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The Nation Builders

Sunny Jacob Sunny Jacob
05 Sep 2022
The role of the teacher is like the proverbial ‘ladder’, it is used by everyone to climb up in life, but the ladder itself stays in its place.

“There’s no word in the language I revere more than ‘teacher.’ My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I’ve honoured myself and the entire family by becoming a teacher,” says Pat Conroy. I think these sentiments of Mr. Pat is an expression of each and every teacher on the Teachers’ Day. We celebrate it on the 5th September, the birth day of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, former President and a teacher par excellence. This year the day comes after the terrible Covid-19 Pandemic. The pandemic has had catastrophic effects for many countries around the world, but none more so than India, the world’s second most populated country. In the last two years, Indian teachers were acting like ‘frontline warriors’ in educating their students.

As the common saying goes, the future of a country lies in the hands of its children, and teachers, as mentors, can mould students into future leaders who shape the destiny of India. They play an important role in the lives of students in helping them become successful in career and business. They help their students to become good human beings, a better member of society, and an ideal citizen of the country. Teachers’ Day is celebrated to acknowledge the goodness, challenges, hardships, and special roles that teachers play in our lives.

According to Niti Ayog 2021-2022 (p 121), “The learning outcome crisis as reported in various Governmental and non-governmental reports is the harsh reality of the current school-education system in India. These reports have rightfully pushed the Central Government and the State Governments to undertake systemic reforms. There have been encouraging results from different parts of India. This, however, is also an opportunity to step back and reflect on what quality education means and how we can achieve the same in public-school education”. The government is aware of the realities of Indian education. However, on the Teachers’ Day it is good that the governments everywhere, take a serious look at the status of our teachers.

According to Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, “teachers should be the best minds in the country”. ‘The future of the nation depends on the quality of primary education imparted’, former President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once said. He was emphatic on the role of the teachers in building the nation for the future. He said, “I believe there is no other profession in the world that is more important to society than that of a teacher”. Does Indian society see the teachers this way?

Teachers are the backbone of any country, the pillar upon which all aspirations are converted into realities. The role of the teacher is like the proverbial ‘ladder’, it is used by everyone to climb up in life, but the ladder itself stays in its place.

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them” (Gandhiji). Every great personality of the world believes that teachers are our role models, our inspiration, and parent figures outside our home. Without their valuable lessons, we would not have achieved so big in our lives. To honour and celebrate these remarkable teachers, we observe Teachers Day. 

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 understood the need for teacher empowerment to face the huge challenges our education sector is faced with. It believed that only an empowered community of Teachers can empower the student community. It suggested some of the crucial reforms for teacher education. A few of the suggestions in this direction is as following;

Pre-Service Teacher: The NCFTE will prescribe the best pre-service and in-service education/training practices for teachers working in academic, vocational, and other unique education streams.

Teacher Recruitment & Employment: For recruitment in a private or government school, the teacher must qualify through Teacher Eligibility Tests (TETs) conducted by the National Testing Agency. 

Teaching Career & Professionalism: The NEP aims to set the National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) to determine all aspects of teacher career management, efforts for professional development, salary hikes, etc. 

Teacher Empowerment: Teachers are to be given the right to participate in setting school goals and policies in the long run. 

I think, considering the lacklustre efforts to improve the working conditions and remunerations for teachers in the past, the NEP 2020 for teachers has come as a welcome change. Pre-service teacher education and in-service NEP teacher training programs can help build a better teaching experience for educators. If implemented well, teaching is likely to become a lucrative career option for talented young people in the next few years.

While appreciating all these forward-looking measures by the policy makers, what we fail in education is to instil in our teachers more of human qualities. Our world is faced with serious challenges. Education sector cannot be free from these challenges as of today.

Does the teaching profession get the deserving recognition and respect today? Do the teachers consider theirs as a service to the human community? Do the Society consider the teachers as respectable people? Do the teachers have influence on students that extends beyond the classroom, well into the future. The old adage goes this way, “a good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others”. Is it still relevant in our context?

Dan Rather says, “the dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’”. This reveals the role of the teacher on students’ well-being. Through a holistic and heart-centred approach to mentoring, teacher resources, and professional development, our teachers can reach their full potential in life and career. When we invest on teachers, overall well-being of the society and nation will have an incredible impact.

Teaching is more difficult now than at any other time in history and students require greater responsibility to educate and care for. Consequently, teacher’s personal well-being and desire to teach is suffering. We know that they need extra support to feel energized and inspired in the midst of challenges like the Pandemic. 

Education needs a new vision of thriving not surviving. This requires exceptional mentoring, professional development, and teacher resources that focus on transformative processes. I believe, when teachers are at their best, they can offer the best to their students.

Perhaps 500 years of Jesuit Educational experience can help us all today. A Jesuit education is one grounded in the presence of God, and encompasses imagination, emotion and intellect. The Jesuit vision encourages students to seek the divine in all things -- in all peoples and cultures, in all areas of study and learning and in every human experience. In that process teachers are role models to their students. Their aim is not only enabling the students to be competent, but also make them persons of conscience, compassion and committed. To do that teachers must have the same qualities.

Today teachers must be respected for their responsibilities. They should be paid well too. It is expected that each teacher must promote the spiritual outlook, in teaching and learning as a sacred vocation. Teachers must show respect for every person, create a sense of community that is founded on compassion and justice. These values can only be lived out if students, teachers and parents work together for the common good of all. In our schools the processes should be put in place to deal with areas of conflict and disagreement so that the dignity of all members of the school can be protected. This is very important in today’s India, where communal disharmony, religious animosity, ethic divide and regional imbalances are rapidly raising their heads. There is also the increasing menace of drug, sex, violence and lose of values in our society. Only teachers can help the students to keep away from such negative forces. 

Good teachers impart quality and excellence in teaching. They encourage their students to pursue truth, to recognise their own gifts, to care for the common good. Diligence, good practice and achievement are affirmed and celebrated by a good teacher. Showing Respect for Every Person is vital to build a strong India. Therefore, it is expected that teachers respect the unique and intrinsic value of every person. Teachers acknowledge the dignity of all members of the school considering each one is formed in the image of God. They are open and accessible to all without discrimination. They promote a positive attitude towards the social inclusion of minority groups and stands in solidarity with those most in need, the marginalised. 

As educators, teachers help to have safe environment, where discipline, responsibility and accountability are achieved. Today our teachers must focus on the values of compassion, justice, love, tolerance, forgiveness, harmony and reconciliation by the manner in which conflict is resolved. Humanitarian subjects must gain importance to build a human society. Through practices and teachings, a teacher must demonstrate and promote respect for the environment.

A good teacher seeks to act justly, promoting the well-being of all its members. Wherever possible teachers empower and call students to responsible citizenship, to respect the environment and to good stewardship of the earth. Malala Yousafzai said, “One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world”.  Yes, Teachers are supposed to change the world to be a better place to live in. That’s why Nikos Kazantzakis said, “Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”  Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.

As teachers we cannot forget that India, currently has 600 million citizens under the age of 25. They are the future of India and their formation is vital for the future of the country. The education of these young people can and should be India’s catalyst for economic, social and political growth. The Role of teachers in all these is so important. Let us, therefore, learn from the past, face the challenges of today and look forward and develop the following qualities in our teachers.
A good teacher is accountable to himself, to the school, to the students, to the parents and the society. He is adaptable, caring, compassionate, cooperative, creative and innovative, competent and dedicated, empathetic and engaging, inspiring and evolving, fearless and generous, joyful and kind, passionate and patient, resilient and resourceful, above all trustworthy and loving. Because teaching profession deals with moulding persons, not machines.

Today we must remember the words of Pope Francis, “Education cannot be neutral. It is either positive or negative; either it enriches or it impoverishes; either it enables a person to grow or it lessens, even corrupts him. The mission of schools is to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful. And this occurs through a rich path made up of many ingredients. This is why there are so many subjects — because development is the results of different elements that act together and stimulate intelligence, knowledge, the emotions, the body, and so on.”

On the Teachers’ Day, let the society and the government give what the teaching fraternity deserves. And in turn let the teaching community follow the above-mentioned qualities, and together let us make our nation a better place to live in. Let us pledge on this teachers’ day a teacher’s pledge:


•    I will love teaching. It is a vocation, and not a profession. Teaching will be my soul.
•    I will be fully committed to the great mission of teaching.
•    I will consider myself to be a great teacher only when I am capable of elevating the average student to a high performance.
•    I will organize and conduct my life, in such a way that my life itself is a message for my students.
•    I will treat all the students equally and will not support any differentiation on account of caste, creed, colour and language.
•    I will constantly endeavour to fill my mind with great and noble thoughts.
•    I will spread nobility in thinking and action among all my students.
•    I will always celebrate the success of my students.
•    I will ensure students blossom into creative enlightened citizens.
•    I will be loyal to the ideals of my school and adhere to the values of Love, Truth, Patience, compassion and justice.
•    I will work in a team for the greater good of the school and for the all-round development of my society and the nation.

(The writer is a well-known Educationist who is currently the Assistant Secretary of Global Jesuit Education, Rome, and a Team member of Educate Magis (www.educatemagis.org), the Global community of Jesuit Educators, Ireland). 

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