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Guru-shishya: Sacred no more

why the student-teacher relationship is becoming bitter over the years citing some recent incidents, and the factors leading to the connection devoid of affection and understanding.

Guru-shishya:  Sacred no more
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Mothers give birth and teachers give life. A teacher provides a purpose to a student's life. Not a single person will deny the fact that a teacher and a mother have played major roles in shaping their lives.
The identity of a teacher is via his student's success, while the student through his acts and contentiousness makes the name of a teacher.

The above-mentioned words from the speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 5, 2015, may be just one among many of the Prime Minister's great speeches. Yet, has there been an emphasis on the thoughts conveyed by the Prime Minister or has its relevance been lost in a fine speech?

Some recent incidents highlight a worrying and a dangerous trend in the student-teacher relationship.

A Delhi University professor had been mercilessly beaten by a group of students resulting in internal injuries to the professor.

A teacher was stabbed to death by his juvenile students after he struck their name off the rolls due to their poor attendance record.

A teacher warned of death threats after he reprimands some of his students due to lack of discipline.

A teacher was locked in the female washroom by a male student seeking sexual favours from the teacher.

There have also been reports of teachers getting suspended for sexually harassing students A relationship which at one point of time was considered to be sacred by many, today seems to show disturbing trends from the aforementioned examples. Lack of discipline, respect, and rise in aggression among students towards the teachers is now openly voiced and reported.

Providing his views on the current student-teacher relationship, Hari Narayan, a recently retired teacher from a Delhi Government school in East Delhi mentioned that he breathed a sigh of relief upon his retirement.
"Students have no regards for their teachers today. The situation is worse in the Government schools. The way a student speaks to the teacher is enough to make one understand the current situation. Students today feel that a teacher is responsible for them not doing well. Lack of discipline and respect towards teachers is a student's way of rebelling against the flawed system. While students suffer the most with this form of stubbornness and unwillingness to learn, teachers are being perceived as a villain. This situation needs to change," said Narayan

While there can be complaints against students, teachers also cannot move away from their limitations. Overbearing attitude, lack of involvement and sincerity are the complaints against teachers by the students.
Ravinder, a class IX student from a Government school in Gurugram highlights how the absence of teachers is a major problem at his school. "Most of the teachers are just not interested in teaching the students. Most of our teachers do not even come to school most of the time. Even if they are present they are not interested in attending the class and teaching students. Most of us in order to study depend upon our friends for help and not our teachers. As there is no involvement by teachers, most of the students come to school not for studying but to have a good time with their friends." says Ravinder.

With the process of acquiring a quality education becoming an increasingly difficult process, as per hefty procedures followed during school admissions, teachers are being perceiveds service providers rather than a student's life transformer.

Even as there is a dearth of teachers in the country, there is a greater shortage of skilled teachers that further worsens the situation.

Providing strong views on the issue, Professor Apoorvanand Jha, Delhi University states that lack of attention towards prevailing flaws in the education system is affecting the relationship between students and teachers.
"The environment in which the teachers and students operate is not conducive at all. Unfortunately, our society has reduced the important role of the profession of an educator. Today more than an educator, a teacher is involved in tasks of an administrator. This, in turn, affects the relationship of teacher and the students and makes it more strained," says Professor Apoorvanand.

"Today education is one area where the Government of various states in the country pays minimum attention to. In various states today in order to cut their budget rather than permanent teachers there are more contractual teachers that are responsible for educating students. Most of these teachers do not possess requisite skills and qualifications for their posts. When you have a scenario where a teacher is insecure about his job and he is also not well qualified you can understand what his relationship will be with his students. A system is being made where education is deliberately made into a commodity with an objective to profit out of it," Professor Apoorvanand further added.

What starts with the problem at initial levels of an education system, also enters into the higher education. Rather than attending classes at universities, students now are more interested in displaying their anger and frustration over various flaws of the administration in the streets.

"The recent violence at Delhi University where professors were targeted should not be taken as the only consideration for a poor student-teacher relationship. A teacher's ideology is separate from the professional responsibility. The student must differentiate between both the roles," says Abha Dev Habib, Professor of Miranda House College, Delhi University.

On providing her views on the relationship between a student and teacher in the classroom, Professor Habib says, "The reason for the widening gap between students and teachers today is because there is very less interaction between them. There are various students who still look up to the teachers. They still feel that a relationship can be developed between the two where there can be discussions and exploration of new ideas. However, the designing of recent curriculum prevents the teachers in having a comprehensive interaction with their students."

Professor Habib mentions that teachers will now have to make an extra effort to win the trust of students. "With limited interactions and communication, it will be a challenge for teachers to develop a rapport with their students. A teacher will have to make that extra effort and go beyond classrooms. In Delhi University, for example, there are students who do not get to stay at college hostels and stay at PGs ( as paying guests). The teachers can help resolve their problems. Similarly, our creative plays should not only be restricted to one's own college but must also be shown to other students so that they may have more exposure," adds Professor Habib.

There are also views that inability to deal with poor administration in educational establishments in the longer run affects the teacher-student relationship.

Professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy highlights that student-teacher relationship at Jawaharlal Nehru University has always been a healthy relationship.

Yet, poor administration, increased political interference, and a less participative approach adopted do affect the student-teacher relationship.

"Poor administration has often been a major reason towards creating a rift between students and teachers. Just take into consideration what would the students go through as most of the schools in the country either do not have toilets or have washrooms which are jointly shared by boys and girls. Teachers now are been seen as a part of the administration who deny basic facilities to the students. The poor administration has also become a major part in central universities. Students are more angry owing to the denial of certain amenities rather than because of their perceived political leanings. For example, the shortage of rooms in a prominent Central University irks students," says Professor Chenoy.

Raising the recent issue of change in educational policies Professor Chenoy says, "Another major problem that needs to be addressed is the change in educational policies, structures and curriculum. It seems an attempt is been made where only the privileged will be able to get education in the future while the poor and underprivileged will be left out. The research opportunities are also been denied to most of the students across various Central Universities. When you deny quality research how will you get quality teachers?"

Professor Chenoy states that a system must be created where students, teachers, administrators and the policy makers must discuss the progress of educational system in the campus.

He cites that lack of right intent and vested interests are preventing the steps towards enhancing education levels across all levels.

A similar view is echoed by Anmol Panwar, a former student, Delhi University who highlights that distrust between students and teachers in today's times has resulted in students affiliating their professor only by their political ideologies.

"The sacred relationship which the students used to have with the teachers is no more there. It has just become a normal professional relationship. Today most of the students do not want to take advice from their teachers because they feel that it is of no use to them. Today all the teachers are known only through their political views than their educational qualifications. Students with vested political interests want to target teachers because they feel that it is the teachers who are making students affiliated to a political thought. It is unfortunate that the campuses, where there should be debates, discussions and ideas, have been reduced to places where one wants to impose one's political views forcefully. This highlights the failure of the educational system in the campuses," says Panwar.

Panwar mentioned that as much as it is important for teachers to have a healthy conversation with students, the students must also have an open mind and assimilate positive aspects from their teachers.
Challenges galore, deficiencies remain and its repercussions are now felt in terms of the gap between students and teachers. Yet, a relationship between a student and his teacher will always be a special and an important one.

In his speech on September 5 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also mentioned that a teacher who does not value his students remains incomplete.

Adding to what the Prime Minister said, teachers with an incomplete mind are now resulting in students with unfulfilled lives.

A recent example of mass copying by students during the present exams season reflects that how the young India is losing its way by giving up on education and losing hope on their teachers.
With students being the identity of teachers, it is just one of the cases where teachers have failed their profession and in turn their students.

It is time for students to get back their discipline and focus towards their outlook towards education and its stakeholders. It is even important for teachers to retain their greatness as that will lead to inspiration in the young nation as American writer William Arthur puts it succinctly – 'The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.'
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