Developing good faculty in schools

Developing good faculty in schools

Good education takes time. Building an educational institution takes time. But we are not a society that has respect for time; we are perpetually in a hurry to prove a point or two and in the process leave most works half-done after an ostentatious, grand start.

We build today and hope to reap profits tomorrow.

The finest of schools, colleges and universities in the world today took decades, if not centuries, to establish themselves; they produce the finest minds to whom we owe much of our health, happiness and other existential prospects. They invested much in teaching and teachers. But our educational institutions glorify themselves in claiming campus spread, digitised environments, glittering festivals and glam students, “imported” teachers and fly-by-night professors. 

Perhaps the one thing the most students complain about teachers is not their general lack of intelligence, or erudition, or both but that they manage to turn the most exciting topic on its head by creating an ambience of utter boredom in their classes that makes every minute seem like eternity, and chewing on pebbles would seem far more exciting than listening to their drivel. 

Only a few teachers are exceptionally caring and patient; they actually teach things to students which they remember all their lives, things that have made them successful, acceptable and responsible members of society. But such teachers are outnumbered by the mediocre. They are partial, biased and prejudiced. Their classes are often noisy but they care little; they speak to the blackboard more than they do to students and punish more than they reward. 

In a well-researched and recently published book The Smartest Kids In The World, the author Amanda Ripley notes that the country that is producing the smartest children is Finland, closely followed by Asian nations such as Korea, China, Japan and even Poland. What makes Finland, a tiny European country consistently produce smart children? The author’s reveals that teachers in Finland are not only paid well, they are respected first, and are entrusted with sufficient autonomy, and are ergo accountable for students’ performance and – this is important – they are chosen from the top 20% of university graduates.

Teachers in Finland, the author reveals, also have to undergo a rigorous teacher training programme before their selection. 

The decline of public interest in certain courses involving the study of history, pure sciences, arts, etc. and its consequences on the nation’s development hardly find a mention. Leave alone courses, teaching, or the lack of it, is practically ignored. Geniuses and rebels may require no teachers, no human source of inspiration either. But their disregard for teachers cannot be applied to mass education; most students need good teachers to bring out the best in them, to make them aware of what they are capable. But all our selection processes seem to reveal a dirty truth: we prefer under-performing or even non-performing teachers to the excellent.

Why is our preference for teachers inverted? The root of the problem is that most schools and colleges in urban India are founded and managed by philistines who have little or no respect for education. They understand only “price not value”, as Oscar Wilde put it. Naturally low-paid teachers are found to be more “promising”. Not only is it low-pay but a high rate of turnover that is desired and obtained. This apathy of school/college authorities is condemnable. 

Our institutions need to get their priorities right: teachers, not students, are the backbones of educational institutions; no educational institution can afford a weak faculty. Can we hope for changes that will dispel the darkness that currently envelopes the profession?   

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