Calling teachers “untalented leftovers” doesn’t tell the complete story

Arvind Passey
02 July 2019

With the NEP 2019 zipping and zooming from one stage to another and its interpretations getting into every kind of conversation taking place anywhere, the focus is bound to be on teachers… and students, of course.

Everyone wants teachers to get better. There is a lot of talk about doing away with sub-standard teacher training courses and about the creation of multiple modules to transform the ageing and recessive knowledge base of teachers into something fresh, vibrant, and new-age. And yet, between all the energetic whoopees on education finally getting its progressive injection, I heard someone call the present lot of teachers as being “untalented leftovers”.

Untalented leftovers. Really?

I respect teachers a lot… but as I thought about this rather disparaging expression, I realized at the same time that a large number of teachers teach not because of choice. It is this lot that is untalented, not creative, not innovative at all, uninvolved, and thoroughly disgruntled. This is a major problem with our education system besides there being big and unstable issues of infrastructure, policy imbalance, and funding. Some of these jokers who call themselves teachers are responsible for generations of low-grade professionals that the nation has to deal with today which means that the rot has been going on for quite a while. It is such teachers who have promoted rote learning as the easier alternative to creative thinking and innovative analysis. These individuals are the destroyers of India. Teachers are still the ones to be revered.

The All India Survey on Higher Education clarifies that the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education in India has increased from 20.8% in 2011-12 to 25.8% in 2017-18. This is way higher in US and Germany. Another report by FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and Ernst and Young specifies that 99% of MBAs and 80% of engineering graduates in India are grossly unemployable. One of the aims of NEP 2019 is to transform a teacher who merely teaches into a teacher who also learns. Another aim is to re-align the relationship of what is taught and how teachers teach with what the employers need.

Obviously then, what the country really needs is a reawakened sense of involvement by our teachers at all levels without getting their priorities mixed up with earning more money through private tuitions. The current trends show amply that we do not have a dearth of able teachers… it is just that most treat their classroom teaching as secondary because they wish to conserve all their energies for after-school or after-college private lessons. This is an epidemic that needs to end because we have millions of bright students who suffer because classroom teaching is literally limping and remains ineffective. It is the sheer numbers of those students who find the cost of private tuitions intimidating who enter the post-study world with unflattering images of their teachers and the noble universe of teaching.

I sincerely wish that our decision-makers include every feature that is geared up to filter out those who have an uninvolved approach to teaching and are also unwilling to change their attitude. Yes, a continuous emphasis on relevant modules to transform the information and knowledge quotients of teachers is the need of the hour and is as vital as sternly dealing with those who act in ways that makes the world call teachers “untalented leftovers”.

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