Education is a fundamental aspect in the development of any society. If the youth of a society is educated, it increases the chances of having a better tomorrow. Teachers provide that education which improves the quality of life and contributes to the shaping of both the individual and the society as a whole.
Teachers increase the productivity and creativity of students and, therefore, of future workers. When students are pushed to be creative and productive, they are more likely to be entrepreneurial and innovative, ultimately leading to the economic development of a country.
Children spend the maximum amount of time growing up with their teachers. History has shown us how good teachers have the wonderful ability to shape the leaders of the future. Good teachers can build positive and inspired societies, act as role models and push their students to try harder and live up to their true potential. Most of us has looked back on our formative years at one point and wondered, “What if that particular teacher had given up on me?”
Teachers thus give entire generations a purpose and set them off on the path to progress. All of us agree that teachers are important. We even celebrate Teachers’ Day in India. Yet, teaching is not seen as a desirable career or a passion!
“The B.Ed. has become a degree for marriage, not teaching,” the NCTE chairperson said to a leading daily in 2019. In such a situation, one must ask, are qualified teachers really ‘quality’ teachers? Are hiring and compensation policies that reward certain qualifications the equivalent of investing in enhancing the quality of teachers?
Many “qualified” teachers have the right degrees, yet lack in-depth knowledge of the subject they are supposedly proficient in. And a PhD should not mean that they stop learning about their subject as it develops over the years. For higher education and upper levels, teachers with mere bookish knowledge, who cannot apply that knowledge in real life, can be detrimental to students’ understanding of that subject. Hence, there is a need for them to be active participants in the dialogue and collaboration between academia and industry.
Good teachers are competent, proficient in the subject (or language) they teach, and hone the potential of their students. Teaching is a tough job, but it is one where you can make the most impact in another person’s life. Even though academic or professional excellence can be measured, the success of a teacher is more difficult to assess. Hopefully with the new NEP, India will get its act right in regulating quality education and educators and grow beyond the perfunctory tick-marks for “teacher’s qualification”.
QUALITIES OF A GOOD TEACHER
Like any other profession, teaching is highly demanding. It requires a high level of competence and a significant emotional quotient. Most successful teaching professionals have some common traits.
• Clear goals
Teachers, like any other industry professionals, need to have a plan for their consumers (in their case, students). With that as a guiding light, they need to have clear objectives and their teaching methodology should vary according to the students they deal with.
• A “don’t give up” attitude
Teachers with long-term objectives and a mission to prepare their students to face the world don’t give up easily. They understand that obstacles and setbacks are part of their job and navigate those challenges with determination.
• Faith in their students
Students need someone to believe in them. They need a wiser and older person to trust them and their efforts, set the bar high but create an environment where it is absolutely fine to fail.
Consistency is not to be confused with a “stuck-up” attitude. It means that a teacher does what they say they will, doesn’t change their rules based on their mood, and their students can rely on them when in need of guidance. Teachers who are stuck in outdated methods may boast of ‘consistency’, when in fact it is merely stubbornness.
WHAT THE WORLD SEEKS
The parents of this generation need to understand and accept the fact that teachers are not surrogate parents. Teachers groom subsequent generations, but don’t do ‘parenting’ on their behalf during school hours.
The world today needs knowledgeable teachers, but also individuals with a hunger to continuously learn, unlearn and relearn. Teachers today need to be inquisitive in order to teach the same subject every year but with better techniques and fresher material.
The teacher of this generation needs to be able to shift gears and be flexible when a lesson or teaching style isn’t working. For this, they also need to shed their biases and learn from their students, even as they teach them. They need to be better today than what they were yesterday. Merely presenting facts from Google is not teaching. All students today are digital natives and can do that job better.
Teachers have a larger responsibility to lead by example and demonstrate the values and behaviours they teach. For this, they must also practise humility when dealing with colleagues and learn constantly from every interaction with them. Along with this, they must rise above petty politicking and insecurities and believe in merit-based growth, where individuals are judged and rewarded on the basis of their performance and the value they add to the institution they are part of.
Let us accept that education is also a consumer service industry where teachers are also accountable for their performance and the results. The big question now is: do we have such good teachers?
The author is an independent markets commentator. The opinions expressed are personal.