“One’s mind, once stretched by a power of new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” The power vested in a teacher is summarily described by this quote of Oliver W Holmes, himself a prominent physicist and a teacher of the 19th century.
As we foray into a technology-driven 21st century, where idea itself is the power, it is considerate to look back upon how a teacher’s position has undergone a transformation.
Conduct, in a teacher-student relation, is of prime importance. In the gurukul age, shishya (pupils) had to not just abide by their guru’s teachings, but also imbibe in them values they learnt through their guru’s conduct and moral behaviour. In the same manner, gurus had on them, the onus to inculcate virtues of the highest order in their pupils. This process of endowment of values was held in such high regard that pupils considered themselves indebted to their gurus. Hence the concept of guru dakshina evolved.
Convenience over conduct
Fast forward to the 21st century and you find a plethora of mobile learning applications like BYJU’S Learning, Blackboard Mobile Learn, Mobile Learning Academy and many more, tailored to suit students’ convenience. One click and you get a tutorial regarding a particular topic right on your palm top.
As much as it has to do with a changed educational system, the student-teacher relation has also undergone a sea of change.
A Class 11 student, Anirudh, who is a frequent user of mobile-based learning apps, says, “It is very handy. As and when there is a test scheduled in our class and I need to look up for a topic, I just click on the relevant link and download the tutorial pertaining to it.”
When asked whether his teacher was aware of the areas he lagged in, he shrugged at the idea saying, “Once the class is over, nobody bothers to go to the teacher for any clarifications. We just need to be prepared for our tests.”
“Whenever we are asked to collect information regarding a particular topic, looking it up on the internet is a much easier and preferred option than spending time in searching books or asking for relevant material from the teacher,” adds Mansha Chauhan, a Class 5 student from Shimla.
The objective of all of the education being rendered to just the achievement of better grades has reduced the position of a teacher, his expertise included, to a mere commodity. Teachers are now looked up as resources and valued at their output rather than the uprightness with which their predecessors were associated. A cursory look at the educational supplement of newspapers is enough to make you believe how their ledger sheets, decorated with their past results, have relegated the qualities of good conduct and moral behavior that were earlier related with a good teacher.
Corroborating this contention, Jasleen Gulati, a school teacher from Shimla, says, “I feel that the charm of the profession has been lost. Nowadays, majority of the students care about their grades, while the teachers look up to the profession as a mere source of income. In such a situation, it becomes difficult to build a rapport between students and teachers.”
“Learning from smartphones and tablets has become a status symbol of sorts, a prerequisite for schools where the elites admit their kids to,” she adds.
Honouring the commitment and contribution of teachers towards nation building, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India, wanted his birthday to be celebrated as Teachers Day. As mobile apps render these backstage sculptors of human destiny an impersonal entity, students in the 21st generation could very well be bereft of the respect and reverence associated with a teacher that was once worthy of the dakshina. Till the time there comes along a mobile app for that too.