(Un)Happy Teachers' Day
In today’s education system, the focus is entirely on pupils. Nobody pays any attention to the wellbeing of teachers
Had Dr. Radhakrishnan been alive, he would not have celebrated his birthday today. He would have been aghast seeing the plight of teachers. Wishing all the teachers of the country a 'Not so happy teachers' day'! The pious occupation of being a teacher is witnessing its record low. Of late, it is the teachers who are at the receiving end of this downfall.
The recent incident of a female school teacher beheaded by a class 10 student in Jharkhand came as a shocker to the entire teaching community. He not only beheaded the teacher but also ran around the village with her severed head in his hand for hours. It is the most heinous crime ever done to malign the sanctity of the pious pursuit of teaching and learning. From last few months, institutions of learning, particularly schools, have been in news for all the wrong reasons. A teacher is subjected to everything from abuses to stabbing and even getting shot by pupils.
Despite being the most vulnerable victims, the authorities put the blame on the teachers. This year, many private schools and National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) have decided to observe a black day on September 5 to protest the arrest of support staff and Principals of private schools. There are numerous cases where schools are soft-targeted by parents and government agencies. The private school association of Uttar Pradesh has decided to demonstrate their protest by tying a black strip on their hands. This is probably the first time in Independent India where teachers in such large numbers are openly out with their objections.
The parent-teacher solidarity is at its all-time low. Of late, it has become a norm to blame the school and teachers for the wrong-doings of a child. Parents are not willing to take responsibility for their neglect. The entire teaching fraternity is living under a constant threat of being blamed for none of their actions. Any misconduct by the child is bound to fall on the school and teachers. This growing culture of rebuttal from parents has kept the schools on the back foot. It has been seen that the schools are no longer enjoying a healthy parent-teacher association. Gaining a written consent for everything, as low as taking them to laboratories as well as music and dance classes, from parents have become a standardised operational procedure for schools these days which was otherwise considered a part of their normal routine. The element of trust has almost been wiped out from the institutions. What are we teaching our kids? We are forgetting the fact that we are creating future humans without emotions by these actions of ours.
In today's education system, the entire focus is on pupils, nobody is paying any attention to the wellbeing of teachers. The Human Resource policies for teachers are weakest among all. The infrastructural hurdles in government schools and salary constraints of private schools are unaddressed. While there are still a significant number of government schools which lack basic facilities like drinking water and toilet, there are private schools that do not even offer a chair to teachers in the classroom. Both private and government schools (excluding a few elite ones) face a staff crunch and the existing staff is burdened with additional work. Private schools have no fixed remuneration policy for teachers - it is as low as two thousand rupees per month. With these challenges to face every day, a teacher is the most abandoned employee in the white-collar segment.
Almost all the laws are child-centric and a teacher is left with no option but to prove his own innocence. The latest example of a 92-year-old retired teacher being booked under false charges of POCSO is an eye-opener. The entire reputation earned after decades of service is maligned overnight. It is anticipated that these laws might also meet their fate like the Dowry Prohibition Act which is widely misused.
The need of the hour is to constitute an autonomous body, under the Constitution, to uphold and safeguard the rights of millions of teachers who are always regarded as nation builders. There should be a uniform wage system for teachers so that the sanctity of the institutions of learning is preserved. The occupation of a teacher should be made open to all the intellectuals across domains so that the quality of education delivered is improved. Affiliation laws should also keep a vigil on the 'hire and fire' policy of school owners. The government should implement the recommendations of Subramanian Committee. An Indian Education Service should be established as an all India service with officers being on a permanent settlement to the state governments but with the cadre controlling authority vesting with the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry. The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6 per cent of GDP without further loss of time. Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provision for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing.
If the glory of teachers keeps on deteriorating, the time is not far away when we will see meaningless institutions producing human beings without any intellect, emotion, and vision. Dr. Radhakrishnan had aptly said, "It is not God that is worshipped but the authority that claims to speak in his name. Sin becomes disobedience to authority not the violation of integrity."
(The author is an educationalist. The views expressed are strictly personal)