It is not what you think is wrong with ‘education in India’

Teacher_bhagwan_750_pttv
Mr. Bhagawan a teacher of English language and his students, as he is leaves school premises. (Image Courtesy: The News Minute and PTTV)

Writing this in a haste, with an urge to put down what I feel about this piece that Scroll published a few hours back about a government school teacher who was mobbed by his students and urged to not leave, when he was transferred from the school. The students and teacher are visibly moved and emotional in the photograph that is being shared. This is real! It does happen. Students do get attached to teachers for a variety of reasons. Does this mean that there is something systemic to be said about it? How do we want to see it or read opinions on it? Media in this country is in the business of passing its ill-thought, half-baked and pathetically ill-informed opinion on absolutely anything and they go for such low-hanging incidents. It is sickening to read the views of this journalist someone who felt it would be opportune to extrapolate it and speak of what is wrong with ‘education in India’, beginning and ending with only one photograph flashing on her screen.

I am a bit enraged at this piece for several reasons. The tone of writing is high handed – “It seems Bhagawan did what good teachers do.” Another one that this writer wants us to believe – “This lack of mastery is not unusual for school teachers of any subject in India. ” Sure. This school teacher now goes on trial for his work by a writer who most likely has seen far less of classrooms, teaching and days at a government school in a village. This isn’t my immediate problem.  The real one is that this piece insults, demotivates and discredits several hundreds of teachers who work in the system and try to do their best, with resources, abilities and opportunities that their contexts have to offer them. Why is this not being regarded? This is upsetting! Why is it that these writers are so brazen and lack even the faintest humility to consider that they might be reading the situation wrong? Teacher and student affection can be a lot more than this myopic reading of it.

The writer introduces a grand sounding sub-heading ‘Impediments to public education’ and fills it up with careless, ill-informed observations about education system. It is enraging that instead of substantive arguments it is filled with ad hominem remarks. This I find are insensitive, flawed and of course uncharitable. I can’t imagine how did this pass the editor’s desk. She writes –

The first impediment concerns teacher competence. Bhagawan, an English teacher, is not fluent in the language. In a short comment he made on TV, he was unable to form grammatical sentences or find the right words to explain his situation. It is possible that he has bookish knowledge and is able to teach his students the rules of grammar and prepare them for simple writing exercises that they need to pass their exams. Because he has the instincts of a good teacher, he will undoubtedly contribute to the overall growth of his students. He may, however, not have the tools to make them learn the language he is employed to teach them. This lack of mastery is not unusual for school teachers of any subject in India.

Here is someone passing comments on an English teacher’s competence to teach by watching him on TV. Beat this! Moreover, this is deemed acceptable by the editor. I am compelled to ask if this writer ever stepped into a school of the variety that concerns this event or pursued a closer reading of situations from other sources. This isn’t ‘lack of mastery’. It is a lack of commonsense and even the most basic exposure to teaching and learning in India’s government schools. Do you imagine that the best education systems in the world are run by masters of subjects? This says nothing about education in India. Instead, it speaks a lot about how people with no clue about education, teaching, learning and challenges there in, write with impunity and reckless confidence in this country. And god forbid, if they end up changing public opinion.

With all the wisdom expounded in the piece, the writer finishes with sentences like “India needs to think about its schools and its teachers differently if its intention is to educate its massive school-going population.”  and offers little about what this thinking might entail! May be the writer needs to think if ad hominem remarks against a school teacher’s competence and ability to teach is a wise way to clock articles.

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