Teachers Contribute to Nation Building
If we look at the Indian educational scenario today, significant changes have happened since Independence. We have more schools, more educational programs, better infrastructure and visionary people. Still there is a huge gap between the demand and availability. Developed countries like Sweden and Finland, known for the high quality of education, have managed to keep education free of cost for its citizens. We are yet to get there in India. The picture was however very different in India in the 18th century as captured by Dharampal ji in his book “The Beautiful Tree”.
What was the teaching scenario in ancient India?
The educational models that we follow today is not so very different from ancient times but the focus of current educational system is very different from those times. Hence we see a drastic change in the way the teaching-learning process happens today. We often assume that the educational process of ancient India focused much on vedic knowledge. However, historical records and the Ithihasas reveal that pupils received knowledge on various aspects of human endeavor and there were also specialized courses depending on the learner’s profession. The different types of teachers (wrt to vedic education) in ancient India were (Source: Ithihas):
Acharya was a type of teacher who taught his pupil Vedas without charging fee from the pupils.
Upadhyaya was the one who adopted teaching as a profession to earn his livelihood and taught only a portion of the Veda or Vedangas.
Charakas or wandering scholars toured the country in quest of higher knowledge. Thought not normally competent as teachers they were regarded as possible source of knowledge by Satapatha Brahmana. Hiuen Tsang was struck with the knowledge gained by some of the wandering teachers (called Bhikkhus and Sadhus during his times) and who had accumulated a treasure of knowledge by constant travel and who used to gladly impart it to others.
Guru was the one who used to lead a gruhasta life and earn his livelihood after imparting education to his disciples and maintain his family.
Yaujanasatika were teachers famous for their profound scholarship that students from distant places, as far as from a distance of hundreds of miles would come to seek their guidance.
Sikshaka was a teacher who gave instruction in arts like dancing.
The teacher’s role was important for the student to imbibe right knowledge and hence there were meticulous processes put in place in the ancient Indian system to support this. For instance:teachers were encouraged to travel across the country to gain new knowledge, debates were encouraged to validate and strengthen their knowledge, there would be visiting scholars who would share their insights with teachers, places like kashi and haridwar were concentrated centers of learning and teachers would get trained there and take that knowledge to their schools.
Mental Model Construction
A teacher plays a significant role in helping the student construct accurate mental models and it is important that these mental models help the child to make sense of reality around them. When inaccurate models are built, learners find difficulty in interacting with their environment and applying what they have learnt. Inorder for the teacher to facilitate the process of mental model formation: a sound knowledge of the subject, effective communication ability and inherent motivation to transmit knowledge are required. Developing such qualities needs effort from the teacher’s side and support from the educational ecosystem. Good quality Teacher training programs and teacher education institutions can ensure an all-round development of teachers.
Present Day Scenario
Currently, India is the second largest education system in the world in terms of the number of children enrolled. Here are some interesting and relevant statistics:
There are about 8.6 lakhs schools that offer primary education (it was 6.4 lakhs in 2000)
Nearly 132 million children are enrolled in primary schools (it was 113 million in 2000)
60 Million children are in secondary/post-secondary schools
The higher education enrollment is about 29 million
8.3 Million teachers are part of the educational process in India
The Teacher-Pupil ratios are 28 in Primary, 30 in Upper Primary, 28 in Secondary and 40 in Senior Secondary as compared to 11–12 in Finland or Sweden. Historical records tell us that the PTR was 15:1 in Nalanda.
While this statistics definitely shows great signs of improvement, the gross enrolment ratio (ratio of number of individuals who are actually enrolled in schools by the number of children who are of the corresponding school enrolment age) remains low at 23.2. The government has identified that the lack of trained teachers and ineffective pedagogy to be the key factors that contribute to low enrollment rates.
So how are these relevant to all teachers? Shouldn’t the Government teachers be the ones worried about such data?
The quality of teachers in terms of their educational background, teaching skills, motivation and their overall understanding of the subject has a direct impact on the retention of children in school. The infrastructure could be good, the administrator could be an excellent person but if the teachers aren’t good, the motivation to come to class dips down. There have been studies that show that schools with more number of inexperienced teachers have higher drop-out rates. We not only need more teachers but we need more motivated and committed teachers to transform the educational setting in the country. Sir Ken Robinson likens teaching to theater where the relationship of the audience with the actor is the actual theater and everything else is extra. The analogy with the educational process is stronger as the teacher learner relationship is at the heart of education. Over time, many things have been added to it like timetables, curricula etc but real education is what happens between the teacher and the student.
In your childhood days, do you remember that you liked a subject because you liked the way the teacher had taught you that subject? You looked forward to next day’s class because of teacher, didn’t you? That one motivated teacher can have a significant impact on the lives of students.
The quality of teachers impacts the educational system at multiple levels, some of which include:
Retains children in school
Impacts student success and achievement
Impacts employability and career of students
Gifted education relies very much on teacher quality
Benefits school reputation thereby attracting brighter talent to schools
If we look at the bigger picture, motivated teachers are an inspiration to student, who in turn become better learners and attain good position in the society. Educating a child can bring a transformation to the social and economical status of a family and a good inspired teacher can bring about this transformation. Hence focusing on the teaching process contributes to nation building in a significant way.