Teaching, thou art not the same!

Those were the days when students used to line up outside Gurukuls and Madrasas, praying that the teacher would accept them into the school. And teachers had strict tests to ensure that the pupil they are accepting is hard working and dedicated. Schools in ancient and medieval India were like second homes. A child would go there and spent several years, away from family. They would do all kinds of labor, from cleaning to cooking and even working in fields. Such tasks made them humble and experienced. Through these activities, they were taught lessons for life. Teaching was experiential and deeply embodied with story pedagogy. Books like BetalPachhisi, SinhasanBattisi and Panchtantra were formal courses to teach administration, justice and lessons of life. A student would bring a fist full of grain or sweets as an admission fee. For the rest of his education career, he was not supposed to pay anything for his food, stay or education. All these expenses were taken care of by the society or king. Pupils were always thankful to the teacher, for he accepted them. With this humility, they would enter the free world to serve.

However, things have changed now. We now buy education. We don’t thank the teacher for blessing us with knowledge, but we remind them continuously that we pay for their salaries. School administration also does not treat teachers like an Acharya or Guru, but like overpaid employees of any corporate. Salaries of teachers are deducted if they come even a minute late and they are penalized if their paperwork is not complete. Teachers are also given a huge list of do’s and don’ts while interacting with students. And then, we say that teachers are not competitive enough.

Schools need more money, which can come only from students. High fees can be charged if schools offer additional services. From infrastructure to resources, everything has to be fancy. Then how can education be left behind? Smartboards and modern technology penetrated our schools. Big hoardings are put to publicize the same. But hardly any teacher was given appropriate time to upgrade himself/herself to understand new technology. Teachers in India spend most of their time within the walls of the school, where even mobile phones are not encouraged. At home, they are left with a short window to finish chores, entertain family and take rest. There also, they bring pending work from school. Where will the time for upgrading come from? Schools that are trying to train teachers only give short workshops on how to use tools. The element of creativity, which is developed after weeks or months of practical experience is completely absent. As a result, if you ask anyone to draw a nature scene, they would immediately start drawing 3-4 hills with a sun peeping from behind. There would be 2-3 v-shaped birds in the sky and an S-shaped river, with a hut in one corner. Event art, which is a synonym to creativity, is also taught like other subjects – cram it.

Our modern education system was designed to benefit the Industrial Revolution. But this is the cyber age. We find it difficult to accept the change. Because if we accepted the ancientmodel of liberal arts& experiential learning, we will have to pay attention to each individual student and also honor his/her unique learning ability. Then we will not be able to conduct standard tests and label our children with ranks, which will haunt them for their entire life.

We are not producing prodigies, we are just preparing our toddlers to teenagers to be part of the rat-race, which has squeezed elders to the last drop already.

Yes. Teaching is not the same anymore.