Mrs. Sonia Philips, I still remember her, my senior kindergarten teacher, pretty, delicate. Sir Edward, my grade two class teacher, a grumpy and strict, tall man. I can’t even recall him smiling. And, yes! How can I forget Mrs. Asharafi, a teacher so serene and so loving? Mrs. Malvika was my mom in school and the beautiful Mrs. Uzma Rizwan Khan (known as “Khan Ma’am”) is the one who saw in me a confident leader.
I grew up, changed several schools and most of my teachers left a permanent mark in my memory. Their voice, face, qualities, style, their tone, their language, how they taught and what they preached is what I still recall. Every promotion faded my observation as well as my teachers’ impact on me. Today, pursuing my graduation, I hardly connect to my professors. They are indeed amazing and inspiring but their impact is, I know, superficial.
With this thought, we should really ruminate over the importance of primary school teachers in a student’s life. Children tend to follow and observe the people around them. Especially teachers. After their parents, they play an influential role in a child’s life. Children capture their image, body language, behaviour and expressions as well as ideologies and thought processes. Hence, it is very important to think about what quality of primary teachers our schools offer the children. Because the human we appoint to teach the basics of education to a child, somehow contributes to mould the child in several ways in the longer term.
While hiring a teacher the only basic criteria considered is their qualification. No degree can guarantee any kind of personal morals nor does it determine anyone’s character. Therefore, qualifications shouldn’t be the only substructure on what we appoint teachers for primary students who have stepped out on their journey of knowledge and education. These students need mentors with strong and promising personalities carrying high moral and emotional ethical values. Their character and ideologies should be aligned and they should be able to successfully project an improvised human in front of the kids because they are constantly followed.
In Finland, the primary education of which is considered one of the best in the world, teachers have to go through rigorous training to deal with kids. They are scrutinised for several months for what they teach and preach in the class. No doubt they are the best.
Even the content of what is to be taught in primary school should be rethought by the education system. We have, they say, a quality education system but we all have experienced it only conceptually and theoretically. Environmental studies were introduced as a compulsory graded subject so as to make us aware of the global environmental problems and concepts. But it is, even today, learned just to get a grade ‘A’ and clear the examinations. Students seldom care about the seriousness of the deteriorating environmental conditions, nor are they perceptive about the solutions.
Indians are good at solving mathematical problems as well as scientific equations. A 15-year-old well-practiced Indian kid would solve on paper any complicated mathematical problem, but in Japan (with the second best education system), a 15-year-old kid is making robots. The only difference between them is we are bookworms whereas they practise applied knowledge.
Our schools educate us enough to make us capable of getting a professional degree and a job but seldom are we taught what it actually takes to be a good human and citizen. We are rarely taught what actually matters in real life. Who among you was taught how to grow food in school? Sounds stupid, but teaching how to grow food in school should be part of a holistic approach towards educating the child. Are you aware of the actual process of planting a tree? How many of you have actually filtered water through sedimentation and preserved it? Did your school ever make you spend a day with pet animals and teach you how to groom them? Doing this would inculcate a feeling of sympathy as well as compassion towards animals. some believe that a person who isn’t compassionate towards animals cannot be the same with humans in general.
Was any art made compulsory in your school be it dance, painting or poetry? Was it made compulsory for every student to choose one sport as their sports routine? Was every edge of you as a student dusted and did your school try to pull every indispensable string in you? Were Sir Walter Raleigh, Ibn Batuta or Meo Zedong mentioned in your books as frequently as alpha, beta and gamma?
Were you taught how to socialise and start a conversation or the science of basic manners and etiquette? Were you ever taken to old age homes and orphanages once in a while and taught to donate your treasured belongings? Just like they take us to water parks and amusement parks for picnics, were you taken to any remote village to understand the life there? Were you ever given homework like, “Tomorrow the class monitor will check the money you have saved this week, and please be ready with the answers of how and where are you going to use it”? Were any efforts made to dislodge the fear in you of facing a crowd and speaking your heart out? Were you encouraged to discuss political, social and global issues rather than letting you debate upon “boys vs. girls: Who are the best?”
I believe in the exactness of science and mathematics. But I also believe in the importance of our intrinsic radiations and moral theorems just as the electromagnetic radiations and Euclid’s proof of prime. With 356 million 10-24-year-olds, India has the world’s largest youth population. If these millions are raised dynamically and are moulded as ideal humans, not with the superficial knowledge but real wisdom, there’s no stopping India’s progress towards a better tomorrow. A cosmopolitan outlook would widen their horizons from just India to the entire globe. And to achieve this we need passionate and dedicated teachers and mentors to execute better education to the living future of the world. Everything matters.
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