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Teaching Wrong Lessons

Sunny Jacob Sunny Jacob
04 Sep 2023
Matha-Pitha-Guru-Deivam; is another very popular phrase in Sanskrit. It means, Mother-Father-Teacher-God are so important for us.

“Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwarah” Personified, in Person Most Superior to Him, to Them Respected Teacher Salute!

The above “Sanskrit Sloka”, symbolizes the respect, prayer and salutations to teacher shall be same as to the most Superior God who governs the whole universe. 

Matha-Pitha-Guru-Deivam; is another very popular phrase in Sanskrit. It means, Mother-Father-Teacher-God are so important for us. 

These two slokas in Sanskrit explains to us the high esteem and respect a teacher should be given in our society. However, teachers must earn them by their exemplary life and conduct. The teachers require creativity, compassion, collaboration, teamwork, new ideas, communication, listening, adaptability, empathy, and problem-solving skills to be good teachers. 

They must understand that being human is more important than be a mere human being! Moral and ethical values are more important for an educationist than mere academic expertise. Soft skills are vital in teaching profession than hard skills. Human qualities are more significant than sheer qualifications.

On the 5th of September, every year we respect and celebrate our teachers by dedicating a special day for teachers. This day is to remind us of our duties and responsibilities as teachers in our society. A teacher cannot compartmentalise his or her profession from his or her personal and public life. Teacher’s Day reminds us of the responsibilities and roles of teachers in our society. 

These days we hear several incidents of teachers acting inhumanely and unbecoming of their role. There is a sharp decline of teacher quality in several schools of our time. The shocking incident of a teacher apparently ordering children, who belong to a particular religion, to slap a seven-year-old student, who belongs to a different religion, is beyond the imagination of any sane individual. 

Where is India heading to? In every sphere we see signs of hatred, animosity, and violence. Our society is becoming more and more divided. There is unimaginable atrocities and violence in many parts of the country. There is hatred pumped into the minds of people every day by organised groups, fake news media, and so-called religious leaders. A very sad plight but true. We must reflect and find remedies to them soon, or else it will be too late then. 

The incident of slapping a child is a blotch on the entire teaching fraternity. According to the news (NDTV India News Edited by Aditi Gautam Updated: August 27, 2023 9:47 am IST), “A case has been registered against the Uttar Pradesh school teacher who was seen asking students to slap their  classmate in a viral video which has triggered a massive outrage”. To add salt to the wound, the accused ‘teacher’, however, says that she is not "ashamed" of her egregious act. "I am not ashamed. I have served the people of this village as a teacher. They all are with me," she told NDTV. She sought to justify her action, saying that it's important to "control" the kids at school. For her, there is absolute ignorance about what teaching is. There may be several other teachers who believe in her ‘philosophy’. 

It is sad and shameful for humanity that a teacher “has forced a boy to stand for hours, humiliated and beaten”, as his father told the police. “The child is in shock”, he said. It is true, any child will be in a state of shock who undergoes such painful ordeals. The video of the incident helped the gruesome act to be in the public. Otherwise, no one will know such a heinous crime was committed in a classroom.  

It is important for us to reflect deeply, why such abuses happen in our schools, that too are committed by the care-giver teacher. All of us irrespective of our religious, political, social, ethnic, or gender affiliation, must stand together against abuses of any sort -- abuse of neglect, verbal abuse, physical abuse, or sexual abuse. 

We must work together to mitigate the hate that is spread in the minds of people. As teachers we must condemn such inhuman and devilish acts by any teacher anywhere. I think, the teacher in question in the above incident is perhaps an aberration, or she can be one among the many teachers who spreads communal hatred and religious prejudices.   

It is encouraging to see the spontaneous response by the farmers of the state in responding to the situation in an appropriate manner. This shows there is hope in the goodness of people to overcome the evil forces of hatred and violence.

"Violence begets violence; hate begets hate; and toughness begets a greater toughness. It is all a descending spiral, and the end is destruction — for everybody. Along the way of life, someone must have enough sense and morality to cut off the chain of hate" -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Once hatred is let out, it will spread, and the consequence will be disastrous. Teachers are supposed to be the first ones to realise this and take remedial steps to stop the spread of hatred. They must teach their kids harmony and peace, love and care, forgiveness, and reconciliation. They must love their students without any discrimination. Now a days, it is so important for the educators in India to be positive, child-centred, morally sound, and academically competent.     

Mahatma Gandhi has this to talk about teachers, “A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them. He who learns nothing from his disciples is, in my opinion, worthless. Whenever I talk with someone, I learn from him. I take from him more than I give him”. I think this is a great reminder for all of us. 

One of the characteristics of Jesuit education is the Cura Personalis, care of everyone. Educators must care their wards, irrespective of their caste, religion, gender, ethnicity, region, language, or race. For an educator, there is only students before him, not any other identity.  

No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship with students. The instruction on Catholic education ensures us that our schools must provide safe and healthy environment for all. This means, our schools must promote and guarantee environments free from any form of abuse. 

All schools should have; (a) Guidelines that describe proper ethical and professional conduct for all who serve in our schools, whether they be authorities, employees, or volunteers; (b) Systematic training and ongoing formation programs for all members of the school community that inculcate respectful ways of relating to others, identify inappropriate behaviours, and explain how to confront abusive people and situations; (c) Protocols that respond vigorously to every allegation of abuse must be in place. Such vigilance is needed for all the schools in India. If such a strict mandate was in place, the above-mentioned incident such as slapping a child that too with religious prejudice, would not occur at all. The teacher would have been aware of what role a teacher has in Teaching-Learning process. It is a pity that our teacher-education does not deal with such important training adequately even today. Thus, the quality of educators is dwindling day by day.

Therefore, first and foremost a school must be a safe and secure place for all its students. And teachers must be the creators and providers of such an environment in the classroom and in the school. There should be a loving, caring, compassionate, harmonious environment in the school campuses. Placing himself in the place of a school teacher, Gandhiji said, “If I was to be their real teacher and guardian, I must touch their hearts, I must share their joys and sorrows, I must help them to solve the problems that faced them, and I must take along the right channel the surging aspirations of their youth”. 

However, the reality of teachers in India, according to the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, is the low level of teaching quality and motivation. Therefore, the policy stresses the need for a solid foundation for future teachers. The overarching goal is to get more intelligent and creative youth with aptitude to teach to become teachers. The NEP 2020 will be a step towards developing a good teacher-training system that can produce good teachers ready for the challenges of the 21st century.

Under the New Education Policy 2020, following are some of the challenges for teacher preparation:

•    Teachers should have knowledge of the subjects to be taught. 
•    They need to understand how students learn best and what strategies can be used to ensure learning takes place. 
•    Improving the quality of teacher-education is one of the major goals of the policy. 
•    The government wants to shift the emphasis from the model emphasizing on “Teacher Training” to “Teacher Education”. This will require a lot of changes in the way teachers are trained, including the curriculum and how it is designed. 
•    There is currently no standard definition of a good teacher or good education in India. There should be some professional and ethical standard for every teacher.
•    Teachers don't get enough training on child psychology to teach students from different backgrounds, so it's hard for them to reach all types of learners. 
•    The structure of schools and classrooms often reinforces a hierarchy, with little opportunity for students to question or challenge the teacher. They follow outdated mode of Talk-chalk-board mode of teaching. Teachers have ‘sage on the stage’ attitude.
•    Instead of teaching students to think critically, India's education system mainly focuses on helping them pass exams. 
•    Many schools lack infrastructure. Many schools do not have adequate classrooms, desks, or restrooms for the students. This means that many students must learn in less-than-ideal conditions. This is true in rural areas and among the marginalised sections. 
•    There is a lack of accountability in India. Teachers and Students are often not held accountable for their own behaviour or academic performance, and teachers who do not perform well are rarely fired. Too much of political interference harms education. 
•    Corruption is a major problem in India's education system, which makes it difficult for low-income students to get a good education. Country’s Marginalised and the Minorities are the new target even in educational institutions.
•    There is no accountability for teachers’ behaviour, their prejudices, and communal and religious biases etc. 

We expect the Governments, and all its stakeholders to be sincere and genuine in reforming the education scenario for making India a morally, socially, and culturally a sound nation. As we commemorate the Teacher’s Day we must pledge ourselves to be good teachers, who care for our students. Pope Francis reminds educators, "Solidarity, as a moral virtue and social attitude, born of personal conversion, calls for commitment on the part of those responsible for education and formation”. Together we must ensure that there will not be any hatred and discrimination in the minds of educators, and prejudices and violence in educational institutions.

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