This pitiful state of affairs has much to do with the way we, as a nation, view the teaching profession. Teachers are not considered frontline 'professionals' in the same manner as, say, doctors, lawyers or engineers. It is believed that anyone irrespective of qualifications or training can teach. And that is exactly what happens. [...]
Another area of concern is the dwindling number of men in the profession. It seems all the men (or at least those who could make it) have hopped off to greener pastures. Apart from the exodus to the Mideast, the IT sector more recently has claimed a large number. While women do make great teachers, they also have the role of homemaker to fulfil. Being a teacher for a woman is not quite as professional as, say, being a corporate executive. And the men who remain have largely embedded themselves in the tuition market, as opposed to being genuine mentors as schoolteachers. [...]
The profession itself suffers from a sense of low self-esteem. Teachers do not see themselves in the same category as lawyers, doctors, civil servants or engineers. They are almost apologetic about being teachers. Gone are the days of the 'guru-chela' relationship. Parents today are quite aggressive in their criticism of schools and teachers. Children take the cue from their parents. In the face of such aggression, teachers who already see themselves at the bottom of the food chain are put under further pressure. The irony is that they are still supposed to be the epitome of all that is noble and good!
A redefinition of our attitude to the profession and a fresh look at issues like teacher growth and training are required. I can never forget an incident when I was headmaster of one of the country's oldest public schools. A parent had come (in a rather fancy car) to pick up his son at the beginning of the holidays. As father and son got into the car, his final words of advice while pointing at the boy's housemaster were: ''Son, you'd better study hard or else, you will end up like him!'' Thereby hangs a tale. The writer is principal, Welham Boys School, Dehradun.