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Are we Ashamed of Honouring Teachers?

In the words of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, “The end-product should be a free creative man who can battle against historical circumstances and adversities of nature.” He was a renowned academic, professor, philosopher, and politician who served as the first Vice President of India and the second President of India. The tradition of celebrating Teachers' Day on Sept 5th started in 1962 in honour of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, his contribution towards teaching and education, and teachers all across the country.

Teachers are revered and honoured on par with God and a child’s parents as they contribute and greatly enrich the lives of many young minds. In India, there is an ancient tradition of honouring teachers and gurus called Guru Dakshina. It is a ritual to repay one’s ‘guru’ or the ‘teacher’ after the complete process of education is over. It is done out of sheer respect and acknowledgment by the student towards the teacher or the guru. It is a traditional custom of thanksgiving to the guru. It is a sort of love and respect exchanged between the guru and the student.

Teaching has been one of the cultural pride of India as it is deeply rooted in rich tradition. From honouring famous ancient teachers like Dronacharya, Kripacharya to celebrating modern-day educationists like Dr. Radhakrishnan, Sir Ashutosh Mukherji, Dr. Amartya Sen, and our former president Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam. Teachers have always been held in the highest of honours as one of the keynotes of our culture has always been: Acharya Devo Bhava (Teacher is God).

Even famous poet Kabir narrated the importance of teachers in his couplet:

गुरू गोविन्द दोऊ खड़े, काके लागूं पांय।

बलिहारी गुरू अपने गोविन्द दियो बताय।।

Guru gobind dou khade, kaake lagoon pay. Balihari guru aapne gobind diyo batay’

(Guru and God both are here to whom should I first bow? All glory be unto the guru, path to God who did bestow).

But with time, there has been a drastic change in how people view teachers. Other professions tend to be envious of teachers as there is this baseless notion that teaching is an easy job and that they get a lot of holidays to relax. Unfortunately, this is a very wrong assumption as teachers are one of the most stressed professionals who are also severely underpaid and overworked. According to a research study done by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), the final results report states that teachers are more disposed to greater job-related stress in comparison to other professionals.

Teachers in India specifically face a lot of problems and challenges both inside and outside the classroom. Some of the difficulties are:

  1. Professional status of teaching

There is a common and very negative misconception that teaching is just glorified babysitting, which is absolutely false. Teachers are required to undergo rigorous training and need to specialize in subjects in order to be able to inculcate their learned knowledge to their students. Teaching is not like any other regular 9-5 job as teachers need to work even overtime when it comes to preparing modules for class or correcting exam papers.

Because of these negative biases in the teaching profession, many young people tend to avoid choosing it as a career path and only keep it as an alternative or last resort.

2. Financial Compensation

Teaching is definitely one of the most overworked and underpaid professions. Bad monetary compensation is not just restricted to government or low-cost private schools but also transcends even to posh international schools. Most school management and board of directors mostly prefer cheap labor. One of the reasons for this is because teaching is seen as a low-skill requirement, cheap labor job. It could also be because of the fact that some people consider teaching to be a women’s job which is obviously not true as many teachers in the past and present are males and have taught as well as their female counterparts. Since women are mostly attributed to being homemakers and children generally learn more from the mothers, they view teaching, especially a woman teacher just performing her duties and do not consider it as legitimate hard work.

3. Commercialization and Commodification of education

Education has become absurdly expensive over the years and while unfortunately the management and owners mint money, the teachers are severely underlooked and are not paid their rightful dues. There are many fancy schools in the country with ultra-luxury infrastructure but still refuse to pay teachers a substantial amount of money, which they rightfully deserve. Education has been divided into cheap and elite and while parents want to enroll their children in the best of private schools and teachers aspire to work and be part of the organization - the government and schools in rural areas go severely underlooked and the teachers are underpaid and therefore the quality of education also decreases.

People think that just about anyone could become a teacher which is not true. It is not just about teaching from a book, but it is so much more like keeping the best interest of the students in mind, adopting a teaching method that makes learning easy and accessible to all students with varying talents and educational skills and performance. Teachers do not just teach and leave, but they interact and form interpersonal relationships with their students and ensure they get the best of their learning experience and help mold and shape the students into better human beings.

The misconceptions regarding teaching need to change as equality in education is extremely important in the present day and age. With the onset of the pandemic, we have witnessed a change in our typical education system as learning had to move online. Both teachers and students, but specifically teachers had to adapt to new technology and adopt means to connect and interact through learning with their students. To conclude, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops - Henry Adams”. It is time we value teachers more, pay them more, and treat them with the honor and respect that they deserve.

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