Thoughts on Teacher’s Day: Liberating the teaching profession

Becoming a 21st Century Independent Educator:

The number of days between Dashera and Diwali is about the same as that between our Independence Day and Teacher’s day. Diwali celebrates the return of Ram after defeating Ravana. Teachers day could be the celebration of Independence for education in general and teacher’s in particular. Firstly freedom for the learner, to pursue the desired learning from the desired teacher, without the stranglehold of jurisdictional limitations on education providers, as a symbol of State authority. The rigveda says ‘ let noble thoughts come to us from all directions’, but our regulators add that ‘ as long as it is within the territorial limitations of the State’. So a learner can pursue MOOCs from Stanford, Harvard, Yale of MIT, but not from an Indian Institute outside his State. Can anyone imagine being restricted to radio or TV programs or books from within the State of a listener, viewer or reader ? But even open Universities cannot register learners from outside their ‘lakshman Rekha’ drawn by the UGC and MHRD. Many will look forward to an announcement on next Independence Day of the Closing of the UGC, AICTE and NCTE as a good follow up action to the abolition of the Planning Commission this year.
The PM said yesterday that a good teacher should be several steps ahead, preferably a hundred steps. Try telling that to the UGC , AICTE or the NCTE. A degree that is not notified under some sections of the UGC Act , or does not have the required number of years of teaching cannot be offered even by autonomous Universities with distinguished members on their Academic bodies. Why not ‘ bullet degrees’ in half the time, saving time and money for everyone, with 300 working days a year, and a few more hours per day instead of the approximate 200 at present?
If we want a progressive modern education, preparing our learners for the future, we need to go back to the drawing board, rather than continuing with the legacy of Lord McCaulay, and our ancient educators ( who should all go the Margdarshak way) and make way for modern ideas.
And that means education with Tablets and mobiles ( instead of banning their presence in Schools and Colleges as at present), removing all unnecessary barriers to access to courses. There is no reservation policy in buying mobiles, so mobile based education will automatically do away with reservations and quotas, and you have ‘education for all’ almost immediately.
If the Prime minister’s lecture can be heard by crores of children all over the country, what is so special about the Faculty of IITs, IIMs that learners must first go through coaching Institutions before being permitted to hear them. Why are IITs creating MOOCs if everyone who wants to pursue cannot pursue them. And incidentally why would you need the additional new IITs and IIMs without faculty or infrastructure? Just use technology to perform space shift, time shift and device shift to enable all learners to access education.
But I have something more fundamental to suggest on Teachers day, with which I began. That is to declare Independence for them. From whom? From the Institutions that control them. The Prime Minister said that a teacher never retires, so let it be actually possible. Just as a lawyer, doctor or politician has no retirement age, so should a teacher have no retirement age, and he should be able to practice his calling or profession till whenever he chooses to. Just as it is legitimately possible for any lawyer, doctor, engineer, architect, chartered accountant to work for a state government, the central government, a large corporation, a small business or to work independently on his own, it should be possible for qualified educators to work outside the traditional Institutional framework on their own.
We need to re-assert and re-establish the supremacy of the teacher, and not the bureaucrat or the Institution. As we enter the Knowledge Economy, it is important to appreciate that education alone will create valuable knowledge products for global use, and this alone will let us flourish and thrive in the new age. If we establish a teaching profession, which meets International standards in keeping with the call of globalisation, it permits independent practitioners to move about under mode 4 of the GATS as well as practice their profession at home without the need for Institutional intermediaries, and with access to training in modern ICT tools, both for synchronous and asynchronous interactions across the globe.
In the recent years, the three ideas that have had a huge impact on the way organizations work are quality, business processes and their re-engineering and the importance of intellectual capital. All three must be assimilated into the educational systems, because it is the teachers who will become leaders in the knowledge economy, as they alone know how to construct knowledge. A mere expert knows his subject, but a good teacher knows how a person can learn the subject, and be transformed from an ignoramus to an expert.
The separation of powers doctrine in governance applies most neatly when ministerial departments implement legislation made by Parliament and are subject to judicial review by the courts. Like the separation of powers in good democratic governance and the principles that are being applied to good corporate governance, if we decouple the responsibilities for laying down of standards, conduct of examinations, the teaching-learning processes, and maintain databases that are shared with potential employers of qualifications acquired by learners, holding the certificates in de-materialised forms like we do for de-mat shares, we can see a lot of opportunities for educationists.
This idea is a very straightforward solution to the twin problems of educated unemployment and not enough access to education to the needy.
The other professions have bodies such as the Bar Council, the Medical Council, the Institute of Company Secretaries, the Institute of Chartered Accountants. We can have such an Educational or Teachers Council, responsible for development of the profession. That is the call of the 21st Century

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