Where have all the good teachers gone?
One of the earliest, if not the first, casualties of the economic boom was the loss of good teachers to other professions. This began sometime in the late 1980s. There were several reasons why we were losing good teachers.
Increasing disrespect and disparity. Disrespect toward the teaching profession, not just the job, is not new; it began in western world soon after the Industrial Revolution. Disrespect and disregard for the profession especially at school level (10 standard and below) began in India in the late 1980s/early 1990s when the seeds of economic boom were sown and the rush to join engineering rose exponentially.
Mass tutorials classes, even through correspondence, diverted students away from any other profession but engineering.
The sudden spurt in unaided schools and colleges introduced deep disparity in pay and other facilities between them and aided/government institutions. Although the best students graduated from unaided institutions no government thought it fit to bring parity between their faculty and unaided faculty.
The situation persists to this day with teachers in unaided institutions exploited by rules and regulations that are made at the whims and fancies of their ‘founders’. No good teacher could endure such disparity and exploitation.
Unaided institutions are managed according to the whims and fancies of their often capricious founders. With practically no control over unaided institutions from any authority these ‘founders’ elevate themselves to positions of absolute authority ushering in despotism and tyranny.
Teachers were asked to sell candles, manage traffic outside the institution, protect certain girl students, check furniture, detained to attend to ‘cultural’ programmes, wear uniform (no uniform for students), asked to apologize in writing for some silly oversight among other things.
The list of exploitations is endless. Disparity and divisions were created between teachers not to reward good teaching but to create divisions and enmity.
There are some teachers who have refrained from getting involved in tutorials. They have their own reasons. Incompetence is definitely not one of them. The lure of money and the necessity of earning as much as one can made many good teachers quit their jobs in schools and colleges.
Often good teachers are also good people. But they are witness to some of the most terrible examples of malfeasance in many of these unaided institutions. Failed students are promoted, permanent absentees are provided hall-tickets at the last moment, students misbehaviour unscrupulously tolerated and even encouraged, corrupt teachers promoted and empowered are some of the quotidian things that good teachers are made to endure. Why should they endure?
They will quit at the very first opportunity. What then are the steps that can be taken to reverse the trend and appoint, and retain good teachers? Here are some measures to that effect:
n Flexibility in timing: Many good teachers chose to remain in the profession despite good offers from other government departments because teaching offered ample flexibility in work timings, and fixed vacations.
This gave teachers enough time to pursue other interests, write books and keep developing professionally. Many even completed PhDs and contributed to the knowledge capital of the nation.
In current times, few institutions offer flexible timings, especially unaided institutions, insisting, and often needlessly, that teachers remain in the institution for fixed periods. Such strictures only serve to encourage para-professional or even unprofessional activities.
*Vacations: Vacations were a great reason for good teachers to remain in the profession. No other profession offered two, six-week vacations each year. This too has been hit with many unaided institutions limiting vacations to a mere fortnight. It must be remembered that during these vacations teachers are not actually ‘free’ but are busy with exam-related activities such as evaluation of answer scripts for at least six hours a day. They were only ‘free’ from teaching. Cutting short vacations and expecting teachers to attend to exam work in addition to teaching has only de-motivated good teachers from remaining in unaided institutions.
* Reward: For obvious reasons, merit may not be correctly rewarded in most aided/ government institutions. This is where unaided institutions can do much to attract good teachers. Do they have a scheme to evaluate and reward good teaching? Why not? They want good teaching but not good teachers.
For instance, a simple thing like making timing flexible for worthy teachers will go a long way in encouraging them to stay and contribute. Do they care to tap into the talent pool among teachers? Teachers are often dismissed as the dregs of society. Not always. The talented ones need as much encouragement and scope as talented students obtain from institutions. Yet, even the best teachers receive a raw deal. Why are they given a cold shoulder?
* Recognition: Promote and aid talent. It is a vicious rumour that teachers are not talented. Since most of them come from middle or lower middle-class backgrounds with little or no money to spend on developing their talents, their talent pool remains untapped. Can unaided institutions not help recognise and aid talent among teachers?
But they are first to call themselves ‘family’! Monetary aid alone is not the answer to solve many problems facing our nation. What are institutions doing about helping teachers develop their talent? Will their talent not inspire students? Teacher inspiration is a very important part of school and college education. Which student will not feel proud of being a student of a teacher who are themselves accomplished? Institutions must remember that in helping teachers develop their talent they are in fact helping their own institutions. This investment in human potential will not go waste.
* Stop disparity: For perplexing, or obvious, reasons many unaided institutions create disparity among teachers by any means available. These disparities are created to encourage average and incompetent teachers.
Therefore, such teachers begin extending their support to the administration to encourage further exploitation. What good teacher will want to thrive under such circumstances? Indeed, can a good teacher thrive at all under such circumstances? Then let not such institutions whine in public over the loss or absence of good teachers.
All said and done, I must admit the teaching has never been an attractive profession. I have not heard of a single achiever who credited their teachers in school or college for their achievement. In fact, they have often spoken of their deprecated their teachers.
Have you heard of a Nobel laureate or an Olympian or a great musician or a great writer thank their school teachers? I am yet to. Is it because we have paid little attention to what society can benefit from good teaching, and good teachers?