As I started writing this piece, I realized this is my fourth article on education in India. The first one(click to open) was on syllabi taught in schools, the second one was on amalgamation of education and industry, and the third one on standardization of curriculum across boards and universities. This one will be on Teachers. The timing of this article on Teacher’s Day is purely coincidental.
India saw four players being given the Khel Ratna award and six coaches the Dronacharya awards, two of which were lifetime awards. The best part about sports is, that the person who is the best has no other option after retiring but to coach if he wants to continue to be associated with the sport. Take for example, P. Gopichand, or Anil Kumble , for popular names. The new crop is taught only by the best of the previous lot. Unfortunately, this does not happen when it comes to education. The best in class do not give back in the classroom.
A lot is being said about the quality of teachers everywhere. Before I say anything else, yes, there are exceptions to this. We find some brilliant teachers everywhere. But the quality of teachers everywhere, at every level, is clearly falling. Yes, there is no barometer to measure the quality of a teacher. And it is very subjective. I have had firsthand experience at this. I taught 11 different classrooms in a year and my rapport with each of them was different. So was their opinion about my teaching. But I am a student now, and my observations about teachers around me and my friends studying at different places are worrisome.
‘Those who can do, do. Others teach’. Readers will react to this statement in different ways. I personally don’t like this saying. Teaching has its own dignity. I had a teacher at Narsee Monjee who had graduated atleast 30 years back. She was the University topper of her course and was offered a teaching position at her college without any formality. That teacher taught us math and boy was she good at it! So, point number one, toppers have a clarity of thought and understanding that most others in the class do not. Point number two, there was only one teacher who was a topper in her course at the University level. Moral of the story, toppers have stopped taking up teaching as a full time profession.
We are being taught by the next-best in class. So think about the trickledown effect. If someone among the toppers of the class is not teaching you, 8 times out of 10, there is a chance that you could be probably learning from someone better. People could argue saying what if the person who topped does not have her ‘interests’ in teaching? Well, ask them why are they not interested. The way the world is growing, economically, and so is our country, there are a lot better ways to earn more money than teaching. And that is no one’s fault. Anyone’s pursuit of a better quality of life is not their fault. But in India, this has clearly cost us something substantial. And even if teaching pays equally well as corporates via the fixed component, the variable components goes missing completely.
Students graduating from premier Institutes in India are either taking up jobs, starting up, or flying abroad to pursue further studies. There’s a one in a hundred case who take up teaching full time. And it is easier. Batch after batch, when something like this happens, students from an Institute start building a legacy at a particular workplace that recruits regularly from a college, it is easier for a student to join. You are in that kind of atmosphere where you are also mentored by an alumnus. There are huge benefits that come along with this to all parties concerned. As far as teaching and Universities are concerned, there is a huge amount of heterogeneity that looms in most cases. The kind of loyalty and homeliness found so frequently at a workplace is exactly reversed in the teaching case.
There needs to be an incentive structure in place for teachers so that toppers come and teach. The next five in line can go take up jobs and the economy will grow. But there has to be a system where an extremely able student from every class gets to teach, and is compensated sufficiently for their services. If you pay teachers well, it will automatically attract the best of the lot, just like corporates are. And I personally feel that teaching gives you a lot of satisfaction. You are directly affecting lives, and making a difference. Bringing change via teaching is probably the best kind of change. If the Government could roll out a teaching fellowship for students performing well academically, atleast, where such students are ought to teach for say, a minimum of two years, it would do great benefit to the coming crop of students. And this is where the teaching legacy will fit in. You are being taught by the best, you will teach like the best, and you are also creating marginally better students than the previous batch in this process. But compensation equal to the market rate is a necessity for such a model to work successfully.
I feel, the quality of education is severely overlooked. Even the New Education Policy 2016 still does not look at the micro-concerns, so to say, that affect the lives of major stakeholders of a school, teachers and students in a positive way. Till the time public education is not made effective and inclusive, and something as basic a requirement as education is left in the hand of private players, the education policy of the entire nation will never be in-line, how many ever policy drafts may be published.