The lady gets onto the metro, settles herself and some notebooks materialise almost by magic, balanced on her lap as she draws out the dreaded red pen. Half-alert to her station, she breezes through the notebooks, a smile of achievement on her face, as she alights, her job done.
In a quarter of an hour, a kid’s fate has been sealed. And we wonder why our kids, even those in the best of schools, are miles behind international standards. Shouldn’t we care a little more about whom we’re handing over our children’s education to? Who are our teachers? If teachers are doing their job, why do the brightest of kids need tuition?
The truth and irony is that very few teachers are in the vocation out of choice. “Teacher? Ugh…!” is the response of almost all youngsters queried on their career options.
Who in their right mind opts for teaching as a career? Those who have failed to realise their ambitions elsewhere. Most choose the job because other jobs have longer hours; because husbands are in transferable jobs or in the army; in a bid to escape forbidding mothers-in-law; to make their ‘education’ seem worthwhile; for a ‘change’; for the ‘perks’ — a daily fix of gossip, beauty and cooking tips and, of course, the extra pay-packet.
A handful of dedicated teachers cannot bring about any holistic change in a system whose core is rotting. So, why are there so few men and women who choose school teaching as a vocation? Low ‘status’ and low pay-scales. Untrained teachers in the mushrooming private ‘English-medium public school’ in every lane, actually work for even Rs 1,000 a month, less than what a domestic help earns.
Instructors for our children are the residual chaff who didn’t make it in the XYZ exam. Today, a teacher’s ultimate goal is to ‘finish the syllabus’. Nobody is held accountable for entire classes failing in almost all subjects. Nobody wonders why entire classes are being made to take tuitions with the same teacher who is teaching them at school.
The situation needs desperate, drastic measures. Give teaching back its dignity, the respect it deserves, because no role is more important than the teachers’ in shaping our children’s future. Teaching should not remain the last resort of failures.