Saturday, September 5, 2009

Teachers: Now and Then!

This post has been published by me on the occasion of the Teachers' Day as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 2; the second edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
I am more than a little confused as I sit down to type my take on teachers ‘now’ and teachers ‘then’. First, the confusion was about where to post: to post on pagedIN or to post on techedIN! pagedIN is about what I read and techedIN is about what I find interesting about Information Technology. Initially I thought, I would write about how technology helps today’s teachers to teach better and post it on techedIN. But then, that would be very limiting as I know there are more crucial things than the use of technology to discuss when we talk about teaching and teachers. Further, anything I write about teachers is going to be based on what I have read so far and pagedIN is about what I read. So, finally, I decided to post the ‘Blog-a-Ton Post’ here on pagedIN.

I sit down to type and I take a look at the topic again. Now, this leaves me further confused. I approach the topic, assuming that I am supposed to pass my judgement on who is better, ‘teachers now’ or ‘teachers then’. I tried looking at the topic from different angles but still it seemed to me as something that expects a verdict! And it is Teachers’ Day today! World over, Teachers’ Day is celebrated as a day to appreciate what teachers do. So is it in India too. And you just can’t say one is better without criticising the other, can you?

If you take teachers ‘now’ and ‘then’, one can argue either way and prove one is better than the other. You can go on and on about how great our Ancient Gurukula System was and I can give you as many examples to counter. You can talk great things about the old disciplinarians who taught you years ago and I can show you how they were actually curtailing your emotional growth. You can talk about those scholarly teachers who mesmerized the audience with their oratory skills and I can prove it to you how they hindered original thinking in India. You can tell how blessed children are today as they have umpteen opportunities in schools unlike their counterparts from a Gurukula System and I can show you how our schools have not changed for the better.

To me, now or then, we have more or less the same system. Then, it was about memorizing verses. Now, it is about ‘mugging up’ as much as you can because you have board exam. Then, it was about a teacher asking for the ‘thumb’ of his student as the course fee. Now, it is about capitation fees. Then, it was about staying with your teacher and doing whatever he asked you to do to learn the skills that you wanted to learn. Now, it is about internal assessment exams. Yes, I can go on and on to say how bad the system is. That does not change a thing! And there are as many loving and caring teachers now as there were then! This is one thing about teaching: you can be loved or loathed anytime, with or without reason.

That reminds me of a paragraph from a book that I am reading right now. Leading Teachers, by Helen Gunter, is trying to tell us something and I think it is highly relevant to Indian Educational System. She writes:
  Teachers are real people. We breathe, taste, hear, see, smell and talk. We bleed, cry, vomit and laugh. We get it right and we get it wrong, and all places in between. We garden, we worship, we protest, we shop, we paint, we read, we eat. We live a quiet life and we are on the national news. We become ill, we recover, we die. We orgasm, we give birth, we are infertile. We have interests and we are interesting people. I find it necessary to say these things because much of what is written and said about teachers does not begin with the realities of humanity. It neither acknowledges that teachers are people who do a job of work, i.e. teaching, nor does it recognize that those who are qualified to teach and are experienced in teaching are varied and various in who they are, their values and their beliefs. Like everyone else who walks this earth, teachers are fallible, and like everyone else they have the capacity to handle this through training and professional learning.”
I think this is exactly what we have failed to recognize in India too. We look at teaching as a ‘noble’ profession. And I think it is time we take the ‘nobility’ out of this profession and treat it as any other profession. ‘Like everyone else who walks on this earth, teachers are fallible and like everyone else they have the capacity to handle this through professional learning.” But that is what we lack today. When companies spend at least 30% of their expense on training their people, schools and colleges in India don’t even spend 5% of their annual expense on professional development for teachers. As long as we don’t address the issue of meaningful professional support for teachers in schools and colleges, we have no right to blame teachers for what ever they do in their classrooms. As long as we are not going to address this issue of ‘professional learning’, there is no point in comparing the ‘teachers then’ and the ‘teachers now.’ To me, education has not changed a bit in India ‘then’ or ‘now’!

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton are Vipul, Rajalakshmi, Dhiman, Ranee[1], [2], [3] , Avada, Indian Pundit, Aneet, Pramathesh, Aativas, Sid, Pra, Ajinkya, Lakshmi, Govind, Shilpa, Bharathi, Shankar, Mytuppence, Azad, Pawan, Pankaja, Saimanohar, Guria, Shruti, Vishnu,Nasrajan and Richa. Click on their respective names to read their posts on Teachers : Aaj Kal. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.


  1. Hey Sojo loved the post and the whole perspective. Howevr, teaching as a noble profession is not dichotomic to professionlism but 2 over-commercialisation. In tht respect, we mst try 2 keep the institution of teaching noble though addressing commercial aspiration of individual teachers at diffrnt levels.
    Gr8 2 c ur participation nd also 2 visit this othr blog of urs:)

  2. Hey that was a nice post and you have taken a different angle to it.. Read my take on this topic at my blog..

  3. @ Vipul - thanks for reading the post friend and the comment. | Sure, I am reading other posts one by one. To me, teaching is as noble as any other profession is and nothing more and nothing less. Professionalism is they key. But, 'noble profession' is a cliché.

    @ evanescentthoughts @ Mr. Pramathesh Borkotoky - thanks for reading friends, and the comments. Sure, I'm reading the posts.:)

  4. So true basic form of the society has remained more or less same so ...we the teachers "Now" & "then" seem to be same....A different take on the subject :D

  5. @ Dhiman | Thanks for reading friend :)

  6. A very interesting take on the topic!! :)
    Liked the 'memorizing' vs 'mugging'; 'thumb' vs 'capitation fee'.

    A good read!! :)

  7. Your straight forward point on 'noble profession' impresses me. nice brave point pal.

  8. Companies spend a large chunk of their money training employees but however it also needs to be seen how useful that money spent is! Although I am a self confessed hater of teachers, I think the efficacy of my math teacher from school was, and to this day, is, higher than what I was "trained" to do by a company that I worked for!

    Education hasn't changed much in India (unless you consider the sky-rocketing fee that parents pay to get their wards into "international schools" et al. but the face of education is quite different in the US as far as my experience goes...

  9. @ Shilpa @ Bharathi - thanks for reading friends and I'm glad to know that u liked it.

    @ Aneet - Useful or not [which is relative and depends on what you are looking for] good companies spend a lot of time, money and people on professional support and development! But schools and colleges in India don't! If you look at schools and colleges in US and UK, they spend as much resource and time as their companies on professional development and support, in house or otherwise. I think that made the difference you have noticed. Thanks for reading bro :)

    And thanks to Vipul for the Blog-a-Ton idea that made my blog alive for at least a day :)

  10. its a straight post directly from the heart! I liked the way you dealt with noble proffession!

    Do check out my post too!

  11. Its a third angle to a topic. Standing away from the criticism and taking side and exploring it in a positive way.

    Good going ! All the best :)

  12. Hey this is my first time here....i am a fellow blog-a-tonic.

    Very nice post.Cheers

  13. @ Shruti, @ Indian Pundit - thanks for reading. I'm reading posts one by one!

    @ Lakshmi - Thanks for reading and the wishes. Thanks for noticing what I was trying to say!

    Good luck all of you! I'm reading all the posts to see who gets my 4 cheers!

  14. your post reflects the present scenario..cheers

  15. thanks for reading Saimanohar :) Cheers :)

  16. sometimes a neutral stand is what is expected i lurved ur whole balanced aspect

  17. hey that was a nice frank opinion :)

  18. @ Richa @ Pankaja, thank you so much for reading