Dear Mr Prime Minister,
I heard your address to students last Friday, sans their teachers. I am also happy that you have reached a settlement on OROP. I agree that we should take care of our war veterans. But we should equally take care of our farmers and teachers.
There is no nobler profession than teaching. Teachers shape our minds, show a path, impart wisdom. In some countries, like Finland, teachers are as respected as doctors and lawyers, a fact that has contributed greatly to the much-lauded school system of the country. A country that doesn't make teaching a respectable profession has a bleak future.
And now that Teacher's Day has been celebrated, it is also the right time to ask: Have we done enough for our teachers? Here is my cheat sheet on what we can do for them. To follow it will need will, conviction, empathy and, most importantly, concern for India's future.
1. Respect our teachers. Let not bureaucracy regulate them. Let practitioners decide teaching standards, assessments and testing.
2. Kill teacher-training institutes. The current teacher certification system has done the biggest disservice to the India. Integrate teacher qualifications into the university system. They must be a part of the arts and sciences departments of universities.
3. Let teachers do a major in the subject they will teach. Knowing how to teach isn't enough to make someone a good teacher. They must be experts on their subjects.
4. Make teaching prestigious as a profession. Give them the stature and perks that will elevate teaching as a career option. It can be housing, schooling, a medical plan or pensions. A careful look at our fiscal policy with regard to teachers will yield desired results.
5. Make a teacher's salary tax free. Or increase their standard deduction dramatically. Put more money in their hands without increasing the cost of education.
6. Maintain a national registry of teachers and faculty - academic, publication, research and consulting records.
7. Incentivise people who choose teaching as a profession. The salaries must be at least competitive across industries. The best students should have a reason to pick teaching as a profession.
8. Ensure that no educational institution or university ever can be charged any tax -- income tax or service tax or sales tax. Bring down the cost of education.
9. Encourage private education, with enough regulation. Create more opportunities for teaching as a career option. Let the salaries increase due to such competition.
10. Lastly and most importantly, give them a boss that they can respect and look up to. Educational qualification is not a pre-requisite but stature definitely is. Don't humiliate them by making them report to those who don't understand the importance of education.
Sir, if you want to chart a new path for India and its youth, if you really want to harness the demographic dividend, it must start with the teachers. You have the mandate. You have the will power. The nation has trusted you. It is for you to fulfil this trust or fail the nation. Start with the teachers and results will follow.
A concerned citizen
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