Teach and learn

 06 Oct 2017 - 19:25

The Peninsula

It takes a Plato to make an Aristotle. The role of teachers in society is paramount and transcends the walls of the school or the classroom. The educator and the learner share a relationship that goes beyond the ordinary. Though learning can take place anywhere, the dimensions of academic learning are generally confined to institutions in industrialised societies of which we are now a part of.

The school, a vital agency of socialisation, provides what are called building blocks of knowledge needed to contribute meaningfully to society. Good schools are not made by great classrooms or other educational frills. Great teachers produce good schools as brilliant academics do great universities and institutions of learning. It has been said that the function of a good teacher is not only to educate but to foster an interest in learning. The educator needs to focus not only on the curriculum but on the larger goal that the system wants to achieve. History, for example, largely taught across the world with the help of rote learning, works to impart a vision of the world. Mediocre teachers and ineffective pedagogy doesn’t produce historians like Stanley Lanepoole, Al Beruni and V A Smith.

Pressures of learning and time have, however, forced teachers into sticking to the curriculum and changing the definition of learning. Pedagogy has been the biggest victim of what is considered an ‘undemocratic’ way of imparting education. Yale law professor Amy Chua’s book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ met with a firestorm of protest on a style of upbringing that included a commandotype teaching operation.

Unesco’s stress on achieving high standards in education universally implies the inevitability of good teachers. That
teachers leave an indelible mark on children is beyond the pale of argument. Wide disparities in the training and treatment of teachers, however, is of concern.

While teachers in Scandinavia and Western Europe are paid handsomely, those in developing societies of Asia and Africa are not as lucky. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked by judges, doctors and engineers the reason for not being paid as well as teachers. “How can I compare you to those who taught you,” was the reply of the leader who
runs the largest economy in Europe.

The time around this year’s Teachers’ Day saw the world grappling with multiple crises. Effective learning goes with good teaching. A good teacher would instill in students the normative element that is important for building a good society. It is for today’s society to introspect the role of good teachers at a time when value erosion is worrying only a
selected few. On such an occasion, one cannot but help remember late Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam — also the brain behind the country’s missile programme — who remained a teacher through his illustrious life.