Should a code of ethics be thrust on schoolteachers? Will it make sense in the current environment of school education? The debate would get louder in the weeks to come as every State government sits down to discuss a draft code for teachers before finalisation.
A four-member committee of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) has drafted a professional code of ethics for teachers at primary and senior secondary levels in government and private schools, which has been circulated to State governments for consultation.
The draft code talks of disciplinary action against teachers over corporal punishment, those taking private tuitions and in other “anti-community” activities. Teachers and teacher training institutions welcome the proposal, but implementing and monitoring is where the challenge arises, they observe.
“The UGC Code of Conduct for college teachers is in place for quite some years now, but I am not sure how well it is implemented or if there is a mechanism in place. A code of conduct is needed in every profession,” says S. Swaminatha Pillai, former director, School of Distance Education, Bharathiar University.
The code has proposed to handle violation of ethics in a three-tier mechanism, beginning at the school/block level, followed by the ethics committee at the State level and finally to the national ethics committee. It has also recommended setting up of a professional body like the Indian Medical Association or Bar Council of India and have penalties imposed in case of reported violations.
Teachers, however, wonder if rules are framed keeping the different issues they have to tackle in a class of 50-plus students, with every individual of different learning styles and the academic pressure of completing syllabus in time.
While quite a number of private schools have their own set of rules in place, the challenge would be for teachers who have been conditioned to a certain lifestyle and experienced hands who believe that things work “only this way,” says Jayshree Ganesan, educationist.
She says that the code of conduct can be intertwined in the curriculum, through collaborative learning or building team spirit. J. Nirmala, assistant professor of psychology, Stella Matutina College of Education, agrees with Ms. Ganesan but says there is little scope in the teacher education curriculum. “There is no time for measuring these values, including the code of ethics. We must adopt a more practical approach in the curriculum and give time to evaluate these aspects,” she says.
According to a professor at the Chennai DIET, the department has received the draft rules and a round of discussion was held recently. It is of the opinion that government schoolteachers have their own service rules, where disciplinary action is taken in case of any disobedience but if every minor case has to be sent to the centre then it would be an arduous process. However, a few teachers say that the department takes note of issues only when a hue and cry is made and many go unnoticed.
Keywords: teacher's draft code