Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheswara, Guru Saaksat Param Brahma, Tasmai Shri Guruve Namaha !
Above age-old Sanskrit, shloka is universally accepted across India to mark the deep respect and gratitude to the teachers as Gurus. This also reiterates the role of teachers in the life of all and embellishes a whole lot of teachers in the formal education system too.
The recent incident of a teacher scolding a certain set of students in the premier technological institution in independent India does not augur well. The indecent remarks made by any teacher to students are uncalled for. It is appalling to witness such incidents as these were for the academically weak students. Further, it points to the polluted mental set up especially when these students belonged to the SC, ST, and PWD communities as per media reports.
Reasoning indignity in academics
Unfortunately, the higher education of the country is not witnessing such demeanor of custodians of educating younger generation i.e. the teachers for the first time, instead, there are umpteen numbers of instances when teachers have crossed the threshold of decency and mistreated their disciples. Quite often students have been complaining about the teachers carrying positive and negative biases towards selective students during teaching, examination, evaluation, and mentoring. Unequivocally, the bias does not have any place in the sacrosanct teaching-learning-examination-evaluation processes. The teachers are supposed to conduct ethically and demonstrate their fairness with integrity to nurture the similar traits of being fair, ethical, moral, and help in ingraining the best values in their students.
The unequal handling of students by teachers could be ascribed to their
- weak academic credentials,
- poor performance in examinations,
- poor response in classroom interactions,
- poor financial standing leading to fewer learning resources,
- deficient IT equipment and other facilities,
- caste-based discriminations,
- social perception, etc.
Interestingly the most of the factors responsible for their subjugation to partisanship are inherently congenital. Innocent human birth in any family is put through particular social order for which newborn is not at fault, instead, it is the society’s creation despite knowing the fact that every life is equal in all aspects. In fact, for any child, the economic condition of the family dictates the quality of life, the standard of living, access to education and other opportunities, facilities, social circle, etc. that is also not in control at the time of birth. Therefore, the teachers being in the most responsible role for creating future human beings to sustain the civilization and take the society forward should ponder upon the sensitive issues humanely.
Does reservation polarize education institutions?
It has been the insufficient presence of people from certain communities of the society in different sectors and various levels that pushed for creating special provisions in the Indian constitution. The constitution has Article 46 to enable the state to promote and take special care of the educational and economic interests of weaker sections of the society and protect them from social injustice and exploitation via reservations in India.
Nevertheless, the Government has enforced reservation for so many decades in admissions in educational institutions and employment but the inadequate representation of these communities till now entails thorough rumination. The under-representation of people from SC/ST/OBC and other weaker sections of society is explicitly prevalent in educational institutions which could be attributed to various factors including discriminatory treatment. Therefore, the statutory provisions created through constitutional processes should not be envied.
Undoubtedly there is stiff competition for seeking admission in higher education in the country and students from all sections strive hard to get it based on their merit in competitive examinations. The statutory reservation eases the admission to the students from reserved categories even with lesser merit and others take umbrage for not getting opportunity despite their superior merit. This creates a veiled antipathy among students, however, there are ample reasons for grant of reservation and should not be brought into discussion for maintaining harmony in the education system. Sometimes the thinking and actions of the teachers & officials of education institutions are found discriminatory on the basis of social origin and ridges are noticeable. The gravitas of discrimination is evinced from the fact that in February 2021, the University Grants Commission directed higher education institutions to devise a mechanism to redress caste-based grievances. The presence of statutory authorities like different National / State commissions for SC/ST, OBC, women, child, and other deprived sections corroborates the necessity felt by the Government for special care required for such sections.
Implications of ill-treatment
In general, higher education usually enrolls students of more than 18 years of age i.e. at which they are entitled to exercise the franchise and participate in the functioning of democracy. Thence, any grudges nucleated in the student minds during the course of pious teaching-learning process for being born in families classified as SC/ST/ Backwards or having physical disabilities due to reasons beyond their control are likely to culminate into hatred against some and try to pull apart the social fabric of the society. The privilege given in the form of reservation and others makes such students hypersensitive to any differential treatment by either a few teachers, peers, institutional governance, etc.
The perceptions developed by such students based on day-to-day interactions make them realize their social background and other limitations beyond their control. As a result, sufferings like depression due to failures, lacking in exhibiting performances comparable to others, peaceful & violent fight for justice, etc. are observed and may even culminate in students bringing an end to their life as was in Rohit Vemula’s case.
In a large number of cases, the discrimination met to students by the teachers at any stage instills ill feelings and a sense of insecurity. The negative perception of such students changes their attitude towards others in real life. As often as not, this is discernible in the form of their biases and taking special measures to protect those similar to them.
The contemplation of the precarious situation arising out of discrimination reveals the creation of a vicious loop that starts from the students getting distanced from teachers psychologically. Consecutively, the widening of the gap between student and teachers inculcates a lack of confidence to get their doubts resolved, followed by their poor performance in assessment tools, which results in creating a pool of academically weak students who may be subjected to remedial classes, such identification is stigmatic to them, causing aversion of students from studies that makes them perform badly and the gap between student and teacher further widens.
Soul searching by Teachers
Chanakya said “A teacher is never ordinary. Holocaust and creation flourish in his lap” (Translated from Hindi quote- Shikhak kabhi sadharan nahi hota. Pralay aur nirman uski god mein palte hain.)
This popular quote is to sensitize teachers about their roles and responsibilities towards civilization, however, they are well aware of their pre-eminence. But the sporadic occurrences of misdemeanor by few teachers result in a loss of respect and dignity of the whole community of mentors. The shame brought by the misconduct of select teachers warrants self-appraisal by all academics and their regulators. Any misuse of the freedom and authority vested in the mentoring community has long-lasting bad imprints on younger minds.
Also Read: Gurus Being Outsourced in ‘Vishwaguru’ India
Teachers ought to understand that the students consider them as role models for which they have to exercise restraints and self-imposed restrictions to prove worthy of student expectations. Society’s grace of putting teachers at par with God decrees for high moral values, exuberant, inspirational, ethical conduct, absence of biases, high integrity, transparency, and commitment in them for rolling out a better society.
Also Read: Peeping into Miseries of Teachers
Teachers should contemplate bringing complete equity, free-thinking, and freedom of expression on campuses and sincerely endeavour for getting rid of the setting up of bodies/committees within institutions for safeguarding the interests of certain sections of society. Ideally, the educational institution campus should offer equal treatment to all without fail. The moot point is that the teachers have to bring change within them and ensure ethical practices for well being of students as setting up bodies/committees to safeguard the interests of the certain sections has proved to be ornamental and ineffective in many cases.
Indisputably the relationship between teacher and taught are pious and all efforts are required from teachers & officials of educational institutions to sew up their relations with fairness, transparency, integrity, selfless support, handholding, and care. Teachers have to muster the strength to thwart any attempt of disturbing the serenity of campuses and their virtuous relations with students as the educational institutions can only shine by the pride, hard work, achievements, and pristine glory of their teachers and students.
For creating a healthy and vibrant society, the teaching fraternity should resolve to demonstrate decency, tolerance, discipline, and merit-centric actions with high integrity without any kind of discrimination towards their students.
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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.).