Wide Angle Education

For truth and justice

A teacher holds the power to transform society.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a retired professor on the characteristics of good teachers. He asked me: “What are the personal qualities that a teacher needs to become a great teacher?” After a few seconds of silence, I said, “There are many but the most important is that the teacher should be ethical.”

Being ethical means being faithful to moral standards and being fair, honest and just. An ethical teacher is a person with adequate knowledge and skills required for the profession, who is known for their integrity that is revealed through their compassion, fairness, conviction, commitment and courage, and who gladly stands for truth and boldly fights for justice.

Do we have such ethical teachers today? Do our educational institutions recognise such teachers? It is good to reflect on these questions when we celebrate World Teachers’ Day on October 5. The UNESCO declared this day to be World Teachers’ Day in 1994 marking the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

The Global Teacher Prize, set up seven years ago by the Varkey Foundation, recognises “one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society” every year. The 2019 winner, Peter Tabichi, who works as a science teacher at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Kenya, described his role thus: “Teaching is a deep responsibility. It is like a calling, a commitment… We have the power to transform our society. We need to focus on character formation, making sure that we teach values.”

Do educational institutions in India recognise ethical teachers who are committed to character formation and teaching values? There may be a few institutions that do so but, unfortunately, most see education as a commodity, recognise only mediocre teachers whose only mission is to please authorities. Such teachers work for their bosses, not for students. They gladly manipulate and manufacture data whenever asked to do so for inspection and accreditation purposes. They do not want to think on their own. They consider raising any critical or ethical questions as a crime. For showing loyalty to their institutions and to their bosses, they are rewarded and awarded. Does society benefit from such teachers in any way?

We do have some exceptional ethical teachers in India but they aren’t recognised by educational institutions; their service to humanity is not celebrated. Paulo Freire, an advocate of critical pedagogy, in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed states, “To glorify democracy and to silence the people is a farce; to discourse on humanism and to negate people is a lie.” Let me modify that in the context of many educational institutions in India: “To glorify moral values and to silence teachers is a farce; to discourse on holistic education and to negate educators is a lie.”

Every teacher is not an educator. Some remain ordinary teachers and fade out. Some good teachers either quit the profession or are driven out for more reasons than one. Only a few teachers become educators because they did not become teachers by chance but by choice. They love their profession and add colour to it every day. They are passionate about teaching values and do justice to their mission. Their goal is to fulfil their mission and not to work for awards and recognition. Their vision and mission statements are quite different from that of ordinary teachers. Teachers become educators when they do extraordinary things and have a positive impact on their students, colleagues and society of which they are part. They walk the extra mile to make their dreams come true. Our society needs more such teachers. Such exceptional and ethical teachers need not be awarded but should be celebrated. Happy Teachers’ Day!

The writer is an ELT resource person and columnist. rayanal@yahoo.co.uk

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 12:06:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/with-world-teachers-day-falling-next-week-a-reflection-on-what-it-means-to-be-an-ethical-teacher/article36664441.ece

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