It is Teachers Day today. On this day, the students pay respect to their teachers and in return get their blessings. Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888. When he became the President of India (1962-67), some of his old students and friends requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday. But the President instead wanted September 5 to be observed as ‘Teachers Day’ as teaching was his first love.
Education is the instrument for social, economic and cultural change, he said. He strongly believed that proper education can bring about social and national integration, make the younger generation true citizens of the society and can also bring socio-economic development.
Teachers are considered to be the backbone of society. They groom the younger generation to become ideal citizens of the country and serve the society better. An ideal teacher brings the students closer to him or her like a parent and helps them to overcome challenges in their studies, motivates them to gain knowledge, teaches them to find a purpose and to achieve their goal. An ideal teacher is one who is very caring, loves all the students equally and is free of any bias and prejudice. His /her attitude towards students should be similar to that of their parents so that there is a cordial atmosphere of intimacy and affection. As the students spend a major part of the day in the school or college, the teacher should ensure that they not only learn their lessons properly but also live in a friendly atmosphere with their fellow students and teachers.
I stepped into my village school Rambagh M.E. School in Jajpur district of Odisha 80 years back. I had taken admission in Class IV. I was very scared initially. However, within a few days, I felt quite comfortable after receiving the fatherly affection of my class teacher, the Headmaster and other teachers.
The close bond that I shared with my teachers and the passion with which they taught aroused my interest in studies and I was keen to attend school regularly. The class teacher used to call all the students by their first name and gave equal attention to everyone. Appreciation and scolding from teachers depended on how attentive the student was in the class and also the degree of his/her performance. Due to the friendly and affectionate attitude of most of the teachers, the students became close to them very soon. I studied in the school till Class VII.
Then I shifted to Cuttack where I studied at Pyarimohan Academy (a reputed High School at that time). But whenever I went back to the village, I would make it a point to visit my old teachers. Most of the students who had left the village did the same. In those days, meeting teachers outside the school to receive their blessings and affection, used to be a great pleasure and privilege for the students.
I may also cite another example of an ideal student–teacher relationship. In 1948, after completing Intermediate Science from Ravenshaw College (now Ravenshaw University), Cuttack, I applied for Bachelor in Arts with Economics Honours in the same college instead of going for Bachelor in Science. After a few weeks, when I received the intimation card for admission, contrary to my preference, BSc course with Chemistry Honours was mentioned on it. To my surprise, I found out from the admission section of the college that my choice for higher studies in my application form was changed by none other than Prof. Dr Balabhadra Prasad, the then Head of the Department of Chemistry and an eminent educationist.
Acting on the advice of other teachers in the college, I reluctantly took admission in BSc and went on to do well in it. A few days after I took admission in the course, Dr Prasad told me that I would do better by pursuing high studies in Science than BA with Economics Honours. Such an equation between teachers and students was common in those days.
Now-a-days, teachers share a casual relationship with their students and vice versa. Further, most of the teachers are not very serious about their profession. With an eye on extra money, they suggest coaching classes to the children after school hours. Teaching has become like a business with very little interaction between the teachers and students in the classroom. As there is no proper mechanism to monitor and evaluate the performance of the teachers in the classroom, the teaching standard in educational institutions, particularly in government schools and colleges has gone down. It is ridiculous that most of the parents are compelled to send their children to private coaching classes beginning from Class I to the postgraduate level.
There is an urgent need to restore the sanctity of the student-teacher relationship and bring improvement in the standard of teaching at all levels for the socio-economic development of the country.
Teachers in schools and colleges are well paid now. They should take their responsibility seriously by improving their knowledge in the subject, developing a passion for teaching with good classroom management skills, maintain a close rapport with the students and develop good communication skills. The teachers should show their students that they are concerned about their future.
An ideal teaching environment would certainly bring the students and teachers close to each other and create a favorable atmosphere in building the careers of the students. In this process, the students can learn more and come out from the educational institutions with satisfaction and confidence for contributing their knowledge and skill to the society and the country in general.
To improve the standard of education at all levels, the government should take all the steps that are necessary for improving the student-teacher relationship, the quality of teaching at all levels and keeping the educational institutions free from politics. On this ‘Teachers Day’, let all teachers make an honest self-assessment and do the needful to set an example for all. A teacher is a privileged person, who, besides earning his or her livelihood, does a great service to the country and the society by grooming the younger generation.
(The views expressed in this column are the personal views of the writer)