Charles Dickens in his famed novel Hard Times critiqued M’Choakumchild, a Victorian era school teacher who had all the degrees but choked his students with facts, giving no room for creativity and individuality to thrive. Centuries have gone by, yet we have a large number of schools in the state valuing the certificates of teachers over their skills. Here are the thoughts of a 5th Semester student on the issue.
The Reality of Primary Schools
Education is the process of facilitating learning. The main objective of education is to prepare the pupils to face the competitive world and be able to earn a living. In Nagaland, every household demands their children be ‘atleast’ a graduate, thus indicating how graduates in our society have immensely increased. The most common job these graduates look for is that of teaching.
The problem, however, is not at the college or secondary level but at the primary level and below. Children at this stage have greater learning capacity, but they need to be mentored as they cannot self-learn. Ironically, the best and worthy are picked as mentors for the higher levels of education. We see the lack of importance paid to the lower stages of education. Hardly any attention is given to enhance its quality. We cannot deny this prevailing fact. And I hold a valid reason to this, knowing how only a handful of schools pay good attention to the quality and qualifications of the mentors.
Proving myself as a well-wisher of our society, I choose to voice the reality, from my own observations and of a few others from the education industry and write about it. Being tremendously fascinated by some experiences, I ventured out conducting interviews with the teaching faculty of several schools to dig into the problems, and it proved to be very beneficial and enlightening. In most schools that I visited, only a single teacher was appointed to take charge of a class. In some cases there were two, the other being a matriculate helper. In most cases, such practices result in a single teacher educating the children on up to three subjects. The children end up confused, the reason being a single teacher teaching three different subjects a day. There is a lack of specialisation which is needed even at this level. Each subject has a specific teaching methodology.
During an interview I conducted, a teacher who teaches three subjects to the same class said that students are often confused about what she has come to teach. The next question I asked her was of the interest of the children; if a teacher is teaching three subjects and entering a particular class three times a day, are the students still able to show enthusiasm and interest? She thought for a while and gave me the most candid response. “Their interest, of course, is very less and sometimes they seem lost in their own world. At times they give me that ‘you again!’ expression when I enter their class for the second or third time.”
This conversation sheds light on how the learning environment for students has become dull, insipid, and monotonous. When students are already so bored and indifferent, it’s bound to affect their learning capabilities. This predicament brings us to the question, what should be the qualities and qualifications of a school teacher?
According to me, teachers should be precise, creative, and cautious in all that is taught. They should most importantly be lucid to the students. They should know the value of their job and the role their career plays in moulding the citizens of tomorrow. The pupils trust them to such an extent that they would deny accepting corrections the parents offer to make in their books. They should be familiar with the content and thorough with what they are supposed to teach. I came across an English teacher who taught in the primary section. She had graduated with just 45% marks, and could hardly speak in correct English. Thinking in a broader sense of how the society has brought us to this face of life; to choose quantity over quality, and in the same demeanour, choose certificates over grades.
I interviewed another teacher who taught English, even though she was a Sociology honours graduate. Lack of aptly qualified candidates during the time of interview led to her getting appointed for the particular post. She thus barred her pupils from gaining proper knowledge since she was not familiar with the methodology of teaching English. She was aware of her shortcoming but did not voice out her concerns. She needed the job. I asked her whether she was confident that her qualifications would help her secure a good job. Her look gave it all away. She took a moment and said a no, her voice not firm. It’s a vicious system, and children have to bear the brunt of it.
We the Nagas, who dream big for the future of Nagaland, should question ourselves if the prevailing education system in the state is good enough. Is it running as it should? If we are to give a sincere response to this, there is much to rectify.
We are greatly aware of the financial condition of our educational institutions. Yet, despite financial instabilities, we still have the capacity to bring about a good amount of positive change to the ever-worsening conditions in our society. If there be just one teacher appointed, she/he must not only be well qualified but most importantly have good skills. She/he should possess graspable teaching qualities and be well-equipped to grab the attention of the mentees. Then we know the complications would be remedied to some extent, although not fully. Our educational boards need to give due significance to teaching skills too, and not just certificates alone. Teaching should not be treated like the default career for graduates.
A little risk and some courage, accompanied by a little sacrifice by the authority, society, and individuals for the sake of the emerging great minds can undoubtedly make vast changes that we are so much in need of.