Teachers must blend values and modernity
As technology advances, teachers must adapt and guide students through transformative changes while prioritizing their mental well-being for a brighter future
Teaching is not a process of forcing the mind to absorb information; it is the gentle awakening of the mind’s own power of thought. These lines by Aurobindo succinctly capture the essence of a teacher’s role. In their nurturing hands lies the profound responsibility of shaping young minds, not just with knowledge but also with values, ethics and purpose.
Teachers are the bedrock of our society, builders of the nation’s future. They are the guiding lights and leaders of transformation, utilising their accumulated wisdom and values to foster the intellectual and emotional development of children.
In India, the value of the relationship between a teacher and student is on the basis of the age-old guru shishya parampara — a sacred tradition that shaped the cultural and intellectual landscape of ancient India. This tradition, rooted in the principle of personal connection, involves a guru as a guiding light, leading a shishya or disciple through the labyrinth of knowledge and self-discovery.
In our diverse nation, modern-day gurus exemplify this unwavering commitment toward their students. Whether in remote Arunachal Pradesh, bustling Bengal, or tranquil Kerala, teachers everywhere share a dedication to their students that transcends challenges. The pandemic tested their resolve, but they responded with innovation, using technology and determination.
Teachers are not just educators; they’re also mentors, guiding students through the challenges of adolescence and offering a listening ear when needed most. In rural areas, where education can be a ticket out of poverty, teachers become beacons of hope. Their commitment to education often transcends the classroom, as they work to inspire families to invest in their children’s futures. Such efforts have a cascading effect on community development.
In 1958, a visionary step was taken to honour these educators’ exceptional contributions with the National Awards to Teachers. This annual tribute, conferred by the President on September 5, commemorates the birthday of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was not only a statesman but also a philosopher, teacher, and an embodiment of the principles he championed. His views on teaching were deeply rooted in the idea that education should not be confined to the mere transmission of information but should serve as a means to foster critical thinking, creativity, and character development. “True teachers are those who help us think for ourselves,” he said.
Historically, the field of teaching was often dominated by men, reflecting a time when the responsibility of imparting knowledge and providing guidance was more commonly associated with them. However, the narrative began to shift, thanks to the remarkable contributions of visionaries such as Savitribai Phule, a trailblazer and pioneer in the realm of education. In 1848, she established the first school for girls in India, challenging prevailing societal norms and conventions that restricted women’s access to education. Her contribution extended beyond education; and had a profound humanitarian aspect.
The modern teacher fraternity evolved into a well-rounded guiding light, illuminating all spheres of education and society, thanks in part to the pioneering observations of visionaries such as Phule and Radhakrishnan. We rely on our teachers, but we must not forget that they are not immune to societal changes. They are also party to evolving family structures, shifting values, and the impact of social media. Going ahead, they must strike a balance between traditional wisdom and modern realities, imparting not just book-based knowledge but also life skills that prepare students for the rapidly changing world ahead.
The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) envisages teachers to be at the centre of fundamental reforms. Recruiting the most deserving teachers and their capacity building and upskilling on a regular basis is one of the core recommendations of NEP, which is being rapidly brought into implementation.
Teacher training should extend beyond the curriculum and encompass modern teaching methodologies, emotional intelligence, and sensitivity to diverse learning needs. By investing in their professional growth, we invest in the growth of our nation.
The National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) has evolved with upgraded online programmes and courses. Additionally, 300 District Institutes of Education and Training are being developed as institutes of excellence, addressing school education, higher education, and skilling. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has also been given the responsibility of creating a futuristic National Curriculum Framework for teachers from now on. And the Integrated Teacher Education Programme (ITEP) will start focusing on providing high-quality pre-service training to the teachers in an integrated and multidisciplinary environment.
As technology reshapes our world, teachers are at the forefront of educational innovation and revolution. From Artificial Intelligence to the internet of things and blockchain technology, they guide students through these transformative changes.
Teachers in the 21st century, marked by the digital age, nurture not only knowledge but also critical thinking and creativity, all the while ensuring responsible and ethical use of technology. While we explore the changing roles of teachers, the most critical factor remains the mental well-being of our students. Above everything, all educators, whether in schools, colleges, or universities, should prioritise and ensure that each student under their care enjoys strong mental health and has their well-being needs met. In these challenging times, an enhanced sense of empathy and a profound awareness of the pivotal role teachers play in nurturing the mental well-being of their students are more crucial than ever. Let us all rise to this noble responsibility, as by fostering intellect and emotional resilience, we shape a brighter future for our society and our world, where both hearts and minds can thrive.
Dharmendra Pradhan is Union education minister. The views expressed are personal