“There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living, and the other, how to live,” said John Adams, and he had a point. The real purpose of educating young minds in their growing up years seems to have been eclipsed somewhere along the road.
The gurukul system of yore was practical and inspiring. Even a few decades ago, teachers would take pride in their profession and many of them were deeply revered by their students. Often, in the classrooms of the present era, information and rote learning have become the main objectives. Inspiration and life skills have taken a back seat.
The individuals who exit the hallways of institutions of learning nowadays are thus, well equipped with skills related to number-crunching or software coding, but they know little about life itself.
Teachers have somehow lost the motivation to make a mark in the hearts of their students. They tend to treat their job like any other office goer does, little realising that in their case, they are preparing the future of humanity. Every word that they say matters, every anecdote has the potential to inspire, and every rousing lecture is worth its weight in gold.
Aristotle had hit the bulls eye centuries ago. “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” he emphasised.
A school teacher (from the old school) who retired after 35 fulfilling years, one day, found out what really matters in life. Standing at a buzzing railway station one evening, awaiting his train, he found a young couple striding up to him accompanied by a pair of toddlers.
“Sir,” said the young lady, “I’m so delighted to meet you today. It’s been years! I must tell you that you inspired me no end as my class teacher.” And as she proudly introduced the elderly gentleman to her husband and wide-eyed kids, there was a tear in his eye. He realised that real earning of his life was not the salary and pension that he earned, but the goodwill that he had generated among hundreds of youngsters over the decades.
Unfortunately, our system has been encouraging sheer numbers over real qualities and raw marks over refined knowledge. Thus, while teaching shops and tuition centres thrive, high-school students loath to even attend regular school. The goal of securing admission in top institutions that pave their careers to blue-chip companies usually obfuscates the true purpose of education and even life!
Thus, men and women, who graduate into the real world from our portals of learning are usually not ready for it. And the reason is usually the example set by parents and teachers. The latter have not found motivation enough to instil in youth, the values and balanced qualities, which they need to tackle their future with wherewithal and grace.
Also, it is well known that teaching is not one of the sought-after career these days. Hence there is a need to glamourise and propel to the forefront, the supposedly namby-pamby role of being a teacher! This can be done inter alia by improving incentives for true performers and laying emphasis on quality over statistics in teaching assessments.
And once top-drawer professionals start making a beeline for teaching as a career option, the scenario would certainly change. In a country of India’s vastness, this is easier said than done, but endless dithering will never get us anywhere.
The example of hundreds of well-placed young pros who have spent a couple of years at the “Teach for India” or “Make a Difference” programmes, not with the aim of earning money, but to educate the underprivileged, is path breaking.
What is needed is to utilise to the fullest, the faculty development programmes, that most institutions run these days. Then, if an educator wakes up in the morning with burning zeal within him or her, even 15 years after being in the teaching line, will the real objective be attained.
Without that kind of fire within them, today’s educators will never appreciate what Robert Frost meant when he said so beautifully, “I am not a teacher but an awakener!”