Asha, a Plus 2 student, ran pillar to pillar enquiring with all the teachers in her school as to which course would suit her or rather how she should proceed after higher secondary education. It was very surprising and discouraging for her that none of her teachers, who were mentors at a school with more than 2000 children in the secondary and higher- secondary alone, could not offer her the right career guidance. If those teachers could not help Asha, the best student of the year with 95 overall percentage, how would they help the rest? All that her teachers could say was to try for civil service, medicine, or engineering - Nothing beyond.

Yes, we need civil servants, doctors and engineers; that too in greater number than before. But are those degrees devoid of specialisations and are there no rewarding careers beyond them?

Leave alone career guidance, how many of our teachers in primary, upper primary, secondary and higher-secondary schools are enthused by genuine love for students and triggered by right passion for the profession? How many of our teachers are able to read through their students and cater to what suits their aptitude and interest? With science and technology paving a path for massive advancements in the manner how curriculum is developed and delivered, and the IT effecting substantial contributions in the field of education with digital modes and plethora of online courses, the role of teachers has tremendously changed to be that of facilitators.

And that calls for much more knowledge, information and awareness, coupled with a sense of dedication and commitment from the part of teachers, to deliver the best to their students and direct them in the right track.

The call of the hour is to create a pool of teachers, suiting to various levels of teaching, who are able to ensure inculcating the basics in students, identify their talents, promote in them a passion for what suits them most, and create a generation of resourceful and skillful graduates, who will be envied and sought after by the industries all over.

The budget allocated for elementary education in the country has doubled from 2007-08 to 2012-13. And as the fourth birth anniversary of the Right to Education Act is just over, we have succeeded in enrolling most of our children into primary schools.

But we cannot ignore the kind of education that we render to our children. When half of our children in primary schools are not able to read, solve simple mathematical problems, and not even recognise letters and numbers, the credibility of our free and compulsory education stands on the dock, and we cannot evade or circumvent the question it poses.

A craving for overseas

In the recent years, we are witnessing a flow of foreign universities and institutions to India through different forms of educational fairs to promote their education. The number of Indian students pursuing UG and PG courses abroad is quite high and those aspiring to do that are much more.

“I am not sure what degree to pursue after Class XII, but I want to do my UG and PG abroad, whatever be the subject,” said Adarsh, a Class X student, resolutely when asked about his future plans.

Does that pose a writing on the wall for us? Is it a sign that there is something basically and drastically wrong with our educational system? Are we to divert the direction in which our education is moving?

Yes, we need a educational system that focuses on the potential of students to bring the best out of them; that enthuses confidence in them to follow their interest, aptitude and passion, leading to specialisations in subjects of their choice but ensures employment of endurance and sustenance; and that carves out a generation of boosting economy, devoid of unemployment, disorientation and desperation, but all set for heralding a nation of self- sufficient, contented and vied lot.

Free, but with quality

The concept of free education for children of 6-14 years is something commendable. But, is ensuring 100 percent enrolment in primary schools, leaving the kids with a caretaker (of A-B-C and 1-100) during the day, and priding ourselves in accomplishing total literacy, the whole intention of free education? Or are we aiming at presaging a generation of quality professionals and contented citizens?

If what we want is sustained economy, self-sufficient nation, and gratified populaces, then we need to trigger a change toward combining ‘free’ with ‘quality’. When affordable parents choose to admit their kids in private schools with pomp and show, high-tech infrastructures, and student-friendly ambiences, it is time that the deplorable, grimy and sub-standard picture of our government schools is rectified.

Compulsory, and adequate

Well, compulsory education is enroute to accomplishing total literacy. But can we set ourselves on a path to adequate education that will ensure apt jobs which in turn will also bring about standard living, sustainable income, and integrated growth? All depends on the administration!

When thousands of young degree holders are left in the lurch devoid of jobs, and employers condemn the employability of fresh graduates, can we rest under the shadow of compulsory education? Adequacy is something that cannot be compromised if we want to raise our educational system to world-class standards.

Teachers’ role to the forefront

What we need is a top to bottom change, wherein our teachers are trained to meet the demands and challenges of quality education.

It is essential that we invest, not just meagerly to show that something is done, but adequately to the education and updating of principals and teachers, who herald the cause of a future generation. Are we ready? Or rather do we feel the need?

On a teachers’ day, during the felicitation program, the head boy of the school went up the podium to introduce the day and deliver the welcome address. Instead of a long speech, he just asked the students: “How many of you want to become a teacher? Those interested, please lift hands.” Sad to say, no hands went up.

He said further, “You all have your reasons for not becoming a teacher, and I am sure that all of them are valid, but then think of all these people who have chosen to be teachers. I rest my case.” He walked off the stage.

Those words mean a lot about what the role of a teacher is and how difficult it is. But when not fulfilled adequately, that is a choice gone in vain.

Teachers’ role involves the building up of personalities and that of nation at large, which involves a lot of risks. It is not an attractive profession, given the scandals and grim payments. But it calls for a lot from those who choose and force to be teachers.
They are called to be men and women of knowledge, information and cognizance. The challenge is to dedicate sufficient time and energy in attaining the gen required of a rewarding career as teachers.

Having said that, the role of public administration and policy makers in this regard is of paramount significance.

Designing programs and allocating funds do not ensure proper results – entrusting them with credible hands and checking on proper implementation do. In teaching, training or guiding, credibility matter
Vintu Augustine
Courtesy: Deccan Herald, September 19, 2013

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