By Shruti Singh:
If you were born in the 90’s and early 2000’s then you would perhaps relate to what I am about to write. Consider this as a trip down memory lane. Better still, once you’ve read this, take initiative and do something about it. For those who are still in school and reading this, you’re part of the larger hope pool.
When I was in high school, my English teacher was brilliance translated into fun and intelligent sarcasm. She was every bit of your quintessential literature teacher with whom you could discuss boys, grades, and sometimes music too. It seemed that my English teacher was handpicked by a Unicorn (and by God for some), and I felt happy. She taught us much more than Grammar, poetic devices and sentence structure – she taught us life lessons. During one of our free periods, I asked her if she really wanted to become a school teacher, and her answer was positive.
Snap to 2013. While most of us were deciding on pursuing a fancy Master’s degrees in India and abroad, my best friend chose B.Ed. For some, it felt like an out-of-option decision. “Maybe she didn’t get through a good college for an M.A.” or “Teaching school students is a safe and easy career option. She’ll get free by 2:30pm while most of us would be slogging till 5 or 6.” These judgments were evident on people’s faces when we told them about her decision. This is how the tables have turned.
It is appalling how much we discourage ourselves, our friends, and our children to take up school teaching as a mainstream career option. The reasons may be varied. Then again, there always are varied reasons for everything. We’re sort of perfecting that art – to find excuses. It surprises and worries me when I hear parents blame teachers over children’s performance issues. One of the pressing issues since independence has been education. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2013, India ranks first on the primary education enrollment. That’s something to be proud of. We have come a long way to achieve this. What about the teachers? Are they adequately qualified? Will they be ready to change with time? While education is given the maximum space in public discourse, where have all the teachers gone?
There is an acute demand and supply deficit when it comes to skilled and qualified teachers in Indian schools. One of the highlights of the Right to Education Act was that the teacher-pupil ratio should be maintained at 1:30. For every 30 student, there should be one teacher. Is this being translated into classroom reality? That’s debatable. In a 2010 report, the UNESCO Institute of Statistics mentioned that the country will need 20 lakh new teachers by 2015. Do we have enough B. Ed enrolments to support this demand? The Central Institute of Education, Delhi University has about 200 students in its current batch of B. Ed, and not everybody goes on to become school teachers. They are attracted by administrative jobs in the government. Those who carry on with their jobs in schools, primarily women, soon leave due to maintaining married life, family planning, etc.
Statistics can be dug out from numerous sources. The need of the hour is to change the mindset. We need to bring back the days when being a school teacher was as glorious as being a senior manager at an MNC. Our society runs on romanticizing traditions, mythologies, and culture. To take these forward, teachers or gurus used to form the base of our knowledge. People wanted to be school teachers. That used to be at par with childhood ambitions of being an astronaut or a doctor.
Remember how we were taught that recycling water will conserve it for our future generations? Sincerely pursuing school teaching will have the same effect. We need to do it for them. It’s the domino effect – if your child is taught by a good teacher, (s)he will want to become one too. Teaching young kids is one of the most rewarding professions. “I feel that I’m actually bringing about change. It’s great when they learn what’s in their chapters, but it’s a moment of personal achievement when they learn beyond that. Even if its just a simple things as throwing wrappers in the bin. It feels like pure success whenever that happens.” Those are the words of my friend who will begin her career this May.