The arrest of a teacher from a government school in Delhi for apparently pushing students into prostitution would suggest that agitating over the content of NCERT books is, possibly, the least of the problems plaguing State-run educational institutes. The steadily dropping standards of schools are in tandem with the steadily dropping calibre of teachers. It could partly be the other way around but suffice it to say that in 21st century India, scams in schools cover the entire range from the sale of seats to sex rackets. Interestingly, we’re shocked but not to the extent of demanding change. Past practices suggest that for the government, immediate suspension of the teacher and official platitudes and hand-wringing are sufficient remedial measures.
The fact remains that the teacher in question had already been suspended in December 2006 on grounds of disorderly conduct. The decision was revoked three months later in March 2007. Whatever direction the current investigations take, and it could go any which way, one thing remains certain. The teacher was engaged in extra-curricular activities not in the syllabus, and her previous suspension was simply no deterrent to getting her back into business. Her counterattack on the school’s vice-principal on embezzlement of funds made the entire tale more sordid — not unlike the rest of the ‘corrupt system’. Earlier in August, Unesco’s International Institute of Educational Planning reported that the Indian education system is mired in corruption and that teachers are the biggest players in it. Apart from the 25 per cent teacher absenteeism, considered grossly unethical in other countries, teachers are part and parcel of the womb-to-job continuum of corruption. From admissions to leaked question papers and guaranteed exam results, the education system is malfunctioning. That teaching does not attract the young anymore is a myth. Only, it attracts the ‘wrong’ kind. In fact, a government teaching job is a lucrative option, since it promises good remuneration with easy work conditions and no accountability.
Teaching, above all, is a profession that demands high levels of dedication and higher levels of conduct than other professions because of its important role in shaping future society. Many countries have adopted a framework of regulations, a code of conduct, under the purview of independent agencies, free of State control to ensure against malpractice. If we are at all serious about the calibre of our teachers and the emergence of teaching as a mature, self-regulated profession of highly-committed professionals, there really is not a moment to lose. The alarm bells are ringing, wildly.