We need better teachers to improve our schools

We need better teachers to improve our schools

Free and compulsory education should also ensure that children are not denied of good teaching, writes Vatsala Vedantam.

Just as we heard that state schools in four districts of Karnataka were surpassing private schools in academics, there comes the startling demand from a teachers’ welfare association for preferential treatment in promotions for primary and secondary school teachers in the state by following the roster reservation system. These teachers, who are competing for seniority and merit based promotions, have already benefited from the reservation policy in their qualifying examinations and  appointments.

If their welfare associations are now seeking further concessions for them through caste based reservations, their victims will be none other than the children of those same caste based categories who attend government and municipal schools. In their misplaced concern for the teachers, the welfare associations have conveniently forgotten the thousands of pupils coming from socially and economically deprived sections of society who attend these schools. 

According to the Centre’s mission, “the future of India depends upon the quality of education imparted to our children. We believe that it is the joint responsibility of the Government and citizens to improve school education…..”  How does one improve school education when politicians and political aspirants jump into the arena, with new fangled and half baked ideas, to dilute education for their own selfish ends?

It is common knowledge that the strength of a school lies in its teaching. You can have schools without blackboards or books. You can have schools without classrooms or playgrounds. There are thousands of them in the country. But, you cannot have schools without teachers. And, you cannot have good schools without good teachers. They are the very backbone of every educational institution. They are the stimulants for thinking, studying and progressing to the top. If teachers fail, the school itself has failed to fulfil its obligations to society. 

We have 43,447 government primary Schools and 3,029 government high Schools in Karnataka. The government spends over 90 per cent of the budget for school education on teachers’ salaries alone in its primary and secondary education schools, either directly or through the grant-in-aid system. When this so, one expects the best in terms of teaching.

If this too has to be compromised, it is a gross misuse of public funds. When the Constitution itself has declared free and compulsory education for all children of 6-14 years, they cannot be cheated of their right to good teaching. According to the Government of India’s much touted Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme, schools all over the country are provided with additional teachers wherever the teaching strength is found lacking.

Funds are provided to give these teachers extensive training, in addition to grants to develop teaching – learning material. SSA is implemented in every district, even at the taluk level. All these funds are generated through public support for educating socially and economically deprived children.

Must they be cheated of their dues by providing them with sub standard teachers? Strange when educationists are pleading to raise the bar higher and higher for those who teach in order to produce a new generation of high achievers, so called welfare associations are clamouring for lowering the standards of teaching in schools which is already mediocre.

If governments allow such mediocrity to flourish in order to placate political interests, they will not only be siphoning off public funds, but they would have let down the beneficiaries of well meaning educational programmes.

Teachers’ lobbies are very powerful lobbies in this country. We simply cannot afford to pamper them at the cost of our childrens’ future. On the other hand, proper values must be inculcated in teachers themselves during their training programmes. They must be made to understand that they are educators who determine the quality of life in schools.   Their own education is very important in this context.

Unfortunately, teacher education in this country is too theoretical, too unimaginative. They also lack proper admission standards. If teachers are central to excellence in education, should not their own training be excellent?

If teachers must know what they are teaching and how to teach it, their training must be of a high professional standard. Not only should their admission standards be high, but their teaching competency must be rigorously tested before they are appointed to teach.

When these two requirements are already diluted , should we worsen the situation by promoting them out of turn with neither the proper training or competency to teach? This will not only hurt the interests of students. It will discourage truly merited and competent teachers from entering or continuing in this profession.

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