The changing role of teachers

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Jun 2017 11:41:01

By dr pragya mathur kumar,

The education system of a nation is the foundation on which all the big and small institutions are built. Of all the professions that exist in the society, one of the most respected ones is that of a Teacher. India has a rich tradition of reverence for the “Guru” (teacher),whose role was more than that of an instructor of specific course content. There are several stories that highlight the role of a guru not only as a teacher, but also as a spiritual guide. Even the powerful kings showed great regard for the ‘Rajguru’ and trusted him to give fair and fearless guidance in matters of the state too.

The Revered Guru Ancient scriptures sing praises of the teacher as one who deserves salutations even before the deity, all for showing the student the right path. The guru was responsible for preparing the students to deal with life by introducing them to the various disciplines required to survive and succeed in those times. The curriculum, the pedagogy, the environment have since changed.

Features of the traditional teacher

For several decades, the teacher has been portrayed in a rather clearly defined role. The stick wielding disciplinarian who evoked fear still exists in the memory of those who were students in a different time and place. The traditional teacher was different from the modern day educator. Some features of the Traditional Teacher were:

l Major source of knowledge
l Authoritarian approach.
l Rigig theorist .
l Strict custodian
l Talk and Chalk specialist
l User of archaic methods (rote memory)
l Mostly unfriendly, often feared.
l Tough task master, assessing learning through lengthy written exams, using the one size fits all approach.
l Unpardoning judge, frequently punishing the erring students.
l Data transfer machine.

Teachers are the Backbone of the Education System
The education system is a part of the larger whole which is constantly changing and reinventing itself to keep pace with the larger external environment of the world. Social, economic, political, demographic and technological changes are forces that set the ball rolling and push for “change” in all areas of human life. New developments in science and technology at national and international levels with far-reaching educational and cultural consequences, challenges of post modernity, counter- culture, consumerism, value crisis and post-industrial society became evident. It is but necessary that the nature, objectives, contents and pedagogy of education at all stages be transformed to remain relevant .

Changing times
There is a need to understand that with the changing times, the dynamics of the student-teacher interaction also has changed. Undoubtedly, the most important factor in student success, is the teacher. A motivated teacher can create a positive classroom environment, make learning relevant and engaging and inspire students beyond measure. Among the most powerful forces of change in the education sector is new technology. The old model of instruction was predicated on information scarcity. Teachers and their books were information oracles, spreading knowledge to a population with few other ways to get it. The old model of instruction was predicated on information scarcity. The fundamental job of teaching is no longer to distribute facts but to help children learn how to use them by developing their abilities to think critically, solve problems, make informed judgments, and create knowledge that benefits both the students and society.
The backbone of the education system are teachers. The quality of teachers determines to a large extent, the quality of students and the future human resource bank. Major changes in the education system of India have created new challenges for school teachers. Roles have been redefined and the gap between existent skill set and desired competencies is creating stress for teachers. There has been an explosion not only of scientific and technological knowledge but also in the means and techniques of acquiring knowledge

Valuable Guidelines
Teachers must be prepared to be torchbearers of the future. The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 was developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), together with many other stakeholders, including scholars from different disciplines, principals, teachers and parents, students, representatives of NGOs, State Secretaries of Education and Directors of State Councils for Educational research and Training (SCERTs). The document seeks to provide a framework within which teachers and schools can choose and plan experiences that they think children should have. NCF’s guiding principles are:
l Connecting knowledge to life outside the school;
l Ensuring that learning is shifted away from rote methods;
l Enriching the curriculum to provide for overall development of children rather than remaining textbook-centric;
l Making examinations more flexible and integrated into classroom life; and
l Nurturing an over-riding identity informed by caring concerns within the democratic polity of the country.
The NCF consists of guidelines for teachers which are not mandatory by law but can be used as a framework for teaching all around India. The Framework asks teachers to:
l Care for children and love to be with them, understand children within social,cultural and political contexts, develop sensitivity to their needs and problems, treat children equally;
l Perceive children not as passive receivers of knowledge, augment their natural propensity to construct meaning, discourage rote learning, make learning a joyful, participatory and meaningful activity;
l Critically examine curriculum and textbooks, contextualize curriculum to suit local needs;
l Do not treat knowledge as a ‘given’, embedded in the curriculum and accepted without question;
l Organise learner-centred, activity-based, participatory learning experiences – play, projects,discussion, dialogue, observation, visits and learn to reflect on their own practice;
l Integrate academic learning with social and personal realities of learners, responding to diversities in the classroom;
l Promote values of peace, democratic way of life, equality, justice, liberty, fraternity,secularism and zeal for social reconstruction.

Responsibilities of a teacher
Efforts that build on various education reform initiatives to increase standards and accountability for learning outcomes have led to significant changes in teacher roles. The leadership and supervisory functions of teachers have increased significantly. Today, teaching responsibilities may include tasks such as:
l Diagnosing learner needs,
l Consulting with colleagues to plan individualized/personalized programs for all learners,
l Creating and maintaining learner-centered environments,
l Aligning curriculum with instructional strategies,
l Planning lessons,
l Modifying content and instructional activities to meet the needs of individual learners,
l Facilitating learning,
l Assessing learning outcomes, and Involving parents or other caregivers in all aspects of their child's education.
l As mentioned in the section 24 of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (which came into force in April 2010): “A teacher (…) shall perform the following duties, namely:
(a) maintain regularity and punctuality in attending school;
(b) conduct and complete the curriculum ….
(c) complete entire curriculum within the specified time;
(d) assess the learning ability of each child and accordingly supplement additional instructions, if any, as required;
(e) hold regular meetings with parents and guardians and apprise them about the regularity in attendance, ability to learn, progress made in learning and any other relevant information about the child; and
(f) perform such other duties as may be prescribed.”

The Territory of a teacher
When role expectations change, new skills, attitudes, values, knowledge and behavior are part of the change. The area of influence of a teacher is beyond the four walls of the classroom. From the traditional “Gurus” to the modern day “Educators”, the role of teachers has always been a challenging and satisfying one. It is teachers who are responsible for moulding the youth of a nation into a rich resource capable of achieving unprecedented success and excellence. The territory of a teacher goes beyond the school to the community and nation at large. It is indeed remarkable that an average teacher, on a regular day switches several roles in dealing with a wide and varied sample of the human species in a class, under the same roof.

Diverse roles teachers play at different times
While most other professions demand a standardised set of responses to situations, every student brings an element of novelty and challenges the teacher’s ability to play an appropriate role in dealing with the person. It is interesting to observe how the teacher fits into multiple roles depending on the context and territory of operation.

In The Context Of A Nation
Nation builder,Thought leader,Knowledge Manager,Human Resource Developer,Conscience Keeper,
The journey has just begun…the teachers of tomorrow will have to prepare themselves for challenges that will come their way with changing times.
(The author is a Freelance Corporate Trainer & Counseling Psychologist and can be contacted at [email protected])