Teaching as a Profession: Attitudes, and Where India Stands

Posted on April 6, 2012 in Education

By Nakul Arora:

A few days back leading English daily reported on its front page: 93% teachers fail CTET exam.

So out of the 7,85,227 aspirants who appeared for the exam, only 55,422 managed to clear it. This exam had been set up by the ministry with the aim of improving the quality of education in our country, and it was made mandatory for a teacher to clear either CTET or its state equivalent to be a teacher in Class 1-8. For most people, this result would have been shocking, however, for me, a person who has already been working in a low-income private school as a teacher for the past 9 months, the result was quite expected. For the people who might be taking me to be a pessimistic, I would like to say that working on the ground for almost a year has introduced me to very basic realities, which have really made me pragmatic. So, why was I, a person who is working to bring about the change in how teaching is looked as a profession in this country, not shocked by these results?

India was a nation where teaching as a profession was deeply revered in ancient times. The relationship between a guru and his shisya (student) was considered very holy, and if we were to look into our holy texts such as the Vedas, we would learn of the high pedestal at which a guru was placed in the society. So, how did we, as a country, end up at such a stage where teaching as a profession lost all its respect? How did we reach a stage wherein most of the people in this country, who are taking up teaching as a profession, do so out of their inability and helplessness in finding another suitable job? Why do we not see people wanting to be teacher’s like they want to be engineers and doctors? There is no coaching industry that we can see mushrooming by helping aspirants gain entrance into B.Ed programs. Most people resort to teaching as a last desperate attempt at earning their livelihood. Why are young people not taking up teaching as a profession? Or more importantly the question should be: Why has teaching lost all the aura and respect it once garnered?

I will be discussing only one out of the many possible solutions to the above questions. There is a myth set in people’s mind about teaching being an easy profession. Most people think that teaching a class of kids is the easiest thing in the world for you have to just go in there and teach them how to add and subtract, basic alphabets and sentence formations — how difficult can that possibly be? This is also one major reason as to why a major chunk of people who are unable to fit into other high-intensity jobs take up teaching.

Being a teacher is all about being accountable to yourself, for herein what you do inside your classroom is something totally under your control, and no amount of external intervention can force you to do something in your classroom if you yourself don’t deem it to be necessary. So, even if during B.Ed, a person would have learned a variety of innovative and creative ways to teach students math, s/he can very easily go into the classroom and just tell teach them the process and be done with it. Making the student understand the concept would take time and energy on the part of a teacher. The only thing that can be judged from outside a classroom is whether the course is on track and if all kids have their work complete. It is really difficult to question a teacher over each of his kids knowing the why behind whatever they are learning. Thus, a teacher can easily get away with being just mediocre inside a classroom. This degrade is quality of teaching has directly resulted in the loss of respect for teaching as a profession. And, the loss in respect has itself in turn led to the drop in level of teaching in our country. So, a vicious cycle of low-quality teaching has been set up, which is getting really difficult to break as good people are now refusing to enter the profession.

Another very important question to ask here is: Is teaching as a profession responsible for its current apathetic state? I would say no, for being a teacher is a really challenging job. As a teacher there are so many different roles you have to play other than just teaching. In fact, inside a classroom, you are everything, right from being a role model, to being a parent figure, to being a judge, to being a friend to the kids. Also, your responsibilities as a teacher are also varied, right from planning lessons to effectively executing them, to ensuring that they are differentiated properly to suit the needs of all the kids in your class, to making proper assessments to judge the kids learning’s, to correcting these assessments and analysing the data. In short, you are fulfilling all the roles and are fully responsible for the final result. Also, the kids are really innocent and they have a tendency to bring out their genuine selves in a person. They really make you believe in the beauty of the world and the power of truth again. In very simple words, if you are a good teacher, you have nothing short of being a good leader for you are leading your students inside your classroom. So, if you see, teaching as a profession offers wide opportunities for a person to grow and become self-aware.

However, for any of that to happen, a person will have to focus on quality teaching which in turn would solve the problem of there not being respect for the profession anymore. This in turn, would attract good, people to take up teaching seriously as a profession and then only can we hope for a much better and truly educated India.