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The numbers have to come down

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Class act: Teachers can do wonders provided the atmosphere is good.
Class act: Teachers can do wonders provided the atmosphere is good.

RADHA PRATHI

Teachers cannot do a good job if there are too many students in a classroom

Though each one of us is aware that teaching and learning are continuous processes in the walk of life, most of us tend to associate the word “teacher” with the person who teaches formally in a classroom. Acknowledgements, awards, appreciation, criticism and censure among other things are cascaded on the members of the teaching community for shaping the lives of students.

Such being the case, the role of the tutors in the lives of students has every reason to be extolled. India has had its share of eminent teachers right from epic times, through history right unto the present times. Though it is not a healthy logic to compare two personalities or two eras for obvious reasons, one cannot help making mental comparisons to the teachers of another era for in India, the memories of the distinguished teachers of the past co-exist in contemporary times. Otherwise coaches and teachers will not be vying for Drona Awards and Dr. Radhakrishnan prizes and feel exceptionally honoured when they receive the same. Even the most earnest of teachers certainly nurse a desire to make an indelible mark in the lives of their students.

In such a scenario, when one examines the essential intrinsic qualities of a good teacher, the ingredients have not changed over the centuries. Commitment to the job, in-depth knowledge of the subject, ability and drive to expand the horizons of the subject and the capacity to relate it to the practical world topped with a generous dose of creativity, basic human values and ethics still seem to be the core components of a good teacher.

All teachers old or young seem to know about the expectations and the earnest ones are constantly making attempts to scale the heights propped with necessary training and hands-on experience in the classroom.

Name a teacher or an educational institution for that matter that would not like to be immortalised in the memory of their students. Yet many of them are not able to realise their dreams because the real life situation is miles away from the idyllic condition. Not all is well on the teaching front.

Changing times

Very recently, when a set of retired teachers with at least three decades of teaching experience to their credit were asked to address a score of budding teachers who had just stepped into the arena of teaching a couple of years ago, the scene was certainly a very serene one. The youngsters listened in rapt attention to what their eminent seniors had to say about teaching as a profession and their experiences in the field, but when they discussed amongst themselves at the end of the session they expressed their doubts and disagreements on the talk.

Times have changed, so have the teaching methods and the content value in the subject. Students are apparently no longer as they were once upon a time. These and other factors figured in their conversation.

For instance, the number of students in each class does not permit the teacher to pay individual attention. Besides the “portions to be covered” and the workload of each teacher hardly gives them enough time to develop “one to one” relationship with their students. Changing lifestyles, the increase in the spending capacity of the great middle class Indian, reckless exposure to the media and the ever-growing job market for Indians across the globe is making a marked change in the attitudes of students, parents and their teachers towards education. For most, a fixed term in school or college translates as a tantalising mark-sheet that will serve as a passport to their first job or private enterprise.

It is high time educational institutions start considering downsizing of classes and resort to shift system which is not without fringe benefits like making optimum use of their premises. They can also create employment opportunities at all levels and introduce new courses related to the mainstream course. They must realise that if the efforts of a sincere teacher have to be translated into the making of a responsible, well-behaved and educated student, one has to see a radical change in the number of homogenous students in terms of age, ability and aptitude assigned to each teacher. If managements and heads of educational institutions pledge to reduce the number of students under each teacher at least during the formative years, one can be rest assured that we will have a superior quality of educated citizens in future.


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