People’s President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (1931-2015), the nation’s President during 2002 – 2007, known for his humility, had expressed a wish to be remembered as a teacher. The distant past era, marked by the feature of schooling and education as synonymous, unlike in our times, hosted teachers fondly remembered by their wards as friends, philosophers, guides and mentors, if not as role models. The teachers on their part had no problem in remembering their pupils more fondly, both for their exemplary conduct and playful pranks.
Their relationship made light of various socio-economic barriers with the teacher always remaining a teacher and the student as a student. Mysureans in their eighties and beyond can effortlessly recount episodes in which their teachers shone like epitome of kindness and selfless service to the family of their respective pupils lifelong.
The lines of subhaashitha “Swagruhe poojyathe pitharaha; swagramme poojyathe prabhu; swadeshe poojyathe raja; vidwan sarvathra poojyathe” conveying the message “Parents are respected and adored in their own house; A landlord or rich man is respected in his own village; The king is respected in his own kingdom. But a Vidwan (Scholar) is respected and adored all over the world” eloquently portrayed the high perch that the teaching profession was bestowed in the days long past. This is not to deny that there are teachers in our times too in the same mould of their counterparts who lived in the land in bygone era, but they seem to be inconspicuous in society.
By virtue of the marks scored in different qualifying public examinations, students are accorded ranks that delight both their teachers and parents as well as the respective managements of the institutions. Given the many disturbing features, as reported in the land’s media, namely a) School drop-outs not abating, b) Closure of Government-run schools due to paucity of students, c) Industry circles according low rating to engineering graduates at large, d) Educated youth not landing jobs consistent with their training and so on, one cannot be faulted to question the quality of education and lament about the huge effort and cost for establishing schools and colleges.
The debate on various issues relating to education sector has to be enlarged beyond quality of education to the quality of the product in this vital sector. In this context, the just announced move by the University Grants Commission (UGC)that teachers in Universities have to undergo mandatory refresher course every year, starting this year, merits to be lauded by all stakeholders in the land.