Search This Blog

Friday, 7 September 2012

Underpaid teachers - a global phenomenon?

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

Recently, we were pointed to an article in the Hindu Teachers... glorified, yet short-changed where, the story of a few generations of people taking up teaching in different countries & finding it hard to make ends meet, is given. In fact the article ends with the statement "I had always thought that underpaid, under-appreciated schoolteachers were particular to our country. But it definitely is a global issue."

No small sample should be taken as the "general" case. Just like the situation where not every IIM graduate earns 12 Crore rupees a year (as they tout the top salary in all and sundry magazines every year), there is no generalization that all teachers are living a life of difficulty and stress.

One may ask about the various professors in tens of universities who are well paid / well-off. Yes, some people are well-off, but I would also like to point out that many of them are actually doing two jobs - they get grants for doing research work, other than teaching. Hence, strictly speaking, if one were a teacher, in a full time capacity, one would find either a decent living or many times find it difficult to make ends meet.

So, how does that affect India and its education system. Unless some financial stress is reduced, the motivation to build thinkers, leaders, business-men, etc., is deflected towards "covering the portions and going home". Unfortunately, we also see the other end of the spectrum. Professors in plump university jobs who are simply pocketing half-to-one lakh rupees per month, who do not really imbibe knowledge or innovation or curiosity into their students. They are actually, overpaid for the job they do (many of them probably have the knowledge and probably deserve good money - but not when they don't do the job). Having said this, the sad state of affairs in Indian schools is that most teachers are under-paid.

Teaching comes from "within" as a passion. And if this passion is not there, then the pay probably does not matter. For those without the passion, if they are paid less their attention is less & if they are paid more, then they love to squander their attention. So, it leads to the next level (and possibly infinite regress), that teachers need to be trained to build the future thinkers, leaders & business-men. This needs a drive at the Teachers training level curriculum and agenda. The passion must be drilled into them in those years, especially for those who are looking to just get a job. Change the mind-set and for that, those teachers' colleges have to set the higher goal.

Back to the original title of story - teaching invariably means an underpaid job, unless you innovate and get into research in parallel & get someone to pay more for your other contributions. On the other hand, seeing someone's face suddenly brighten when they have understood a concept which was eluding them, is very very satisfying, at least for me.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Education standards in India

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

Recently I was pointed to an article in Economic times which talks about the above subject. Here the root of the problem is thought to be that the Teachers need to inspire students with out of the box thinking. I beg to differ with respect to suggested changes to the education system. I have given some views earlier in this blog too - on the parents' role in education for children.

The root cause that has to change is that of parents' understanding of what is required for their children in long term perspective, rather than a short term view of a lucrative job. Parents' understanding that they need to build some leaders for tomorrow rather than a bread-winner for their old age - that is required for the education system to change.

The reasoning goes like this - whatever be the system we invent, due to sheer population, one ends up with means of testing the children against some questions. This needs to be simple to check (simply because of lack to time to check everyone's performance), unambiguous (to avoid issues of favoritism and subjective marks) and covering all subjects. Now, whichever solution one may come up with, the immediate knee-jerk reaction of the students & parents (and due to parental pressure for results, schools and teachers) is to "master the system", rather than master a subject (or subjects). They want to get the top marks at any cost, including rote learning, coaching classes, etc.

Unless the thinking of parents (and through them their children) changes to "life-oriented" learning instead of "job-oriented" learning, any education system is bound to fail with the pressures of population, lack of time, etc., because the testing system ends up being a "simple-objective" oriented one.

Parents in urban India are busy with their jobs and all other house-hold chores. They have very little time to teach their children and "schools, teachers and education system" are blamed. One can change schools, change teachers, change education system - but difficult to change their children or their own attitude towards learning/ life.

Now let us come to another aspect of learning - when does one get set on their course in terms of their attitude to learning, discipline, creativity, curiosity, inspiration, etc? It is only partly in school and partly by teachers. The parents can and have to set these strongly in their wards before the age of 5. The children have been watching, listening, copying, repeating, flattering the parents from the earliest possible age. If at this time there is less discipline, inculcation of wrong attitudes, role models have wrong habits, etc., they are easily imbibed by the children. If the parents are not able to answer the children their interest towards curiosity and learning reduces - parents should have "learning" attitude (that they will quickly learn even if from internet and answer them). The schools & teachers are now left to "undo" all the learning upto the age of 5, if they have not been set on the right path. With the population, there is little special attention possible to correct these things & likely has little effect (because the role models continue on their wrong paths).

Now, unless the Parents demand that the system change for better and they want to be part of the education, any system is going to be just "a hurdle to a job", rather than a stepping stone for success. Will this happen easily? No. So many parents complain that X or Y question was "out of portion"! Out of portion, if not allowed, there is no creativity. If one does not know to think out of the box, based on his learning (out of box is fought by the statement out of portion), then teachers or education system will not be able to do anything. The parents want to stoke the children's ego that they are the greatest on earth, while the teachers do not know "how to ask questions".

One aspect of the article I have not addressed is the "language" of teaching - whether mother tongue based education would make a difference. Again, with job oriented approach from students and their parents, it is difficult to avoid English as medium of instruction. I will comment further on this after gathering my thoughts (if I can)...

Since every parent wants only their wards to do well in exams, get top marks, get their engineering or medical degree, or fly to foreign countries for higher studies, with least effort from parents side. as well as the blame to put on the school / teachers / education system, any change in these 3 is not likely to make a better mark on the next generation of students.