How to make teaching profession more attractive

— D B N Murthy

Much has been talked about a child’s school bag burden. However, little has been done to reduce the burden on the harassed teacher who has to work against odds to do a good job on a pittance of salary. The size of the class varies from twenty-five to sixty and managing a large class full of noisy children, day in and day out, is no mean task. The teacher has not the luxury of punishing the children because corporal punishment is out and even mild punishment might get a teacher into trouble. So he /she has to put up with a nerve-racking forty-five minutes to sixty minutes of a class period as best as he / she could. During all the din and distractions, the teacher is expected to teach the children whose attention span is limited. To demand that a teacher should be innovative considering many problems he / she is facing day- in day - out is asking for too much. The emphasis is on cramming a lesson into the limited time period. That’s why, given the pressure of completing the syllabus in time and preparing the students to secure good marks, innovation takes the backseat in any educational institution.

The syllabus for the various classes and subjects is not user-friendly. Quality has been sacrificed for quantity and so there is always a pressure on the teacher to complete the syllabus as early as possible, an impossible task anyway. Each teacher is expected to give a number of tests, weekly, monthly, and assess the work output of each student which means valuation of papers that takes time either at the school or at home, thus disrupting the normal life of a teacher. Since students are expected to take part in various external activities like participating in picnics, parades, dances, cultural programmes, debates and sports events, their studies suffer. Moreover, the teacher is expected to accompany the students during any outing, which puts an additional burden on him/her.

Whether a teacher likes it or not, he / she is expected to take up invigilation work during public examinations. Then there is the public examination paper valuation work, which is almost compulsory. Teachers are regarded as a vast pool of workforce to be utilised for all sorts of work – from enumeration of voters to working in polling booths on a pittance of allowance. There is some realisation that teachers should not be enlisted for election-related work but this goes on officially or unofficially.

Any teacher getting a state / national award is held in high esteem as it is a prestigious one. The process involves detailing one’s own achievements as a teacher to be described which would be whetted by the Head Master / Principal before it is sent to the Awards Committee. There are several criteria to be satisfied and there is always a competition as to who would get the award in any particular category. Normally, a Committee headed by an eminent educationist would head such an award selection committee. However, the flip side of the teacher’s award selection process is that some teachers think blowing their own trumpet to be considered for selection is not the right thing to do and hence they do not enter the race for the award. Thus, a few really deserving candidates opt out voluntarily from the awards scheme, a loss to the deserving teacher as well to the award scheme .

A few educational institutions, at the high school level, have instituted teacher’s award, with a few modifications to the State / Centre teacher’s award scheme, tailor-made to their needs. This involves an annual award of cash, normally a month’s pay, along with a citation. Several criteria are taken into account for judging the ‘best’ teacher in any category. The first consideration is the teacher’s performance over the years– punctuality, attendance, appearance / decorum, any complaint from students / parents, innovative methods introduced by the candidate on his / her own initiative, promptness in giving class tests / feedback to students, class results, self study, participation in workshops / seminars / lectures, sponsored as well as one’s own initiative, getting on well with other teachers that includes teamwork, when needed and extra-curricular activities like taking students to picnics, debate / music / athletic competitions and so on.

Apart from the teacher’s own performance, the feedback from the peers is taken into account by a confidential report where each teacher is expected to give his / her independent and unbiased opinion about the other teacher who could be in line for the teacher’s award. The management could shortlist the prospective candidates for the award and request the rest of the teachers what they think of the candidates about their capability and whether they deserve the award. This could be subjective but cannot be helped. A certain degree of confidentiality has to be preserved to avoid embarrassment to those who are in line for the award. Some school managements also ask the senior high school students, class ten, to give their opinion about teachers by maintaining anonymity to avoid any trouble / embarrassment to the teachers under consideration as well as students. A format could be designed which need not be signed by the students to keep up the confidentiality of the feedback.

When the two sets of feedback are received, the management sub-committee meets to consider the recommendations received. In general, there could be unanimity in their decision where outstanding candidates are in line for the award. However, as the years go by, when all the ‘outstanding’ candidates have already received their ‘best teacher’ awards, it becomes a difficult task. There is a temptation to dilute the award scheme so that the ‘other’ teachers too get their award in due course. This is not a good idea as the prestige of such an award diminishes if ‘undeserving’ candidates get the award just because there are no suitable candidates. It’s also not proper that the same candidate gets the best teacher award every year or regularly. Often, this award scheme dies a natural death after the initial enthusiasm is over and the management comes to the conclusion that no useful purpose would be served if the award scheme is kept alive.

Teaching might be a noble profession but after doing all his / her own work , what he / she gets by way of compensation is inadequate. Nevertheless, if class examination results are not good that teacher will be hauled up and asked to explain why it is so. On the other hand, little appreciation is shown to those who have produced outstanding results or helped to make the class / school shine in any external event like drama, debate, dance or sports.

A teacher is expected to think that his / her work is of great importance as he / she is dealing with young minds. His / her main function is to inculcate values in the children and prepare them for the role of responsible citizens in future. A student, the future citizen, has to think independently and judge for himself / herself what is good for himself / herself as well as the community at large. For such a stupendous task, he / she needs all the encouragement, help and compensation to make his / her job easier and fulfilling. While advanced countries are spending more on education, our government is being step-motherly when it comes to allocating funds for education. This has to change since educated and informed citizens are an asset to any nation.

With the IT revolution and the mushrooming of BPOs, there are very few who opt to become teachers, the last refuge for those who don’t get a job anywhere. If there are not good teachers in a school / college how could we expect students passing out of a school / college to be outstanding? We need to look into the compensation package for teachers to attract bright talent who could take up teaching, a truly noble profession as it shapes future citizens of the country. Teacher certification / re-certification is another issue that needs attention so that teachers stay up-to-date in their knowledge and skills. There are now many educational tools waiting to be used to aid teaching and make it more informative and entertaining through the use of Internet, videocassettes, and educational films. We need to look into the aspect of reducing the teacher’s burden so that he / she has more time to interact with the students so as to make the lessons informative, educative and entertaining too. This is an opportunity for our planners to do something positive that would benefit immensely the future citizens of this great nation.

About the Author
D.B.N. Murthy is an Electrical / Telecommunication engineer. He has worked in Indian Telephone Industries Ltd., Bangalore and Philips India Ltd., Pune as Quality Manager. He is a life member of various organizations such as Indian Statistical Institute and Quality Circles of India and a Fellow Member of Institution of Electronics & Telecommunication Engineers.

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