A teacher plays a pivotal role in opening up a student’s mind to different, sometimes unknown horizons. A good institution is, therefore, known for its outstanding faculty, one that inspires.
India has the largest higher education system in the world with over 45,000 undergraduate degree and diploma institutions and about 30 million students enrolled in them. Yet, we still lack internationally-acclaimed universities, and vast numbers of students are “unemployable”. While emphasis is laid on developing the infrastructure, the efficiency of the faculty is by and large neglected.
“The shortage of teachers is a problem that can be dealt with by bringing in innovation in teaching. Typically, with the use of technology, students can be made to go through lessons or lectures before a class. Then the teacher, questions, analyses and make students think critically. The role of a teacher is not to transmit knowledge but to induce students to think. Teachers have to change their mindset from just preparing students for a degree or a syllabus because what students learn becomes obsolete in a few years. The role of a teacher is to stimulate the student’s mind and make them capable of life–long learning,” says Padmashri Dr. M. Anandakrishnan, former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University. According to him, there are a number of new technologies which are extremely effective and can be used by competent teachers and institutions to bring effectiveness in teaching.
Teachers need to have a passion for teaching. Are today’s teachers truly passionate about making a positive difference to the students? Teaching is a conscious choice only for a small percentage of teachers today. According to Kadar Shah, secretary of Dhaanish Engineering College, Chennai, “Teachers need to be trained and certified either by government bodies or by the university. They need to be hired for their attitude and can be trained on skills.”
Dr. Rajamani, retired professor, principal and director of Management Studies, Nehru Mahavidyalaya College of Arts and Sciences, Coimbatore, says that “Publish or Perish” seems to be the dictum in most foreign universities. Continuous learning has to be mandatory, and teachers have to be involved either in research or publishing papers — as is the system in foreign universities. They have to be exposed to various seminars and symposiums to understand the best practices across institutions.
Former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once said, “A good teacher prepares himself for teaching with meticulous planning and prepares the student for acquisition of knowledge.”
Notwithstanding the demand-supply issue, what seems to be more concerning is the attitude, capability, motivation levels and leadership qualities of the faculty. Dr. Jayshree Suresh, Dean, Faculty of Management, SRM University, shares her insights. She says, “Demonstrating by example, bringing real-life situations into the classroom, making students analyse, involving them in the classroom and being empathetic are a few traits that a great teacher possesses.”
Corporate houses realise that human resources are extremely critical for the success of a venture. Colleges and universities need to understand that the teaching faculty is the backbone of any teaching institution. In this age of “Unlearn, learn and relearn,” Kadar Shah elaborates the need for a training department in every college, to continuously train and assess the effectiveness of the faculty. Handling students in the age group of 19-24 is an art and a challenge by itself. Universities should have various teaching-learning models in place to ensure that students seamlessly assimilate the lessons.
To quote the former President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, in whose honour we celebrate the Teachers’ Day, “Teachers should be the best minds in the country. Teachers need to be leaders in their own right, capable of proactive thinking, open to changes and challenges, able to inspire, motivate, demonstrate by example and finally with a realisation that they have a huge responsibility of nation-building.”
The writer is the founder and CEO of MPower Learning.