WORLD TEACHER'S DAY
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Government has realized the importance of quality education and the important role of teachers


By MUHAMMAD BASHIR CHAUDHRY

Nov 08 - 14, 2004
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The 5th October 2004, declared by UNESCO as The World Teacher's Day, was duly celebrated in Pakistan. They say once a teacher is always a teacher. The celebration reminded me of the advice given to us by one of our professors some forty years ago. It was our first day for the graduate teachers training course at the Government Central Training College, Lahore. We were looking forward to the start of actual training routine. The Professor walked into our class. After introductions, he started talking about the conditions generally prevailing in education field. Low pay of teachers and lack of other facilities were mentioned. He said that to supplement income some of us might be offering private tuition at the residences of students coming from rich families. He added that our arrival at the outer gate would be announced by one of the family elders to the student in the world "Kaka Jee, Master Aaia" or something similar to that. For our better future and for avoiding such awkward situations, we might reconsider pursuing the teaching career vis-a-vis other options such as higher studies or employment in other departments.

Many of us did not seriously consider his sincere advice until graduation and a few years of field experience at various schools. Salary was low and yet the school managements expected of the teachers good teaching, punctuality and impeccable dress every day. Private tuition appeared a good opportunity to supplement income for meeting the family expenses. Occasionally, in the school or at the private tuition one would come across situations similar to the ones vividly described by our worthy Professor. This affected morale and many of us started looking for opportunities outside of education field. I was one of the few lucky ones who got an opportunity for higher education. On completion of studies, I was employed in a totally different field. Thank God, I did well. Based on my teaching experience as well as being a parent of grown up children, I would like to share my thoughts on quality education with other parents including those in authority for improvement in the service conditions of the teachers.

The graduate teachers who were in service before partition, used to narrate how well off they were in those days. The salary of a graduate teacher was said to be four to five times of the salary of an ordinary clerk in any government or private office. Such a teacher would live well with his family, dress well and teach honestly to the students. Also, there was a time when a trained teacher for primary level was earning a monthly salary enough to buy one Tola of gold. Barring a few exceptions, there would be no need or occasion for offering private tuition. After a few years of partition, the teachers were relatively ignored particularly when revising their salary or placing different cadres of teachers in different national scales. A time came when ordinary clerks appeared well off as compared to the graduate teachers. Gradually, old values were relegated to the background and money, howsoever grabbed, became the standard measure of respect. As a result, many newly-rich parents started treating the teachers like they treated their other employees. The situation was aggravated when the government allocated lower funds for education sector. Sadly, the treatment meted out to the teachers by the authorities as well as the society at large has affected thinking of many of the teachers. Many teachers would cling to the regular job but would teach well when getting extra money, essential for meeting genuine needs of the family. Some of the teachers, like every one else in the society, became more commercial minded. They started offering private tuition at their own residences, at tuition centres or after office hours at the schools where they were regular employees. Such teachers mint money from the students for living a comfortable life.

The neglect of education and lowering the respect for the teachers has cost the nation dearly, confronted with problems such as: (i) Our literacy rate is lower than India, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka; (ii) Quality of education in many of the institutions is poor; (iii) High drop out rate of the students, some of which might fall prey to extremists; (iv) Loss of credibility of the degrees and certificates from many of our institutions; (v) Educational institutions are in dilapidated condition and lack libraries, equipment and other facilities; (vi) The teachers, mostly oppressed, are poorly educated or have low talent; (vii) Majority of our educated youngsters fail to find suitable employment anywhere; and (viii) A large number of our youngsters with professional qualifications, in stead of finding employment as professionals, are obliged to accept lower category jobs in many foreign countries; and (IX) Poor quality of our education is a drag on our economic development.

Irony in our country is that many schools are without teachers while many educated young men, some fully qualified teachers, are jobless. For employment, merit appears to have the least consideration. Lady teachers, who should be preferred at junior levels, are more in problems. They are sometimes transferred away from their houses, without any accommodation or security of honour or life in the new place of posting. Sometimes these teachers in the same city are posted at a distance from their homes and the travel to the school would involve lot of expense and time. The teachers suffer but so does the quality of education.

 

 

For many of our educated youth, teaching was not the first choice but they adopted it as a refuge from unemployment. Training as a teacher many times assured a job at a reasonable school. With hard work they could continue with their lives until some of them got better opportunities in other professions. Some of these teachers would offer private tuition to supplement their income to help their families survive. A teacher, who teaches conscientiously at his regular job in a school, has hardly left any strength to cope with the rigors of private tuition at the residences of his students. However, if one is obliged to offer good coaching as a private tutor for long hours, he would naturally become lethargic when teaching at the school, on his regular job. Quality of teaching at the schools would deteriorate and the character building part might be totally ignored. This is the beginning of end of a noble profession.

Official celebration of the World Teacher's Day in the country, to my thinking is an indication that the government has realized the importance of quality education and the important role of teachers. On this day, services of selected experienced teachers have been appreciated by Salam Teacher's Award. Such measures are expected to create a sense of responsibility among the teachers. However, the objective of quality education might not be fully realized in the absence of full rehabilitation of the teaching community in our society. The teachers might be recognized as professionals and might be paid well along with other benefits such as medical and housing facilities for them and their families. It may be recalled that when the teachers were reasonably paid they did not bother much for monetary gains. They offered tuition for free in the summer vacations or before the final examinations for improving final results of the students.

Education is like bringing a person from darkness to light. As a minimum, education should make a person economically useful to the family and the nation. A trained teacher, at primary or higher level, is a professional dealing to a great extent with the education and character building of the very important persons in our lives- our children. He is the one who helps them come to light from darkness. Therefore, the government and the society have to decide on essential measures for imparting quality education to the students and their character building. The three main stakeholders the government, the society and the teachers have to commit to play their due role diligently and honestly in this regard. As a minimum, the following efforts from the stakeholders are required:

1- The Government has the focal role for promoting quality education and character building of students through implementation of the following comprehensive plan: (i) Making larger budgetary allocations for teachers' pay and benefits; (ii) Making bigger allocation for school buildings, equipments, libraries, computer and scientific labs; (iii) Filling immediately of all vacancies through regular employment of meritorious teachers and their extensive training; (iv) Devising long-term policy for improving teachers' grades, salary scales and service conditions particularly of the lady teachers to protect their life and honour; (v) Empowering the teachers for attestation of various certificates and documents and their nominations on different local committees; (vi) Re-establishing the sanctity of schools and colleges to which any force or authority might not enter without the permission of the principal; (vii) Providing houses on retirement with immediate payment of pension; (viii) Making education field attractive so that the good teachers do not look for opportunities in other sectors; (ix) Producing better text books written according to modern requirements; (x) Repairing dilapidated school and college buildings to provide clean and healthy atmosphere; and (xi) Controlling activities of doubtful educational institutions with high fees.

2- The society at large including parents has a critical role for quality education and character building of the students. On the one hand, the society has to properly interact with the government for ensuring larger monetary allocations and essential measures for rehabilitating the teachers to the respect and status as in the past. On the other hand, members of the society and the parents have to themselves take measures for the following: (i) Showing proper respects to the teachers themselves and asking their wards to be also respectful; (ii) Acknowledging and adopting good traits such as love for the country, pride, truthfulness, honesty, pride, dignity, hard work, determination, etc as part of character building; (iii) Preventing the education from becoming big business at the cost of middle and lower class families; (iv) Motivating the teachers through salary package and respectable status in society; (v) Giving up obsession to earning money even by whatever means; (vi) Committing not to use different inducements for unduly securing admission of their wards to institutions; (vii) Introducing level playing for securing economic opportunities, lucrative jobs, professional and technical education to all qualified youngsters; and (viii) Bringing truth and transparency professed in the text books to the real life so that the students learn proper values at school and at home.

3- The teachers are also partly responsible for deterioration in education quality and shortcomings in character building. They shall have to excel in scholarship and show selflessness to regain their past glory and respect in society. The being taken by the government and the society including parents shall not succeed unless the teachers resolve to: (i) Improve substantially their knowledge on subjects they teach; (ii) Dress well and prepare/deliver the lessons well for attracting the students; (iii) Inculcate good habits including hard work to be good role models; (iv) Teach the students application of knowledge and skills to excel in life; and (v) Create congenial environment for teaching-learning process through proper behaviour in the class.