Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Teacher’s Day


A friend who wished to start a school of his own approached me the other day with a request: “Please draft a vision and a mission for the school.” 

“The vision: Earn profit,” I said; “The mission: Earn more profit.”

Being familiar with my cynicism, he said without batting an eyelid or even smiling, “Of course, you’re absolutely right...  I’m here to get a vision and a mission that’s different from the ones we usually see on websites...”

I drafted something which I can’t recollect now!  [You can guess how serious I was about what I wrote.]

Education today is another commercial enterprise.  Students as well as their parents want it that way too; they have been “schooled” to want it that way!

In 1971, in his book, Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich blamed the education system for institutionalising values.  He argued that the schools put undue emphasis on process rather than substance.  “Once these become blurred,” wrote Illich, “a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results...”  The pupil is thereby ‘schooled’ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence... His imagination is ‘schooled’ to accept service in place of value.  Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.”

Four decades after that was written, we are in a position to see the consequences of following such an education system.  The worst consequence is that we have commercialised everything.  Education is a commercial product today as much as medical care is.  Beauty is a product on sale as much as love is. A lot of additional products are available in all these ‘industries’.  Coaching of all kinds is available in education sector, insurance of all types is available in the medical sector, beauty shows assume various forms in various media, and love is sold both in wholesale and retail markets both by men and women.  Commerce is the largest process – with whatever substance it may have.

What is a teacher’s role in this commercialised process that education sector is today?  To prescribe as many guide books, workbooks and other books as possible so that the school makes more profits?  To take as many coaching classes as possible so that the teacher’s poor salary (in private schools, particularly) is enhanced?  To give as much work as possible to the students so that the parents are impressed?  To follow academic coordinators and other such “experts” who are appointed by the school and who offer their suggestions with unwarranted generosity?  To attend workshops every month and learn the latest theory in educational technology which will help in boosting the profits of the school? 

What has teaching become today?  A job meant to entertain students who want to pass their time with as much “awesome fun” as possible?  A job meant to “manage” students who will pass their exams “somehow” and “somehow” get into an institution of higher learning (engineering, medical, or one of those courses that can make them Civil ‘Servants’)?  A job that has become a joke, thanks to programmes and policies such as CCE and extremely generous assessment tools?

I’m waiting eagerly to see how our new Prime Minister is going to enlighten us on 5 September, Teacher’s Day.  Is he going to give a new direction to the country’s education system?  Although many states have not warmed up to the recommendation that the PM’s address to and interaction with students must be made compulsory viewing to students and teachers, Delhi has ensured that its school teachers and students will view the programme.  Is the programme going to be revolutionary?

A new direction is what the educational system needs actually.  But whether our Prime Minister is the apt person for digging that new canal into the arid landscapes of the country’s academics is a question that I prefer to leave unanswered.  After all, he is a person who has elevated our country to a higher plane using the sole lever of commerce!  What the system needs, I think, is to be weaned away from commerce and the utilitarian as well as materialistic values spawned by it. 


A paradigm shift is what is actually required.  Can Mr Narendra Modi bring that about in a country which has a shortage of over six lakh teachers at the primary level alone?  Does Mr Modi possess any vision beyond trade and commerce?  I keep my fingers crossed. 

30 comments:

  1. Matheikal, I must say you're pretty good in sarcastic writing style.

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    1. Sarcasm is an effective tool for the oppressed, Ravish. I'm not oppressed, but my class (the teaching community) is.

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  2. A teacher knows best.
    Thanks for sharing your wise words. India needs good Teachers & then can have a great future.

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    1. The BJP Election Manifesto had promised a lot in this regard, Anita. Let's wait and watch until tomorrow's lecture from the First Man.

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  3. Being an ex Teacher I know how is it to be like a teacher in today's world. CCE is a nuisance, Right To Education is misused: You cannot throw a mischevious kid out of the class even this one kid disturbs the entire class and interrupts the entire learning process. He has a Right to Education but where is the Duty to learn? What about the kids who suffer because of his tantrums. You cannot punish even when a kid breaks the skull of his fellow student. My teachers beat us but then they loved us as if we are their own kids, they encouraged learning, gave us basic concepts, guided us through bad times. But now, throw a challenging and brain teasing question to the kids, the parents come to eat you alive. So, why bother? Your Satire, Sir hits the core of the problem.

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    1. Datta I would not like any teacher to beat or punish my daughter for her mistakes. I would rather expect them to work on her shortcomings and guide her to right path in right ways. Not because I am a mother but because my teacher beat me so harsh that it created a dent on my mind forever. That teacher too loved her pupils affectionately otherwise and she battered me for my fault only but it didn't help my problem. I was low on confidence. Thanks to her I went lower. As an adult I now understand it was her temper problem. No body has a right to physically hurt a person not even parents. Kids learn more from observing. Punishment teaches kids to punish!

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    2. Datta and Roohi, allow me to answer you both together.

      I wrote a para on punishment too in this blog and then edited it out. I had written that punishments are not useful but the way the govt went about implementing the law ruined the atmosphere on the school campus. Children do not understand certain things as adults do. They have understood the rule to mean that they are free to do anything which is certainly a menace for teachers simply because there are some elements who have to be handled with a little roughness. I don't advocate corporal punishment. Yet I have slapped students on one or two occasions. Reason: that was the only language which the particular student would understand. Some liberty should be given to teachers too. Now everything is being forced upon teachers: from which publisher's books are to be taught to what kind of assessment can be done! How do we expect teaching to be carried out like an "art" rather than a mere "labour"?

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    3. Roohi I do not support Corporal Punishment. take your daughter for instant your description of her is a child who is innocent, I had kids who would give me a peck on my cheek or a flower then their are the bullies who bully these kids. These bullies are to be checked otherwise the innocent child will suffer. As a primary school teacher I never raised my hand I always understood where the problem lies. As a teacher I got 5K, I had to stand always in Lunch hour you have to give lunch duty. You teach hundreds of kids and have to decipher the psychology of each. You take your work to home. I had to take another job in a coaching class to make my expenses meet. I have taught kids of class 7 who are drug addicts, from broken family. One of my students used f***k off when I said to sit in the class and let the discussion resume regarding the story. These children need counselling but you have to be very mature to understand that. I opted out of teaching because the scenario was frustrating. I saw kids who were having earnest urge to learn but couldn't because I cannot even scold a child who is bullying him/her. We are not focusing on learning here.

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  4. So right in you post as well as in the comment section... sarcasm is the tool of the oppressed... don't know when we will wake up to the need of a working education model... I have seen the farce they do it in the name of 'nai shiksh neeti' and all up,close and personal...

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    1. It isn't easy, Kokila, simply because the whole socio-political system is perverted. Until we bring about certain changes there, nothing will happen in schools. It's like trying to change the filth from the hut when the whole slum is sunk in a mire of filth.

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    1. Thanks, Remya. I don't know if I can reciprocate the greeting. Let me, however, since you must be a teacher at least to your own child(ren).

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  6. I too wish the our education system changes for good. Schools and teachers understand the greater role they play instead of taking care of their selfish gains. True, a paradigm shift is required as we have commercialized everything. Your points hit the bulls eye. But there seems very little hope in this age.

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    1. It has to be a long process, Roohi. Paradigm shifts take time. We need an overhaul of the entire value system.

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  7. A fitting post for the upcoming teachers Day matheikal, I agree, the role of a teacher has transformed now, I sometimes wonder what the actual definition of a teacher can be in the new world scenario!

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    1. Teachers also have to change according to the times, Vinay. And many don't. Why? The remuneration is not commensurate with the demands of the job.

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  8. When we were growing up, there was an intrinsic belief that education is not for making money. Then I heard the counter argument that in this day and age teachers also need money to educate their kids. i think that is a valid argument. Teachers salary has improved I think to a great extent. Is it enough? I do not know. Number of coaching classes and private tutors are mushrooming. They charge a lot of money to train students. I also tend to agree that to run colleges and universities we need money. But how much money and what is the role of teachers? That is the question.

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    1. A very pertinent question, Abhijit. Rather many pertinent questions.

      Teachers are paid quite well in govt schools. And do they work? They don't, at least in most govt schools. And why doesn't the govt do anything about it? Why did Arvind Kejriwal's govt which tried to do something about it get the boot (or had to accept the boot)?? Ok, I'm on a slippery ground here, I know. But the reality is slippery because nobody is interested in improving anything except their own welfare.

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  9. What can we, as individuals, do to contribute to this paradigm shift?

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    1. Isn't the individual who creates values? There's nothing called a group mind or community mind, as Ayn Rand says. Only individuals have minds for thinking and creating values.

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  10. How true Sir...how true... great blog... but you might as well know that "HE WHO CAN DOES, HE WHO CANNOT...TEACHES!!!
    ...we all cynics then blog

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    1. None other than the great G B Shaw said those words which you have 'capitalised'. The author of the book, 'Murphy's Law', added one more line: "Those who cannot teach, administrate." If you look at the kind of leaders we have in politics you'll be able to understand why that line was added. Or else, look at the administrators around. Then you may also understand why cynicism comes naturally to thinking people.

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  11. today is the day.. my son is also very eager to listen to that speech .Let us see what impression it finally leaves on the young minds... HAPPY TEACHERS DAY

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    1. Thanks, Aprarna, for the greeting. It's very easy to create an impression with young people. What matters will be whether Mr Modi can actually make any meaningful difference to the system.

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  12. You are right.
    Education has become a business and child a commodity.
    It is widely accepted too.
    Teachers Day (belated?) Greetings...!

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    1. Thanks for the greetings.

      More than the child, it is education itself that has been commodified, I think. The child is being pampered.

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  13. Belated teachers day sir...And then do enlighten us as to what Mr Modi wanted everyone to listen to?

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  14. Belated Teachers' Day wishes sir.

    Do enlighten us about Modi's speech...It seems Kerala govt did not broadcast it at all :)

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the wishes.

      Not only Kerala but quite many other states refused to comply with the PM's orders. And they did right, I should say. It was nothing much except a very commonplace speech by the PM and then a question-answer session in which students asked question written by their teachers and the PM gave commonplace answers.

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  15. You have correctly stated that education today is another commercial enterprise. In fact, I consider school education to be the only business that is totally a seller's market.
    I fully agree that teaching is a job that has become a joke. This has to change. Teachers must not merely be the executors of the government's and the management's ideas. They should have a bigger say in deciding how the education system should be run.
    Belated Teachers' Day wishes to you!

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