Editorial: A Support System for Quality Education

Help teachers make learning relevant and fun

Education is reasonably universal now, so access to classrooms is no longer an issue. And this Wednesday is also Teacher’s Day, which makes it even more apt to speak some about the profession which arguably has the deepest impact on our lives. More than the details of lessons learnt from textbooks, the memories that stay longer with most people are of the teachers who taught them. Every person invariably has a teacher who either inspired the entire class to chase their dreams or toed the other end of the spectrum and actively engaged in stifling imaginations, enforcing norms and dictating conduct. This Teacher’s Day, let’s go over what role teachers can play in preparing students for life. The pressure of examinations and competition, and the tendency to prioritise rote over comprehension has handicapped the teaching fraternity into becoming problem solvers, handing out answers and solutions for students to mug-up instead of assisting students find their own answers and expressions, encouraging them to enquire more and develop faculties that question more often instead of accepting things as dished out. Several attempts have been made to correct this approach and at least in the Indian context, all efforts have failed thus far. Because students look up to teachers, it is important for teachers to offer themselves as role models, but it would be even better if teachers could introduce their wards to personalities worth emulating and inspiring students to excellence. Teachers should ideally motivate and inspire students towards learning, not hand-hold them through the syllabus till the exams and then pick up another batch to repeat the same. If one agrees that these are the qualities one seeks in teachers, the obvious question that follows is, can one be trained for such a role? And do the existing models of ‘training’ focus enough on these aspects of teaching? Only trained teachers will be able to answer these questions, but fact remains that these should not even be issues that distract from more important policy interventions. Teachers, ever since modern education was introduced, were required to be qualified. For how long have B. Ed. courses, for example, been offered? For a very, very long time. And yet, it is only now that precious resources and attention is being invested in getting even already appointed teachers with impressive on-job experience to acquire these degrees. If the teacher appointment process had not been blatantly usurped by enthusiastic proponents of nepotism, India and Sikkim would have been deliberating weightier issues of education by now. Appointment of deserving and qualified teachers should always have been a given, and then one could engage in more meaningful discussions on how to retain the better teachers, appoint better facilities in schools and update syllabus and teaching methods. Sikkim’s pursuit of quality education is welcome, but for it to get anywhere, the ennui that HRD Department has become will have to be shaken off first. Ironically, this is the one aspect that remains missing from all discussions on the delivery of quality education. The ideal teachers and the perfect students, will after all, need the support of at least a reasonably functional Human Resource Development Department which is as motivated to appoint better facilities in schools [by way of libraries, laboratories and even basics like electricity, toilets and running water] as it is excited by the opportunity to conduct trainings, order books or organize workshops. Sikkim is lucky to have a substantially big pool of new teachers who are motivated and genuinely interested in making a difference in the lives of students under their care. It is important that the school management committees and local communities support them in efforts to make classrooms more vibrant and learning more fun and relevant. It is important for people to find ways to get more involved with their neighbourhood schools (to begin with) even if their wards are not enrolled there and offer assistance and support to these institutions to be able to deliver quality education.