We live in a world where all of us have surrounded ourselves by our biases, judgements and preconceived notion.
Since my last blog many times these biases overshadowed my conversations and my work but the moment that made me reflect about it happened last week.
Recently I visited a school in Vasna, Ahmedabad run by an organization named Gyanshala. It catered approximately 80 sixth and seventh graders of Gujarati medium.
Geared up to meet the kids as I entered the building , the school reminded me of my teaching days and was similar to most low income schools from the inside.
Here, at this very moment my biases took hold of me. My past experiences started to control my curiosity and excitement to conduct a successful interview and sympathy for the kids and the kind of education they might be receiving in this place started to grow.
But unaware of the future events, I was in for a memorable visit!
We interviewed kids over Maths and English concepts and tried to gauge their misconceptions. The process felt fruitful as the kids were responsive and participative. Misconceptions and the learning gaps could be clearly pointed out but the thing that made this trip most memorable was ‘teachers’ we interacted with during those 2 days.
Their involvement and eagerness to learn and most importantly their love for the children and openness towards feedback broke all the biases and concerns I had regarding the quality of education in that very class.
And at that moment I questioned myself,
What would have happen if they had all the resources and technology at their disposal but no teacher in class?
How important is a teacher’s role in the class?
Are they the most important piece in this whole big puzzle called Education?
According to UNESCO’s World report,
‘Teachers are the primary contributors to the child’s education. They have a crucial role in not only preparing the young mind to face the future with confidence but also built it with responsibility and purpose. ‘
With this huge responsibility on their shoulders, teachers have been under great scrutiny since many years. At present, with changing dynamics of the education sector in the developing countries the pressure has only increased.
Parents are more aware about their ward’s wellbeing, government is worried about the Education in the country, and corporate giants along with numerous NGOs want to change it all for the better.
But a change in education status can only be reached if it is well synchronised with change in our outlook towards teachers and teaching as a profession.
According to the Education International’s, the world’s largest federation of unions representing 30 million education employees in about 400 organizations in 171 countries and territories, 2015 report (Verger et al., 2013; EI, 2012; Ball and Youdell, 2008) stated that,
‘rapid changes in educational policies that result in the de-professionalization of teachers include increasing privatisation in and of education, systemic underfunding of public education, recruitment of unqualified and/or contract teachers, and accountability mechanisms centred on measurement and performance related schemes.’
It also states that,
‘ These policies, combined with austerity measures that were imposed in many countries due to the global financial crisis, are some of the many challenges for quality public education that influence teachers’ lives, and working conditions, and do not align with teachers’ professional perspective. ‘
In India, the situation has improved with time. According to DISE data,
5.79 million Teachers are engaged in teaching in schools imparting elementary education. On an average there were 4.5 teachers in a school in 2008-09 that imparted elementary education compared to an average 3.0 teachers per primary school.
But due to the large population under consideration this increase does not serve the purpose completely. Moreover, with more high paying and short term jobs replacing the more secure ones, the shortage of teachers is going to prevail for a while.
Despite this chaos there are many such teachers in our system who against all the odds and constant scrutiny are working with their head high and making big changes in their student’s lives.
Yes, the blame game of education sector has just started, but the most integral part of this system needs our support more than ever.
A lot of dormant potentials are to be revived with proper policies and aid from government, updated teacher training and a LOT of appreciation in terms of respect to the profession would bring back the passion among teachers regarding teaching and in the process also inspire many more to join the force and truly change the landscape by playing on the field rather than just acting as spectators.
By Ritika Shukla – Educational Specialist
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