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Thursday, January 12, 2012

If these be teachers...

I keep hearing from the parents of toddlers, youngsters my daughter’s age and many ex-students far older, finishing their master’s courses, even in very ‘prestigious’ places, how bad the new crop of teachers has become: all those in their late 20s and 30s, that is to say. And I recall that I used to say to so many pupils who attended my classes fifteen-twenty years ago: ‘What on earth is going to happen to this country when irresponsible and lazy dullards like you become teachers?’ That nightmare has now come true.

And no wonder. For a very long time three very nasty things have been happening. a) public examination standards fell through the floor, b) only the dregs generally took up teaching: those who had always been backbenchers in their own student lives, and lacked the energy and intelligence needed even to become BPO hacks or sales agents, and c) the best students routinely shied away from teaching – as they are still doing as a rule, despite the payscales having been revised quite sharply upwards – because teaching is supposedly hard, unglamorous, thankless work and ‘lacks status’ (apparently a glorified mechanic-turned-file-pusher, aka engineer at a steelworks or an MBBS on a government salary in a rural health centre or even an IT worker drawing Rs. 25K a month has more ‘status’, God help us!). As a result, all our teaching positions are being filled up by nitwits with bloated and brittle egos (I have heard despairing parents say, ‘aar kichhu toh pelo na, tai teacher-y tei dhukiye dilam…’). I know directly how little English and History and Economics the English and History and Economics teachers know – they are helpless without their notebooks, many skip classes regularly or spend whole classes in idle chatter or make the pupils merely read out from textbooks, mark homework and testpapers in the most hurried and shoddy way imaginable, most of them would fail miserably if they were forced to take an impromptu test themselves – and I hear the same thing about those who teach math or biology or physics from my students who are themselves good at those subjects. This, despite the fact that they have loads of degrees: one can easily guess how those degrees were obtained, how easy and meaningless it has become. On top of that they are by and large lazy and totally uncommitted – teaching to them is little more serious an occupation than selling paan and cigarettes (one of these creatures actually told me that it’s just ‘time-pass’ until he gets a ‘real’ job), and bribery plus sycophancy are all you apparently need both to get and hold on to teaching jobs. They naturally suffer from a huge sense of inferiority in class, so it comes as no surprise that all they can do is bully and shout down the more intelligent and curious of students, threaten them with all kinds of dire consequences if they don’t blindly toe the line, reward only shameless flatterers and witless crammers, take no responsibility for their pupils’ progress, and spend all their spare time thinking up excuses why they are not to be blamed for the whole system going to the dogs. Amartya Sen has been warning us for a long time about the pathetic state of our government schools in rural backwaters – if he did a survey of the most ‘elite’ schools and colleges in our metros, I don’t think he would survive the shock. Why do you think everywhere we private tutors are making hay?

I hear from quite a few ex-students that they are now teachers of one sort or the other – some at schools, some at colleges, some at BPO training centres and hotel management institutes – and all I can say inwardly is ‘My God, that idiot too?’ (I am reminded of a girl I called ‘daab’ in class, because even among very silly people she stood out prominently, and a few years down the line I heard she had become a teacher in one of the well-known plus-two level schools in this town. I leave you to draw your own conclusions…). Incidentally, the very few among them who are both learned and sincere repeatedly aver that before they started teaching they had no idea how much effort, serious concentration, dedication and constant self-correction it entails, how awfully challenging a vocation it is, how little time and energy it leaves you for anything else. So imagine the kind of teacher who is by choice a party animal or mall-hopper!  No wonder the one idea that scares their pants off is that their careers should be made to depend on student-evaluation alone. And yet I have maintained since my own days as a class representative in college that the only people competent to pass judgment on teachers are the students who actually learn or suffer at their hands…

I was chatting with a truly brilliant old boy the other day, someone on the verge of passing out from university, and he was telling me about a classmate who thinks Shah Rukh Khan is a ‘great actor’, Gandhi was a disgusting fool, and anyone who asks her why is stupid and rude: she just happens to think that way, she has a ‘right’ to her opinions, and of course it’s very old fashioned to say that one ought to base one’s opinions on knowledge and reason. It occurred to me that this girl was not only going to be a parent in just a few years’ time, but, armed with a good degree from a first-class university, quite possibly a teacher or even a college lecturer too. My God. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in imitation of the Naxalite era, students started hurling bombs at teachers once again: this time not driven by ideological hatred, but simply because they have had their fill of uncouth illiterates masquerading as teachers.

29 comments:

Debarshi Saha said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards.Your blog-post is,I would consider,essential reading for our times.Teaching has been degraded in our country to a mere occupation,that provides one with a wage.With private firms entering this sector,and selling education like hot cakes,what more would one expect?!..Our parents and most of our elders,have allowed this monstrosity to progress on unchecked-with the justification-"After all,what matters is not what you learn;Its what you earn."..No one feels like changing any existing system,and making the world a better place to live in..No one feels that this world is abundant enough for all of us;they only participate in win-lose situations.

Sir,you have always been a lone soldier,a beacon to guide us all.I pray that the Lord provides you with true 'shishyas' to carry on your work..

With best wishes,
Debarshi.

Shubho said...

It is a strange coincidence that you wrote this post at a time when I have started thinking of changing my profession and becoming a teacher. Well Sir, as you have mentioned, the dullards are becoming teachers nowadays. Those who do not get anything to do are the ones that are becoming teachers. Teaching really has become a business. The level of education is to degrade yet further. However I think the educational system is to blame for this. In CBSE schools board examinations for class ten students is no more there. This is something unthinkable.

I remember the days when I was told to help a little girl of the seventh standard with Java (I am not mentioning the name, but I hope you have understood). Firstly, I was shocked that a little child of class seven was going to learn Java. I was even more shocked on opening the book because nothing was explained properly. Everything was so short and was so crisp and precise that it was obviously going to become a burden for the student. She would be forced to do nothing other than just memorizing the definitions and programs without understanding anything. She had attended sessions of Java in her school, and when I asked her what she understood about programming, she asked me in turn what Java was and why we need Java. I understood at that time that there is a certain gap somewhere in the system. The child was eager to learn, but maybe the teacher was not approachable easily or had probably had a reputation for scaring away students, for which this child had not dared to ask the teacher this basic question. She had not learnt what algorithms were and what flowcharts were, however I looked into the exercise books of school and found that quite a few things had been completed which should have been explained only after explaining the basics of programming. The text book was also not a good one. It contained only definitions, no good examples.

(continued...)

Shubho said...

I decided not to start with Java, instead I started with showing her some computer hardware by opening the cabinet of her dad’s computer. Then I started with C because I believe that a person cannot learn a high level computer language without learning a low level or a medium level computer language. I used my own methods to explain things to her (I had tried to make it simple for her) and succeeded only a little bit in helping her understand what programming actually is, and I felt that the child was really a very good student, because what I was explaining is actually taught in college, and this child was actually learning all that. Even though I was putting in a lot of effort, it was actually less than a normal student of the seventh standard should require. (Well, I could never get started with Java because I fell ill for 4 months suddenly). After this experience of teaching the child, I felt I could teach…

Now I tell my own story of my hands on in computers when I was in school. I was in the seventh standard when computers were first introduced in our syllabus and we were told that it was compulsory for us to study computers. I was pretty excited because I had never touched a computer. On the first day, we were taken to the computer laboratory and we were shown computer hardware from a damaged machine. It was interesting. We were taught the history of computers in subsequent classes and about algorithms and flowcharts. I used to struggle with all this because I was simply not able to understand the computer logic. Then we were taught simple programming in Basic. We were just told that there were computer languages called C, C++, Fortran, Cobol, Java etc. Well I found it too difficult to master Basic itself, forget Java! Sometime later someone told me that there was a computer language called Logo which was easier that Basic and should be taught before Basic because we were just beginners, and after hearing that I kept on complaining all the time that we were being explained very high level concepts without explaining the simpler things first. The educational system was wrong. In the exams I had somehow passed in computers and thanked my stars for that.

(continued...)

Shubho said...

I told all this because I wanted to show a comparison between the people who used to decide the syllabus when I was in school and the morons who are deciding the syllabus today. These people strangely do not seem to understand that whatever is to be taught is ultimately to be learnt by children below 16 years of age. In the effort to prepare the children to face the competition, they are ultimately overloading these fertile and creative minds and spoiling their childhoods. At a time when a child should play the most and study the least, it is being seen that most of the children are studying for almost 12 hours a day everyday - my God! I never did such a thing unless it was the day before the examination of some completely useless subject that I had never studied throughout the year and which I would never study again in my whole life, and the books of which I would throw away as soon as the exams were over, and in which I was more than 100% sure I would fail if I did not study.

I have seen children of class six or seven being woken up from sleep at 5:00 am in the morning and going to sleep at 11:00 pm in the night. I am an IT professional, but even then I do not wake up before 7:30 am under any circumstance – I sleep more than 8 hours a day. I just think what all these children are going to become – just common men who will be earning salaries for the sake of themselves and their families – shocking! Does putting in so much effort for just a salary really pay?

(continued...)

Shubho said...

Sir, my parents never devoted the amount of time that I used to devote to studies, and I did not devote the amount of time that the children of today are devoting to studies. However, I have seen something interesting. My father can do mathematical calculations in his mind much faster than I can do. My grandfather, whose age is more than 80 years, still remembers poems that he had read when he was a child and tells those poems without a stammer or a stop, as if he has memorized those just a minute ago. I also see that I can solve puzzles much faster than people today who are preparing for the competitive examinations. From this I can infer something very awful. As the pressure of studies is increasing, the brains are getting programmed to merely memorize, not think. One more thing – I do not feel it is only the studies that are becoming a burden for these children, the constant reminders from the parents that good marks is an absolute necessity is also overburdening the students. There have been instances of suicides by students of 8th and 9th standards because they could not get a rank within the first ten in class.

What you mentioned about teachers is really right, but I want to add this absurd and difficult syllabus thing and the constant reminders from the parents to what you have mentioned, because I feel that these are other major factors that are contributing to the educational standards falling so low. Time is so short that even good teachers won’t have time to explain things even though they may want to. The time has been kept constant but the syllabus has been absurdly increased and made more difficult. To make things easy for children, good teachers will need a lot of time to explain things with proper examples and then clear the doubts that children will have. It is wrong to expect that children below 16 years of age will understand things that are taught in college in one go. It may be the case that the time constraint has restrained good teachers from teaching properly, and in a hurry to complete the syllabus they may actually be unwillingly insisting upon memorizing things for the sake of the examinations.

All are to blame Sir, the bad teachers, the super intelligent morons out there who are deciding what children should study, and the over smart parents whose topic of gossip is their childrens’ marks.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Subho has written a very long, thoughtful and insightful comment. I shall desist from responding to him at once, though I am eager to, because I want to see if and how other readers might react, or write independent comments of their own... but meanwhile, thanks very much indeed, Subho.

Subhanjan said...

Sir, I would not think twice before saying that all that you have written is not just true, but cannot be even debated if someone decides to counter. Standards have gone down sharply in the entire education system. When I recall the kind of teachers I had in my school days, I realize that they were far better than many of the professors that I had seen in my graduation and post graduation days; and even now among my colleagues. You are so true when you say that these days there are many ‘academicians’ out there in the education industry who ‘lack the energy and intelligence needed even to become BPO hacks or sales agents’. And it is indeed a tragedy, as you rightly say, that even the best of students are being driven so much by herd instinct that they begin to believe that if they are not doing jobs in snazzy corporate offices of multinational giants and earning at least a Lakh a month at the age of 25, they are not living a good life. Before taking the plunge little do they understand that life is not going to be like a beach side party, and that it is going to be a pretty hard slog from seven in the morning to twelve at night for the boss with little time for oneself.

Students these days cannot write a complete sentence in English. SMS language has penetrated everywhere. But why should I blame them? To my horror I even find young teachers/lecturers today using SMS language. Their knowledge is shallow and they give vague descriptions. One can be liberal enough to consider that if one is not good at something today, he/she would take initiative to fill up the gaps. But leave alone corrective measures, people do not even admit to themselves that they have shortcomings and that there are things to be taken care of. Students complain regularly that the professor has taught in class by reading from the book or PowerPoint slides and that he had hardly explained. On a question paper in a very recent examination of a state university I saw the name of the subject written: ‘Essential of Communication’. And these are question papers written by professors, typed by supposedly ‘literate’/ 'educated’ people, rechecked, and then circulated to colleges.

Another thing that I have noticed is that teachers/lecturers these days seriously lack a dynamic attitude to work. Give them any work, they would find out every possible excuse to avoid it. Somehow, they have developed this approach that since I am a faculty, my only work is to go to a class and teach, and that I would not contribute to the college/institute/university in any other way. Library, training, placement, alumni, administration, discipline, industry-interface, cultural activities, literary society, research club, sports, etc, are many areas that need to be developed in any school/college/institute/university alongside teaching. But an over whelming majority of teachers/lecturers would not take any initiative at all to contribute in any area apart from his/her classes. There is serious lack of proper attitude.

Rajarshi said...

Dear Sir,

As pointed out by Subho, there's no doubt that something is seriously rotten with our whole education system. The problem is aggravating with every passing year because the quality of people at the helm of affairs itself is degrading. So, its a vicious circle. I would like to make a couple of points:

1) Recent reports have suggested that Indian students fare poorly when compared with their peers worldwide when evaluated on basic math and reading comprehension skills. As experts have pointed out, the reasons for this lie in our emphasis on rote learning. So, even if Indians are building rockets for NASA and writing software codes for Boeing, our kids lack basic cognitive skills (which are a pre-requisite for advanced learning).

2) I think that today's kids are smarter and more perceptive than we were of their age (probably a part of evolutionary process). So, we need to develop innovative ideas and tools to ensure all-round development of kids but it doesn't mean that we start teaching college/university level stuff to seventh standard kids. I remember vectors and advanced engineering mechanics being introduced in CBSE Class XII Physics, a couple of years after I passed out. My initial reaction was - is it required in the first place?

3) Finally, as you have pointed out, teaching as always been looked down upon as a profession in India, in spite of all the hypocritical talk about teaching and medicine being the noble professions. No wonder that such an important job of shaping future generations is being taken up by the least qualified of the present generation. This is another reason why we have our subsequent generations growing up as socially & morally dysfunctional and intellectually bankrupt - something you have repeatedly pointed out. I am an admirer of the English Public School system, in spite of all its elitism. We don't even have hopes of that system working in the Indian context where the Doon Schools and Mayo Colleges have also produced some of the biggest swindlers of the country.

Regards,
Rajarshi

Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

The issues discussed by you in this post really needs attention from all spheres of the society but we seem least concerned. So called good boys go for engineering and medical, rest opt for basic sciences or law or some other careers and those still left they become politicians. Thus,ultimately the back-benchers control the good boys and then we say that the doctors don't treat well, teachers don't teach, lawyers charge exorbitant fees; when all these things are the products of the vicious circle created by our own choices. Barring a few exception, teaching is now a profitable business (as in coaching centres), or a means of livelihood for people who are good at nothing else. It reminds me of a saying you told us once- 'Those who can,do; those who can't, teach.' Yet, in this cloud of ignorance combined with arrogance, you are a silver lining. Perhaps I would never have understood what a teacher means if you weren't there.

Sir,I hope you remember an advertisement of a private school (that you showed to us) demanding that the school would create world leaders out of students and you joked that who is going to lead whom if all aspire to become global leaders.

With warm regards,
Saikat

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

Here are the results which validates Suvro's points and arguments- Indian students rank 2nd last in global test. Do read the comments on this article too. My first reaction was that there must be some bias in the testing which puts the Indians at a disadvantage. But from the things we read on the education system and Suvro's current post- this may well be the scary reality. This comment here, like many reactions to this article is exactly what Suvro is lamenting about.
Sanjay Singh (Kuwait) observes-
First think, how many students want to become a TEACHER from the beginning of their schooling. Every one wants to become Doctor or Engineer, if not successful in that then they will appear in UPSC Exams to become an IAS/IFS officer, if again not successful then they will try to become a bank officer or at least a clerk in any Government offices. When they failed everywhere, then they think to become a Teacher. That type of Teacher is trying to built the future of INDIA. What can you expect more than this, at least they are not in the bottom.
Another reader said that Indian students are good in examinations but not in education. They failed miserably because there were no coaching or tutoring for this test.
Though off-topic, but India does seem to have a totally messed up "system" (the all encompassing word) in training, coaching and producing international standard talent in everything. Glaring example, where almost all money and resources go in India- cricket. The best batting in the world- all failing seven out of seven matches overseas. The IPL was supposed to bring the best of international talent both in players and coaching to improve and develop future players. The international players are making tons of money and improving- at least on playing with India. India is going the other direction. This is one area where resources can't be an excuse. India runs the world cricket show nowadays. They can airlift pitches from Australia and get those bowlers to give practice at home. They can keep and fully sponsor and support players in whichever country they wish.
What a waste of resources and talent in everything.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I am glad, to echo Shaheen Mistry, that there is now data to show just where we stand. The results are damning, indeed, but, to someone like me at least, nothing more than expected. We are letting a few hundred thousand morons breed/teach several tens of millions of more morons, that's all, and India is shining.

psst: Just one little addendum. Everybody still seems to think of institutes like the IITs as centres of excellence, like MIT and Caltech and Bell Labs. That, too, is because we choose to stay comfortingly blind. From all I know about the average IITian these days, a similar test given to them without prior warning, I can bet my last dollar, will give exactly the same kind of results. Which is precisely why these 'centres of excellence' routinely produce not pathbreaking ideas and products that change the world but low level mechanics and managers to run the factories and offices around the world. We keep pointing at a few score bigtime achievers (look at Vinod Gupta, look at Narayan Murty!) to stop ourselves from looking at the fact that the same IIT's have also produced tens of thousands of so called engineers who have 'achieved' nothing at all except swollen egos and big dowries...

Rajdeep said...

I have been reading the post and the debate that followed with earnest interest though I don't have anything new to say.

"my parents never devoted the amount of time that I used to devote to studies, and I did not devote the amount of time that the children of today are devoting to studies. However, I have seen something interesting. My father can do mathematical calculations in his mind much faster than I can do. My grandfather, whose age is more than 80 years, still remembers poems that he had read when he was a child and tells those poems without a stammer or a stop, as if he has memorized those just a minute ago."

These lines are telling.

Actually most of the work in today's world has little intrinsic value. Millions of softwares and Widgets are made. But what use are they to human development? Few stop to ponder.

To add to that, we have people working round the clock without rest to produce them. To earn a little money to live till they forget, and very soon too, why they are alive!

A vicious cycle no doubt. But what came first, the chicken or the egg?

One news article says:
Reading, maths ability declining in kids: Survey

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Reading-maths-ability-declining-in-kids-Survey/articleshow/11518364.cms

It will be sometime before have the next Einsteins and Tagores, and education as of today is mostly for the elite and of no use in anyway. A far cry from the ideals with which for example let us say Santiniketan was built.

Since a few years ago, many people in Japan seem "overwhelmed" by the "innate" Indian ability for Math i.e. being good at multiplication. I have often smiled and tried to gently put forward that despite all that, Japanese students have had a better record to show in the Maths Olympiad. And that I also don't see those Math geniuses coming and working or studying at the top places here. Most stare disbelievingly, probably one of the reasons for Japan's own educational problems these days...
I, for my part, find it hard to believe that the Japanese who need to learn 2000 alphabets in school cannot memorize multiplication tables more than 10 X 10 if they put their minds to it!

I have always balked at the word "rat race". But this is not even a race! A race must have a goal of some sort and there seems to be none in sight.

Waiting for Sir's concluding remarks.

Please don't publish this if not relevant.

Krishanu Sadhu said...

Sir,
It seems to be a strange paradox that the cost of education , at least in cities, has risen disproportionately over the years in the form of school fees etc , but the quality of teaching has degraded . If education has become such a lucrative 'business' sector , it should attract better teachers who would show proper devotion to their work. Are we witnessing one of the examples of the ill-effects of over-commercialization of a basic need of society ?

ps:I completely agree with Rajdeep's comment "Actually most of the work in today's world has little intrinsic value...". I believe people are becoming busier today to make people lazier. With all our technology promising us to give easy lives we have not gained time for ourselves , but only have less time left for our loved ones , and also for ourselves.

Krishanu

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Notice, for now, that a) no woman has responded,and b) no teacher has done so, either!

Rajdeep said...

Here are some of the best libraries in the world.

When will India boast of such things?

http://news.in.msn.com/gallery/Photoviewer.aspx?cp-documentid=5765297

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

I have been a Teaching Assistant for a few semesters during graduate studies in US. One semester in summer school (much shorter than regular terms) I was given the job to be instructor of a course. I had completed and aced the course when I took it a couple of semesters back. It was when I had to teach the course that I realized how incomplete my learning of the subject was. I had to do a lot of learning and training to be able to teach the course properly. One really has to try teaching to realize how much education and training is really needed to master something.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well, I was waiting for some more comments, but I do think it's time to make a few observations of my own, in response to those which have come in already: a) Shubho, I agree on almost every point with you except that children today are 'overburdened' with studies. My daughter emphatically says she's not, and insists that most of her friends feel that way only because basically they hate to study, and therefore they study (or rather, cram) for only a few days before exams. Add to that the quite unnecessary load of tuitions that marks-crazy parents put on many of them, and you get the real picture. b) Rajarshi, as for your point 2, you should come over and watch the kids in my class: you will never call them 'smarter' again! c) Krishanu, lately stalwarts like APJ Abdul Kalam and CNR Rao have been lamenting the current trend of total commercialization of education, but nobody seems interested in listening to them: there are too many moneyed and gullible parents around looking for shortcuts to 'success' for their kids, and lots of businessmen eager to lighten their pockets, d) Rajdeep, no hope, because modern India does not want to boast of such things.

Personally I believe things will get much worse before there's even a chance for them to get better, because teachers like me are not being replaced, and even we are beginning to wonder, thanks to the totality of our lifetime experience, whether perhaps it would be better to regard our job as just another way to make good money while the sun shines. After all, 90% of today's parents are far more likely to be impressed that I drive an expensive car than to see just how and what I teach!

Rajdeep said...

I can understand the no hope comment.

Though there was such a hullabaloo about Slumdog Millionaire a few years ago, this is what happens even now↓

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata-/Two-babies-die-in-front-of-Bengal-minister-during-surprise-visit-to-Malda-hospital/articleshow/11596232.cms

Rajdeep said...

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Swaminomics/entry/is-premature-english-making-india-a-super-dunce

Sumitha Rachel Kurien said...

Sir,

I spent a month in Kerala, in October 2011. Since it was soon after childbirth, I was not expected/restricted to do anything at all in terms of housework, and I usually ended up having a lot of "free" time (I didn't like taking too many naps with the baby no matter how sleep deprived I was). Thus it was that I found myself volunteering to teach my 8 year old twin neices for a Hindi class test. Now these are Malayali kids brought up in Kerala in a typical Malayali household, with absolutely no exposure to spoken or written Hindi, other than their text books and the Hindi classes in school.

The girls couldn't read a sentence properly because they didn't know how to read Hindi! I was flabbergasted; at their age, I could read whole paragraphs without getting stuck and no, I did not speak any Hindi at home or elsewhere either. It's just that our teacher would make each student read a paragraph from the text book and ensure that everybody could atleast read without a lot of pauses.

A little prodding brought out the sorry truth. Their teacher's method of teaching is simple:

1. Explain the story to the class in, you guessed it right, Malayalam!
2. Write down a list of Hindi words with their meanings in English, on the blackboard and ask the class to copy it down in their notebooks.
3. Repeat step 2 for opposite words, but this time everything is in Hindi.
4. Repeat step 3 for 4 or 5 question and answers.

For the exam, she sets questions from the stuff the kids copy into their notebooks. This means that the children regularly score a decent 75+ in Hindi (and all other subjects for that matter, because the pattern of 'teaching' remains the same)without ever learning how to read the stories/lessons properly much less understand what every sentence means.

Parents I suppose, are hardly bothered, so long as the children get "good" marks. Sigh!

Regards,
Sumitha Rachel Kurien

Rajdeep said...

http://news.in.msn.com/national/article.aspx?cp-documentid=5781230

Ūrṇā said...

Dear Sir,

I don't think I ever told you that someone very close to me, a person I had a lot of love and affection for had once said to me, at a very critical point in the past, "English pore ki korbi - shei toh tor Maa-er moto school e mastery korte hobe." I haven't been able to so much as look at that person quite the same way as before. The assumption seems to be, as you have quite accurately pointed out, that taking the career of a teacher is a matter of only passing and dire necessity, and not a matter of conscious and deliberate choice. Children who express a desire to become a teacher in so called 'Value Education' classes are neither encouraged nor lauded enough, let alone as much as those who want to become doctors, engineers or even civil servants. I remember an old friend declaring to the class in general, that she would like to study chemical engineering because it interested her, but what she wanted to become was a nursery teacher, a job that, I think, requires a lot of courage, patience and insight. Instead of admiring her for these, some people merely gasped in confusion, horror and non-comprehension, whereas the teacher and a few others merely exclaimed, "How cute!" It's easy enough to blame the 'system' and sit smug at having done the necessary, as if the 'system' where an isolated machinery working arbitrarily and beyond human control. People refuse to see that, that is not the case. It is this incompetent, irrelevant and vastly ignorant group of people that makes the 'system' as a result of which even if truly sincere people try making an effort to do something substantial for education as a whole, petty jealousies and narrow-mindedness block and maim their progress. For many of us, bad teachers have been the norm for so long that when we actually come across a genuinely good teacher, we feel inadequate and insufficiently prepared for the two-way process that learning is. It is quite a coincidence that I should read this article today, since it was only this morning that we were surprised by one of our senior lecturers with evaluation sheets - we could hardly believe that she wanted us to anonymously evaluate her! While we continued to gape and stare she informed us that this is something she conducts with every class that she teaches every year and she expects us to be honest and bold. This was definitely something new and refreshing, since in the past,in school especially, even though we had been ostensibly within our rights to voice our opinions about the teachers who taught us, actually attempting to do the same would usually land you in trouble.

Rajdeep said...

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/AP-hogs-95-science-olympiad-berths/articleshow/11634448.cms

What do you think of this article?

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Rajdeep, about the first article I'll say nothing beyond that ISRO has always been a little bit of a joke. About Swami's article, some people will never get things right: here people are blaming 'premature' English education for poor overall learning, and in WB they say the CPI(M) ruined an entire generation by starting English too late. I learnt French more than adequately in 3 years, and in our local schools they still speak and write wretched Hindlish after 12 years! Don't you get it: it's a combination of hopeless teaching and uninterested pupils that creates the mess? As for the last article, only someone who is determined to keep his eyes shut can miss the obvious explanation: since most of the 'super-talented' kids came from one coaching class in one state, it had to be simply a case of the question paper having been bought and leaked beforehand. Both you and I should know enough about how India works even to wonder about this. As I wrote in an earlier post, the real wonder is that this class briefly pretended that they were with Anna Hazare because they 'hated' corruption. Talk about irony and black humour...

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Sumitha, you have described the usual kind of 'teaching' in our schools just right: it happens the same way in Bengal. If you look at science teaching, too, most of the stress is on rote learning, which is why questioning and creative thinking are stultified at birth, which in turns ensures that though millions read science in school, India contributes very little to the world of science except low-level technicians and maintenance personnel.

And that ties in neatly with what Urna has observed (and Mayuri, too, in the newer post, 'Unwilling women'): one reason that few bright people get into teaching is that the profession 'lacks status' (strangely, even if teachers make good money, and do far more satisfying work than most engineers and accountants do!), and in turn that ensures that the quality of teaching will remain very poor, since there are no longer high ideals to sustain the teachers in the absence of social esteem. Which is why, as I said in an earlier comment, things are sure to get worse before they get better. Somebody has to break the vicious circle, and I can't think of anyone who can do it: even union cabinet ministers routinely say they are 'powerless' to bring about significant changes in the overall situation, the public apathy and resistance is so great...

Rajdeep said...

The game changers:

http://www.rediff.com/getahead/slide-show/slide-show-1-specials-how-this-iitian-became-an-anti-corruption-crusader/20120201.htm

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you for the link, Rajdeep, but I am not at all sure that the people discussed in the book have really done much to change any game for the better. They have done senior executive jobs or run businesses and made money, period. As for the likes of Arvind Kejriwal, well, firstly, I don't really know much about how much his real contribution to the so-called anti-corruption crusade is, and secondly, even if he has contributed significantly, what has that got to do with his IIT background? The book, to me, sounds merely like some current and ex-IITians' desperate and rather pathetic effort to draw favourable attention to their own little tribe, telling the world 'See, we count, we have done a lot for India, our bloated egos and high marriage-prices are well-justified'... The greatest Indians (and you know well how many I admire) did not need something like the IIT tag to become great! Forget Gandhis and Tagores, I haven't heard that any IIT has yet produced the likes of C.V. Raman or Satyen Bose. And if one wants to become a social reformer, what has any IIT got to teach him anyway?

Rajdeep said...

Sensei,

Thank you for your comment. I agree.

Abhishek Anand said...

Respected Sir,

The standard of teaching has certainly come down in our country. I have off late observed something that strongly justifies this fact-
When my younger brother was in KG, Mrs. Moraes, a very old professional, was his class teacher. Mrs. Moraes corrected my brother's exercise books(and certainly of other students too)
very carefully. She corrected every mistake. Be it a spelling error, or an awfully wrong construction(which KG students do pretty often), it did not go unmarked. However, now that my brother is in class III and relatively much younger women teach him various subjects, even some of the distinct errors go unmarked, which clearly shows that the teachers barely read the answers before correcting them. Every single word of this post is true. I can feel that the new teachers do not teach even half as well as some of the old ones do.
When Fr. Gilson's father wanted him to be a doctor, he told him that he would produce 'many doctors'. We barely have such teachers now. We must do something to change this tide.

Yours faithfully,
Abhishek Anand