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Updated: August 31, 2013 23:27 IST

Noble profession or sorriest of trades?

T. Rajagopalan
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It is not by simply increasing the number of schools and colleges that education can be promoted.

Teachers form the pivot of the education system all over the world. From time immemorial, they have been engaged in a war on ignorance, prejudice and greed. They are the exemplars and role models in a society torn asunder by factions and superstition.

They are the ones who inspire youth to achieve and rise to higher levels of thinking. It is fitting and proper that September 5 (Dr. S. Radhakrishnan’s birthday) every year is observed as Teachers’ Day.

There has been a phenomenal expansion of educational opportunities — the number of schools, colleges, universities and professional institutions has grown manifold in the last two decades. These are, of course, of various hues catering for different sections who are eager for the betterment of their living conditions. From the lowest to most affluent segments, people look to education as a means of fulfilling their desires.

One vital question arises in this contest — what about the quality of teaching? The main object of teaching is not to explain meanings but to knock at the door of the mind, as Rabindranath Tagore said. Teaching at all levels is no doubt a great gift and to ignite the spark of knowledge in the minds of learners calls for inner resources of a high order on the part of the teacher. To put it in a nutshell, it is astonishing how much a hungry mind can absorb with a little, experienced supervision.

Teaching may be the noblest of professions but unfortunately it has been turned into the sorriest of trades. Nowadays one rarely finds teachers of inspiring stature — those who, unmindful of the difficulties they face in the rough and tumble of their daily lives in a chaotic society, strive hard to inculcate time-honoured values in the minds of learners. The close bond between the mentors and learners is missing, with the result teaching has become a formality.

A society which values education must ensure that its teachers are well looked after. Over the years, salaries have no doubt improved but the question arises “Is the profession attracting the best?”

There are multitudes of people who are lured by the higher pay alone but who have no innate passion for teaching. Who are the losers? Obviously, the young ones who will be our future citizens. A mechanised system of instruction will rob education of its purpose and teaching of its inspiration.

It is not by simply increasing the number of schools, colleges and universities that education can be promoted. It is by improving the quality of teachers that the avowed purpose will be achieved. Recruiting the right type of people, no doubt, is a mammoth task but it can be done if there is a will on the part of authorities. Brick and mortar alone does not make for good education; the quality of the human material does. With such a large reservoir of human resource and talent in our country, surely finding teachers with a missionary zeal will not be impossible.

Given the huge diversity of regions, languages and cultural traditions, the education system in India has gone through several vicissitudes but it has managed to remain intact. Value education, or what was earlier called moral education, must be made a vibrant part of the schooling of children.

The humanities and social sciences vis-a-vis pure sciences and engineering must be given due importance. Above everything else, education must have as its aim the balanced, all-round development of the learners who must be enabled to realise their full potential. Only then will emerge a harmonious society with ingrained cultural traditions set on the path of scientific progress. This ultimately will ensure the wellbeing of all people. Teachers have a significant role to play here.

(The writer is a former Education Correspondent of The Hindu. His email: trajagopalan@yahoo.com)

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