Why are teachers losing the Midas touch?

Traditionally, teachers in the Indian subcontinent have always commanded the respect they deserved. Consider this: according to the Mahabharata, ‘Eklavya’ – known for his precision with archery – gave up the thumb of his right hand in honor of his guru (teacher). Ideally one would imagine that with history as rich and popular as this, India must be one of the strongholds for teachers, but the irony is that the state of education has worsened over the years with fall in number of trained teachers.

Teaching was considered a novel and attractive profession for the brightest but the decline in the number of teachers has been appalling. Though, India has managed to increase the number of children in school by starting new initiatives like – right to education, however, the decline in the number of trained teachers has been considerably alarming. Consider these numbers: according to a study conducted by a NGO in 2012, 53% of class 5 students were unable to read class 2 level text, here’s more – 43% of class 5 students couldn’t solve simple two-digit mathematics problems AND to absolutely rub in government’s face – 2012 was celebrated as the “year of mathematics”. Who should be held accountable for such an inexplicable situation? Government? Schools? Children? Parents? Or the lack of trained teachers!

The fact is, our woeful state schools are in stark contrast to our dream of becoming a nation of IT parks and call centers. The decline in the number of teachers is paradoxical to government’s rush to set up new schools to encourage more children to study. Shockingly, little attention is paid to what children are learning in those classrooms and how effective the teaching methods are. Moreover teachers are quitting their jobs in the initial years and atypically the important positions, for instance, head of department, are held by teachers who are old and at the end of their careers.

The exacerbated teacher workloads, negative job publicity, and lack of reforms are only a few of the many reasons to name from. In a profession as novel and important as teaching, more than 30% of teachers are working on temporary basis, without any job security; hampering the overall methodology of improving the state of education. Every school, or for that matter every parent wants their child to utilize their skills and outperform their peers; resulting in more pressure on teachers to deliver results. Another reason why teachers are rapidly moving away from the profession, as many are not able to handle such pressures. As with any profession, teachers have been demanding pay packages at par other professionals, however, many of them are still underpaid. Pupil taught by teachers go on to earn huge pay packets at national and international firms, though, their teachers are still struggling with ‘4-figure’ salaries. For most Indian teachers, the battles are that basic!

Take China for example – another growing economy like ours – where the teaching model is very unique. Teachers command a tremendous amount of respect because in China, the student teacher relationship is limited to confines of the classrooms. Outside classrooms, teachers and students are not allowed to communicate, which ultimately allows teachers to lead a stress free life. But over here, the student teacher relationship sometimes becomes too personal, which does not allow a teacher the time to rejuvenate, which ultimately hampers their teaching skills. We need quality teachers for quality education

According to a 2013 report, there are almost 5.8 million teachers in India but only 75% of them are trained. Now compare this figure to year 2008 when 90% of them were trained. Drastic and immediate changes are needed to improve the plight of education in India. Each government stresses on the importance of having an effective education model, however, what we hear are only speeches, but no concrete laws to ensure the change.

Implementing policies like – regularly testing teaching skills and improving basic salary structure can go a long way in improving the state of education in India. But the bigger question is – how soon can the administration act to ensure that this crunch in our education system be stemmed now?

Importance of Preschool

education-preschool

Many parents ponder over the pros and cons of putting their children in preschools and think about what their children will learn by getting into one. The worries are endless and the increasing cost of education is not helping the cause in any way. Ironically many parents forget the importance of the preschool years in shaping the overall psyche of the child, they believe a child can learn more by staying at home.

Personality Development.

The advent of society led to the evolution of human beings to a superior species; they said our forefathers appeared more like monkeys than human. But with adaptation and evolution and advent of society, we learned to live in harmony, help each other and work towards the betterment of society. Later, education became the tool for change and helped us evolve into something more substantial and helped us in adapting to countless surroundings and circumstances. We learned through imitation in our quest to better ourselves. The race to achieve and outscore each other led to improvement of our skills and instincts.

Similarly, for young budding children, preschool is an organised environment where their skills are developed and a strong base for their future growth years is laid. Children continuously learn from their surroundings, and not just the rhymes or alphabets or the tables, which we expect them to memorise by heart and recite boastfully in front of guests, but the actual essence of life, to discover their hobbies and interests. Also, a child develops the pace of learning and interests, learns to control emotions, discovers confidence and a never say no attitude. And a preschool is a perfect environment for a child to learn.  A preschool is a perfect place to improve the cognitive, motor, emotional, intellectual development of a child. Yes it is well known fact that home is where a child learns his basic skills, however, a school is the place where the child learns to control the instincts and behaviour with peers and develops his social skill.

The brain is a fascinating chip, the more info you feed the better it becomes, one can train the brain to be happy, curious, excited, and positive but again in a systematic way. The inputs help to start a positive chain of development from a young age, and a preschool plays an important role in this. It starts with – preparing a child mentally to stay away from the families and learn to adapt amongst the strangers; it improves the emotional development. The good behaviour which a child learns from the preschool years makes them socially responsible and ultimately helps them in leading a good life.

Cognition Development

It is a scientifically proven fact that our brains are developed almost 85% by the time we get to the age of five, coupled with bizzare questions from a child which include a diverse range of topics and taking them as different lines in grey matter. These are the base for their future development and thinking process. In preschools, children are made familiar with systematic data through visual, oral, and experimental means, thus helping them in development of key brain areas. If implemented in true spirit, the teaching methods coupled with a skilled teacher brings a long lasting and carefree learning experience for the children.


The delay in realising the importance of preschool years can push a child behind by a few years in comparison to their peers. Under the guidance of a trained preschool teacher, a child’s emotional control, basic instincts, and inhibitions and fears can be controlled. In case of children, the time span of attention is critical because of their lack of cognitive skills and meandering nature. School can be a perfect environment of change where a trained teacher can create miracles by appealing the attention of the kids. With growing age, a child’s attention span also increases proportionally, therefore a teacher has be creative and innovate new teaching skills to provide an enriching as well as stimulating environment; which again highlights the importance of a preschool as a learning centre.

Using Humour in Classrooms

b1As someone who tries to be funny all the time, I know it can be quite annoying – my friends constantly tell me to stop making jokes. But the truth is – I cannot help it. If there’s a laugh to be had, I feel I’m letting myself down by not pouncing; it’s like being thrown an underarm ball, and watching it sail over your head. Not all jokes work, but – good or bad – they are usually remembered. And that is what we all are trying to do, right? For instance – teachers impart information in a way that sticks; using the right mix of humour to make classrooms more interactive. The key to make students love the classroom is by making them laugh. The concepts of chemistry or the formulas of mathematics are all available in fancy books, but by dressing them up with right amount of humour or exemplifying them with some jokes, teachers can help students to remember them. (The ‘fancy’ term, though, for this is – stealth teaching).

Some explore humour-writing in their classroom using different fun techniques; like talking about the skill of “covering the punch line”, or to demonstrate the significance of cadence in writing. Result? Students laugh, and wriggle at the awkward behaviour of their teachers, but these tricks do help in making the point about how these fun techniques work. Of course, doing this on a daily basis will be something which is unreal as well as difficult but the key is to keep innovating and looking for newer ideas.

So is it easy for teachers to raise the humour bar? The answer to this is tricky to say the least. There are teachers who come across as a hoot outside the classrooms but the moment they enter their “teaching havens”, their demeanour diminishes and all lark disappear. Possibly it bogs down to discipline. Agreeably, some level of control is needed to keep that firm line between a teacher and a student, as there’s a fine line between being viewed as a joker, or simply a joke. But to think that a certain amount of humour challenges someone’s authority would be equally wrong. Yes a teacher has to remain proficient, but as long as unassailable admiration has been established initially; dropping the guard every now and then is a good thing and will be appreciated by all. One way of doing this is by engaging in ‘bantering’; occasionally a student will say something comical and it’s ok for a teacher to reply. A volley of back and forth between a teacher and their class is enormously valued, however, the trick is just not to worry if your student ends up saying something funny and you don’t have a witty reply to it, then simply congratulate them.

In minds of many kids, teachers are ethereal characters but showing you are actually human can help win them over and think of you more as humanly. Opening up in front of your class about a funny situation shows that you are more than just a teaching machine and have a life outside school. The fact is, injecting a bit of humour into the driest of subjects can go a long way in improving the overall classroom atmosphere. Like many comedians who spend their life on circuit, trying to find their niche, teachers too are constantly looking for that appreciation from their students. For instance, during my school days we had a teacher who continuously came up with clichéd one-liners and only about one in ten actually worked, but we loved him because of his authenticity.

Various party skills like juggling, singing, or an uncanny celebrity impression also work. Also, leading by example like writing down a funny joke and sharing it with your class can be helpful. Also, encouraging students to share their jokes can help. Don’t get heartbroken if your joke doesn’t work, and always remember – nothing funny ever started with: Here’s a great joke. A lot of jokes are centred on prodding fun at noticing things which are familiar to any instance in life in a way that they strike harmony with listeners.

Journalism career

Multimedia classrooms vs Traditional Method of Teaching

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It is sad that so few modern students will ever experience a real lecture; the ones we attended, where the lectures stretched up to long durations, to say the least, and the professor used conventional chalk and boards to teach. For those, who wish to learn and understand the concepts in detail, real lectures will always be interesting and drive their passion to learn. But what are called ‘lectures’ these days is a charade. Gigantic, suffocating venues that can seat hundreds; students struggling to spot the teachers, while sitting in the dark; a ghostly voice vibrating in the microphone; a teacher reading out never-ending power point slides, which, paradoxically, have already been posted online; the flimsy listeners flaccid instead of scribbling their notes; distracted by their neighbour erratically browsing through social networks or last night’s game updates; and the whole thing being recorded as if either it was a court room trial or to emphasise that students don’t really need to be there nor their attention is warranted. Ironically, these indefensible atrocities are what many currently call lectures.

Although the gadgets and tools look fascinating to the onlooker, however, these substitutes to lectures are mere gimmicks designed to get praise for teaching ‘innovation’ and wooing the audience. For instance, a bi-cycle with trilateral wheels is an invention, though, the proper question is whether it fits the purpose. If taken seriously, and conducted in a proper way, lectures are the best practical way of imparting knowledge to people who want to learn.  In contrast to what many believe, good lectures are actually possible and attainable – I experienced many of them at my school, however, they are neither easy, nor as cheap as some substitutes. A good lecture requires a holistic team work, starting from those who appoint teaching staff, to those who design lecture theatres, to those who construct courses, and ultimately the creators of the educational ethos. The hardest of all, however, is the fact that good lectures require a great effort in form of concentration during the teaching period from those seeking information (read as students). Furthermore, a good lecture is an effort from both lecturer and audience alike. A good lecture is more like a theatre than a cinema, as it seeks involvement of the audience to make it a success or a failure. It is unique, similar to what a musical performance is – seeing and hearing each other in real-time and working together on something both the performer and viewer value. And when it works, it is an experience that lasts in our memories forever. It is sad that with advent of tools and technology only a few modern students will ever get an opportunity to experience anything of this kind. Many wonder “Why students don’t get as much out of lectures?”, and the truth is that there are a myriad of reasons, from as simple as lapses in concentration to more complex like lack of interest in the subject. Many studies conducted by experts validate the importance of good lectures. Real lecturing can be a good way of passing knowledge and can play an influential role in improving the performance of students. Teachers even face stubborn attendance problems which ultimately distorts their interest in class and many classes often ended the semester half-empty; with efforts like using newer methods or introduction of online tests also failing to bring any considerable effect.

Experts, who usually have something to teach which is worth learning, should feel more confident about the aptness of the method. Contrary to the popular belief, lectures are not an inferior medium, nor should the lecture be seen as subordinate to the provision of written texts. Accordingly, lecturers should resist the temptation of making lectures more ‘entertaining’ by over-using multimedia tools. Since lectures are principally ‘aural’, the visual material should generally be like simple summary diagrams which are appropriate for recording in lecture notes. Mostly, lectures should aim to be enjoyable, but shouldn’t attempt to be entertaining. Lectures should be memorable rather than distracting.

In a nutshell, lectures retain a major educational role as learning through lectures is easier and more effective in comparison to literacy-based and electronic media. And to increase the effectiveness of university teaching, it is important to make learning as easy as possible. Making lectures more enjoyable and effective should be the actual goal, instead of trying to phase them out. This can only be done by understanding how lectures exploit human psychology – particularly the fact that lectures are fundamentally formal, verbal, shared events.

India Desperately Needs Teacher Reforms

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Traditionally, teachers in the Indian subcontinent have always commanded the respect they deserved. Consider this: according to the Mahabharata, ‘Eklavya’ – known for his precision with archery – gave up the thumb of his right hand in honor of his guru (teacher). Ideally one would imagine that with history as rich and popular as this, India must be one of the strongholds for teachers, but the irony is that the state of education has worsened over the years with fall in number of trained teachers.

Teaching was considered a novel and attractive profession for the brightest but the decline in the number of teachers has been appalling. Though, India has managed to increase the number of children in school by starting new initiatives like – right to education, however, the decline in the number of trained teachers has been considerably alarming. Consider these numbers: according to a study conducted by a NGO in 2012, 53% of class 5 students were unable to read class 2 level text, here’s more – 43% of class 5 students couldn’t solve simple two-digit mathematics problems AND to absolutely rub in government’s face – 2012 was celebrated as the “year of mathematics”. Who should be held accountable for such an inexplicable situation? Government? Schools? Children? Parents? Or the lack of trained teachers!

The fact is, our woeful state schools are in stark contrast to our dream of becoming a nation of IT parks and call centers. The decline in the number of teachers is paradoxical to government’s rush to set up new schools to encourage more children to study. Shockingly, little attention is paid to what children are learning in those classrooms and how effective the teaching methods are. Moreover teachers are quitting their jobs in the initial years and atypically the important positions, for instance, head of department, are held by teachers who are old and at the end of their careers.

Why need for teacher reforms?

The exacerbated teacher workloads, negative job publicity, and lack of reforms are only a few of the many reasons to name from. In a profession as novel and important as teaching, more than 30% of teachers are working on temporary basis, without any job security; hampering the overall methodology of improving the state of education. Every school, or for that matter every parent wants their child to utilize their skills and outperform their peers; resulting in more pressure on teachers to deliver results. Another reason why teachers are rapidly moving away from the profession, as many are not able to handle such pressures. As with any profession, teachers have been demanding pay packages at par other professionals, however, many of them are still underpaid. Pupil taught by teachers go on to earn huge pay packets at national and international firms, though, their teachers are still struggling with ‘4-figure’ salaries. For most Indian teachers, the battles are that basic!

We need quality teachers for quality education

Take China for example – another growing economy like ours – where the teaching model is very unique. Teachers command a tremendous amount of respect because in China, the student teacher relationship is limited to confines of the classrooms. Outside classrooms, teachers and students are not allowed to communicate, which ultimately allows teachers to lead a stress free life. But over here, the student teacher relationship sometimes becomes too personal, which does not allow a teacher the time to rejuvenate, which ultimately hampers their teaching skills.

According to a 2013 report, there are almost 5.8 million teachers in India but only 75% of them are trained. Now compare this figure to year 2008 when 90% of them were trained. Drastic and immediate changes are needed to improve the plight of education in India. Each government stresses on the importance of having an effective education model, however, what we hear are only speeches, but no concrete laws to ensure the change.

Implementing policies like – regularly testing teaching skills and improving basic salary structure can go a long way in improving the state of education in India. But the bigger question is – how soon can the administration act to ensure that this crunch in our education system be stemmed now?