Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individualA. P. J. Abdul Kalam
The 2020 Teacher’s day is yet another repetition of the ritualistic remembering of the teachers. But the year reeling under pandemic appears much more agonizing for a sizeable section of teachers as compared to past years. A teacher’s role in the life of any individual does not require any reiteration. Everyone owes a lot to their formal and informal teachers. It is also well understood that education has a very crucial role in the making of any society. Teachers happen to be the formal instruments for accomplishing the goal of a well-educated knowledge-seeking society.
As per Malcolm X, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”. Consequentially, the teachers have been earning admirations for their role in transforming society since time immemorial, but the darker side i.e. the plight of teachers does not find enough space. The humongous number of teachers in primary, secondary, and higher education keep struggling with a wide variety of challenges. However, there are some of the common issues that need immediate concern.
Shortage of teachers and contractual teaching
The number of teachers in every level of educational institutions is quite small. Invariably, the pupil-to-teacher ratio is found lower than the prescribed value. The lesser availability of teachers leads to loss of learning opportunities by the students and also burdens the available teachers with additional teaching & other responsibilities. The burdening of teachers impairs the quality of teaching-learning processes. Though the institutional efforts are made for making up this gap through the contractual teachers hired for limited periods, the compensation to the contractual teachers does not attract brighter candidates for such assignments. As a result, irrespective of the mode of hiring, the quality of such teachers at the entry stage is not comparable with those recruited through regular recruitments. Contractual teachers being engaged as stop-gap arrangements do not develop any affinity towards their responsibilities and also can not be held largely accountable.
Quite often, the news items appear regarding the huge number of vacant positions of teachers, but the failure of the education regulators in ensuring the sufficiency of teachers is all-pervading across different categories of the educational institutions. This shortage of teachers is much more prevalent in the government regulated education institutions. The private sector education institutions are usually seen to be fulfilling the requirements of having the desired pupil-teacher ratio. However, the compensation to the teachers in such institutions is not found up to the mark in the majority of cases.
The prevailing pandemic has compelled for change in the education delivery in new normal. As a result, private institutions are unable to sustain their expenditures due to their reduced receipts. The number of education seekers is also decreasing in certain cases which are leading to the worsening of the salary payment in such private sector institutions that are self-financed in nature. Nevertheless, the situation is not so in the case of government-funded education institutions at the present time.
Concerted efforts are required to ensure that the pupil-teacher ratio meets the prescribed requirements and the necessary arrangements are made so that the private sector institutions do not resort to the curtailment of salaries to their teachers and staff. It should be understood that any demotivation of teachers will lead to indelible marks on the teaching-learning process and affect the competence of educated ones.
Controversies in recruitment and career-progression
The policy of recruitment of teachers in educational institutions is alike in government and private institutions. Nonetheless, the controversies in the recruitment of teachers are evinced in government-funded institutions. The teacher recruitment needs to be made time-bound, fair, transparent, and merit-driven. The extraordinary delays in finalizing the recruitments damage the overall quality of education. It is incomprehensible to reason out as to why the teacher recruitment processes are not carried out in the utmost sacrosanct manner. Drifting away from the merit of the candidates and leaving room for biases not only affects the participants but vitiates the whole eco-system of education.
The teachers usually remain frustrated due to the delays in their career-progression. The loss of opportunities on account of pending promotions is often seen in all levels of educational institutions. The lack of interest in teaching, research and extension activities is one of the consequences of such extra-ordinary delays. The education system should ensure timely career progression to all teachers and supporting staff so as to ensure their whole-hearted involvement.
If the education system itself is unable to adhere to the integrity in teacher recruitment processes, it loses grounds to preach for morality in education. The student community is the biggest sufferer in the long run.
The objective of enhancing the gross-enrolment ratio is to increase the opportunities for education. The government-funded educational institutions are forced to increase their capacities. This ushers the education system to devise emergent means of sustaining teaching-learning processes by hiring more teachers. The compensation to such ad-hoc/contractual teachers is not comparable with the regular teachers. The lesser compensation is accompanied by heart burning and the inability to motivate teachers for their whole-hearted involvement in teaching and allied processes.
The compensation to teachers requires renewed consideration of making them decent enough to attract brilliant candidates to join teaching while offering them certain security for future settlement.
Governance and leadership
It is generally perceived that the governance of any educational institution is a trivial job which can be done by anyone. But, the quality and efficacy of deliveries, as facilitated by the institutional governance, have been creating the crucial differentiators between the educational institutions. A blend of excellent academics, administrative acumen, integrity, and discipline is desired in academic leadership. Differing public choices, perception, rankings, student accomplishments, etc. about various institutions in the respective category are indicators of the role played by the institutional governance.
Governance of educational institutions is very difficult as it pertains to handling the erudite minds of teachers and the creative minds of students with ample freedom of expression. The quality of governance also depends upon the competence and accomplishments of its leadership. Only the competent and academically brilliant leadership having integrity and respect for merit can effectively govern the set of teachers & students in an educational institution. There are ample traces of controversies involving numerous personalities who were entrusted with institutional leadership in academics. Such occurrences continue to demotivate the teachers and education seekers as well as the demean this sacred profession.
The regulators must understand that the stories of academic merits getting sacrificed for various considerations will be gradually getting seeded in the minds of the younger generation and the same will be disastrous for the society. Better to seek the answer to the question as to why most of the leadership in academics has controversies around them? and then go for necessary corrections. Let us hope that the education system takes a call for its functioning solely upon the consideration of academic merit and associated competencies, which has also been prescribed in NEP – 2020.
Apart from exchanging pleasantries on the Teacher’s Day, it is an occasion for introspection into present state of teachers. The teachers possess the crucial responsibilities of nurturing the society. They should be treated well for the betterment of humanity and civilization.
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About the author
Prof. Onkar Singh has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). Currently, he is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).