a teacher is post-graduation with B.Ed. while Senior Secondary education is enough to become a hostel supervisor.  Such a supervisor will sit and make a record of the duties performed by a teacher who has a minimum of six years more of education!  Many teachers of my school have post-graduation in more than one subject and quite a few have doctorate too.  The PhD-wallah’s fate is written by one who has scraped through class 12.

Why would anyone wish to become a teacher in such a world?

But what really amuses me is: why are teachers being condemned to such ignominy?  Is it the revenge of a collective unconscious on a class that dominated the social systems in the days of the gurukulas

50 comments:

  1. Teaching nowadays is a real business. In Mumbai professors charge Rs. 3000 / hour.

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    1. That's another aspect of the job, Vishal. In fact, there's no comparison between school teaching and college teaching.

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  2. Education has become just another commodity ... sad

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    1. Who is responsible for that? It's not the teacher, it looks like.

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  3. You have presented the sad state of affairs in the teaching profession so well. Teaching field is marred by two major challenges: One is lack of teachers with right teaching skills appropriate for the new young generation. The other is the very low pay package to the teachers by many private school. There are exceptions to both. For example, I know about a school in Bangalore where almost all the teachers come to school in four wheelers. They are paid amounts starting from 45000/-.
    In fact there should be radical attitudinal change. Teachers should be given salaries on par with other professionals. The logic is simple. They are the creators of best professionals and officers. Only when we pay good incentives, more people will come to this profession. Now, average performers are coming to the teaching field. This is not a good sign, in a country that has the potential to become the super power through strong educated manpower. It is said that, 'If you give peanuts, you will get only monkeys'. (see my article 'Peanuts or Cookies: Still there will be Monkeys!' in Cyber Diary). But there are many willing people in the teaching profession who contribute their best because of the passion for teaching. I tend to agree with the views of the Kerala Politician!

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    1. Yes, Sibi, there are quite a few schools that pay the teachers well and treat them with dignity too (the latter of which is a problem I see around me). But the job is still losing its sheen (respectability) due to various other factors. That's why people of good calibre don't enter the profession.

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  4. Matheikal,

    My worthless (this is precisely my assessment of what I am going to say) comment:

    Unless both teachers and parents realise that education other than vocational training is NOT merely the instrument for getting a job, no amount of preaching, breast beating by well-meaning yet up in the clouds people will be effective. There is something beyond measurable utility to education, beyond instrumentalism.

    Apologies for being blunt about it. You have no idea how engineering is taught in engineering colleges, and the difference between now and when I studied is stark, truly stark. And, it was not all that great then, just about 40 years ago. I have had experience in my company: engineers not able to identify a wrong click as they use a software.

    Good luck.

    RE

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    1. Perhaps the situation isn't as simple as you think. It isn't merely a matter of some realisation. As I observe, at least in my school, any teacher who tries to really teach (instead of helping students score marks in exams) is seen as a bore by students. Nothing is of any importance to students other than the "number" they score in exams. And if there are no exams that matter, as it happens now till class XI in CBSE, there's no need to study. As simple as that. "Life is for enjoyment" is the motto I hear day in and day out. And enjoyment means loitering around, calling others names, indulging in gossip and nose-poking, power games (I'm speaking about students!), etc.

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    2. Unfortunately I have experienced more than what I know! Some 9th standard student came to me for help (her mother did). I told her that I will not be teaching for exams and I was blunt about it. But, I guaranteed, yes, I guaranteed that the student will understand math and consequently do better, if not in the unit test just two days later. The mother and the student accepted. But, I just could not get the student to engage herself beyond her book and the exercise problems at the back of the book. I taught her new ways of understanding the problems, but she insisted that she had to understand only in the way taught in the class. That is, I had to teach her the way she had been taught at school, quite so Ineffectively at that! If that is not a ,cruel joke, tell me what is and what it is!

      I am not downgrading school teachers but they do spoil the students by sticking to the exam requirements and the parents play the part of the assistants of assassins!

      RE

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    3. Raghuram, let me give you a very pertinent personal example. Last year when our Social Science teacher resigned in March I volunteered to take the history classes in class 9 until a new teacher was appointed. The first chapter was French Revolution. I started with the story of Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities', assuming that the story would initiate interest and curiosity among students. But the students were yawning by the time I reached the climax of the story. The yawns multiplied in geometric progression as I entered the text they were supposed to study. It took me nearly a year to find out that they only wanted some questions and answers which would fetch them numbers in the exam. How would you blame me as a teacher if I had to change my strategy accordingly? It's so easy to blame the teacher when you are in a different profession never in touch with the real classroom situation and its challenges.

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  5. Teachers can not be fully absolved of the blame for stealing sheen out of this once-respected profession. I have my own bag of horrendous stories of the teachers for whom teaching was only a profession promising fixed salary at month end. Those were the days when parents saw teachers with a halo around their heads and any complaint from their ward against teachers was shot down with a strict rebuke. But I saw many teachers lacking ability and credibility to deserve that status. For most of them school was the medium to fetch more students for their private tuitions. For others the profession was not serious enough. There were good teachers, in fact excellent ones, but those were few and far between. Both categories got same remuneration in the end. It is because of lackadaisical attitude of majority of such teachers that this profession lost its deserving place.

    Yes paltry packages have also hindered good and competent people entering this profession.

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    1. Meenakshi, a simple question. Pardon me for asking it, if you don't like it. Would you like to become a teacher? If not, why?

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    2. Sir, with all due respect for this profession, NO!

      Actually, When I was on the crossroads of choosing a profession, everybody advised me to become teacher, why because it is suits woman, they can take care of their families well owing to shorter working hours as compared to other jobs. I was forced to sit through B Ed entrance exam (though I stood 14th in entire Punjab). May be that forced woman tag and picking this profession just for the sake of convenience made me averse to it.

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    3. Thanks for the frank answer. Your answer reveals a lot about people's attitude to this profession.

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  6. there are very few schools that pay the teachers well. This could be one of the reasons people now days shy away from this noble profession. I am sure every kid at some time or the other wanted to become a teacher,but I think to a certain extend even parents are responsible. Its either doctor or engg for the parents. I had always been interested in teaching as a profession and prob would have made a good teacher but that was not an option given to me :)

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    1. Yes, every science student is a potential doc or engineer. Every commerce student is a potential CA or entreprenuer. Every failure in the class is a potential teacher :)

      I can understand all that. But what baffles me is why my boss(es) think teachers are asses to carry all the laundry of the school.

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  7. This is an extremely poignant post...I can vouch for what you have written here. Teaching is no more considered a Noble profession; they are not given the respect or the wages that they deserve. They mould a generation...the citizens of tomorrow and what do they get in return!

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    1. It appears that only those in the teaching profession will understand my woes :)

      Leaving my woes aside, the problem in general does call for some attention.

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  8. Well, I think the real problem here is the management's insensitivity to the working conditions of the teachers there... Industrialists can only understand production-line ideas and profit is the only motive, even when couched behind slogans of "all-round development" etc. Though all teachers may not be perfect, I would still blame the management here for not realizing that the school involves humans and not machines.
    I, however, have a problem with your bias against people without higher degrees and your scorn for any regulatory powers they may enjoy. At most public establishments, one is frisked by non-graduate security personnel, who may be interpreted to be wielding power over 'educated' people like the PhD colleagues you refer to. That is not a wise line to take, if you ask me.
    As for teaching as a profession, I remember when I chose teaching as a career when I was offered admission to engineering colleges (and chose a degree in English and not science), every one around me looked at me with such amazement and shock and thought I had suicidal tendencies. I don't think teaching has been attractive as a career option (especially in schools), except for women who chose to teach in schools close to home for reasons of convenience. You may well be right in your assessment that we may be getting it back for our professional ancestors ruling the roost in the (distant) past.

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    1. Since you know the system I'm speaking of, I must tell you that my scorn has a valid reason. The new management has given a day off to the hostel supervisors. Teachers will do their job on their off day. Teachers have no day off! In fact, much of the supervisors' job is being shifted to the teachers.

      On Saturday the former principal of the school (whom you know very well) was given farewell. He thanked all the office staff for their valuabe service and forgot the teachers! You know again what I'm trying to say without saying it. It is this system that I'm questioning as best as I can on a public platform.

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    2. Aargh, now I completely understand... Pathetic that teachers become administrators and forget how they felt as teachers. Also, they forget how they felt as students themselves in class... I wish we can do something about the ways of this management...

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  9. Teaching was one of the noble professions but it has ceased to be one in today's times. Owe it to the quality of the students , the fierce competition and the 'target' given to the teachers. Neither the pupil are interested in acquiring knowledge nor the teacher's onus is to provide that. Everyone is running after a fixed set of activities that need to be ticked and measured in useless numbers. If none of them are enjoying the relationship of imparting & learning how in the world will the profession be sought after. I give you another topic for your next blogpost " WANTED STUDENTS".

    Viveksheel
    Tea Time Talk - http://viveksheel-blog.blogspot.in/

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    1. Thanks for that suggestion which I think should be taken seriously. There are few genuine students now, as you say. There are only customers or clients who look for the commodity called "number" (scores in exams).

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  10. What a great discussion out here. Several interesting trends in education right now that might help understand the situation. The definition of teaching as formal learning to help you "get by" in life is being questioned more openly now than ever before. Technology is taking learning delivery to a totally new level. And more and more people are realizing that the mess around us has been created by generations who are products of the traditional education system. Perhaps, like you hinted at in your closing lines, this is nature's way of restoring balance. In technology and business, the largest numbers of teachers still are those who could not fit into industry. In the arts, in what little is left of the arts, the lag between evolving ideas and their adoption by academia frustrates most students. I think we are standing on the verge of an education revolution. With the growing acceptance of democratic education and homeschooling/unschooling philosophies, and the thrust of MOOCs, we are possibly looking at a new atrium and a new senate. Loved the post.

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    1. Thanks for adding much to my post. I think our education system is going through a period of transition. A lot of experimentation is on. Perhaps we can look forward to some good results eventually. My optimism is mixed with cynicism because books like 'Deschooling Society' appeared long ago and made a lot of noise. But there has been no significant change in the system!

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  11. I am a teacher, one who had to fight with her family after making her choice to teach. My father told me that the labourers working on the construction site opposite our house earn much better than what I was..Undeterred I still went ahead and stayed in this profession through 19 years..I wonder how many of the current generation of teachers get into this because of passion. Everyday I read about teachers who have tortured students in ways one cant imagine..
    Yes teachers need to be paid much better...and so true about the extra duties teachers are loaded with! Time for change, but how???

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    1. A simple change that should be made: Discard meaningless jobs which are thrust upon teachers. E.g., CCE records which achieve absolutely nothing. Umpteen projects, activities, and practical assignments which produce copied, plagiarised, adapted, stolen works. Make a teacher's job meaningful and creative. Of course, that calls for a genuine effort from the teachers too.

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  12. I guess, with large-scale commercialization of education, the profession has lost its hallowed status. Are there enough dedicated teachers still left whom students can look up to...I often ask myself!! When teaching is influenced by money, teaching ought not to be a noble profession. Though, I know, this statement cannot be generalized.
    But yes, teacher's life has a uniquely stressful nature these days...so many youngsters are not opting for this industry, maybe.
    Enjoyed reading this, Matheikal,

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Panchali. I must add that I'm not merely making some complaints. I'm most willing to put in more work provided my work is meaningful.

      Yes, commercialisation has done most of the damage. But there are a lot of other factors too which arise from the present social, economic and political system which has killed off humanity and created automatons in the place of people.

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  13. What about teachers who dont teach properly in school but ask the students to attend their private tuition classes?

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    1. Strict action should be taken against such teachers. What is the administration for otherwise?

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  14. This is sad...This is also a reaon why private institutes are taking advantage of Govt inability to provide enough schools vs teachers vs quality of life in the school. This is same with roads, water supply....we are among the highest bracket when it comes to tax. Its sad that half of our money is spent behind security of minsters where most of them have not seen college...what can you expect?

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    1. Mismanagement, exactly. And yet we have so many institutions that teach management! MBAs are the most sought after people to run institutions today! And the result? Well, you mentioned it in another area.

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  15. A right topic picked up at the right time.....I so much wanted to be a teacher but landed at another profession during the course of my life. Whatever is written and spoken here, I still hold a lot of respect for my teachers during my days of study and guess what...most of them are facing a true financial crisis currently....
    is that what makes us not going for this profession? I don't think so.

    Actually, a lack of guidance during childhood and adulthood makes us think that being doctor/engineer/CA is the best thing to do. It's the combination of all the inputs (from parents to relatives) make a child/person think about the FAB of a profession. Even teachers don't recommend 'Teacher' as a prospect profession in my time. Something like Indian Teaching Services (like IAS) may be able to help to uplift the image of teaching as a profession but I know I am sounding over-ambitious.

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  16. Perhaps, people in general are unable to give the kind of guidance that you mention. People tend to go by the economic benefits derived from a profession rather than the sense of gratification. A job today is not meant to take a person towards the fulfilment of her personality but help bring in a fat pay packet.

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    1. I am like nodding to what you mentioned :)

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  17. My dad retired as a professor. During my childhood days people used to tell us that the college vacation and teachers having off during that time is great as in private service one doesn't get vacation etc etc. I had seen people respecting dad a lot. When he retired, he refused to be a director in one of the coaching institutes as he believed that education is not a commodity to sell.

    During the Mandal commission agitations he was very annoyed about reservations as he felt that one cannot promote people on the basis of caste/creed/religion. One shouldn't promote intellectual sterility.

    The overall values of the society has gone down. So today nothing is sacrosanct. We don't respect teachers anymore. During engineering, we had some really lousy teachers. During MBA days some of the teachers were simply not good enough. The conduct of one who was a father, was not above board. Naturally we didn't respect them.

    Some of my classmates wanted to be teachers and bribed their way through and became lecturer in private college. They never had the aptitude to become a teacher but they wanted to just have a job. Today the UGC scales are good, so money is not the barrier for good people to become teachers. We need to bring back respectability to the profession.
    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

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    1. I agree with you in every point you've raised. I'm aware that the problem is not a simple one where some teachers perform their duties sincerely while others don't. The problem is a reflection of the overall erosion of values in the society.

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  19. Food for thought post! Some very valid questions. Teaching is akin to the girl child or the woman today. We call it a revered profession. Noble. And yet no one wants it. (or wants to be step into it. Passionate people are few and far between. Like in every other profession, teachers are humans too - often sole bread earners. However, unlike other professions this one also has the potential to positively impact lives. Like a doctor's. Yet, the doctor is considered God but the teacher lives like a servant. It could be a fallout of the meagre salaries that they are dished out but being a teacher doesn't command a lot of respect today - especially if it's a man. How many fathers would agree to get their daughters married off to a teacher earning 20,000 per month. Add to it, issues like being "temporary" for 2 years at an abysmal salary of ~5000 per month. Even my househelp gets paid more than that in a month (if she puts together all the houses she works for). The fact that private coaching centers offer attractive packages to teachers is adding to this mess, because teachers are no longer interested in giving their best to the schools/colleges where their day job is. Add to it the engineer/doctor fight - because of which only the folks who do not have other options go into this field (unless they're extremely passionate). A friend I know is "temporary" and earns 4000 a month. Only her first year so far, but she goes because she needs the money. It's probably this weakness that the management looks to exploit - that either you're too passionate and won't quit or you need the money (however meagre it might be) and that you probably won't get a job elsewhere - and they keep getting loaded with more and more work. Teachers have become more administrators today because hey, why pay extra people for administrative duties if we can get these folks to do the job? What's that? Who'll teach? Children go to private tuitions anyway, so it's OK even if the teachers skip a few topics at school, doesn't matter. This is exactly what two of my friends told me - both teachers - when I had wanted to join the teaching line. It's a deterrent if I want to go in wanting to help children and that's the attitude being taught.

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    1. Thanks for adding this dimension of the remuneration. It's a major problem. Most private schools pay very little to teachers. As a result the quality of the people who take up the job is pathetic. Tuitions necessarily become an added and better source of income. Such teachers won't obviously be committed to the profession, let alone have the right attitudes or values.

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  20. Whether in Government or in private schools, teachers are viewed by the management as skilled labour. Government school teachers are drafted for census work, election duty and relief work during natural calamities...even the RTE categorically sanction these extra duty. The opportunity cost of a school teacher in India is low, there are so many with the prescribed educational 'degree' who are available and agreeable to work at a lower pay, though they might not be good. Because of this perception problem and low opportunity cost, teaching profession suffers.

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    1. Yes, Aditi, that's the most practical view of the problem and a very correct one too. But a time is coming when few will be there to take up this job and the scales will turn.

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  22. Very unfortunate teacher's profession is not valued any more, particularly a school teacher's. I myself dread to take this up thinking how to handle 30 to 40 kids at a time.

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    1. The other day a student threatened to get a teacher of his imprisoned unless the latter tended an apology for slapping him. In fact, the student had acted very foolishly and even malevolently. But he knows his rights! So the teacher bowed his head to the student!

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  23. Now days, every youth is willing to earn a 5 to 6 digit salary by working on a desk or on PC and It is unfortunate that the passionate teachers too are attracted by this lucrative salary digit. Also the correct and main reason is that the teachers profession has lost its value right now.

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    1. I've started re-reading the book, 'Deschooling Society,' by Ivan Illich. Just to console me with a hope that some of his suggestions may yet come true. I hope to write a blog on this soon.

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