Can we expect security without taking care of our armed forces? Similarly, can we exact any demographic dividend with no investments in recruiting, training and keeping our teachers motivated? Can we expect any dividend without making any investments? While we have promised One Rank One Pension (OROP) for our army veterans, we aren't taking care of the serving army of teachers.
There is no nobler profession than teaching. In countries like Finland, teachers are more trusted than their army. However, in India, teaching is one of the least preferred professions. The respect and gratitude that teachers deserve are rarely given. They stand ignored and never acknowledged. A country that doesn't make teaching a respectable profession is most likely to have a bleak future.
Teachers' Day (September 5) is the right time to think about making teaching a respectable and aspirational profession. Here is my cheat sheet for all that we can do for our teachers. It needs will, conviction, empathy and, most importantly, concern for India's future to achieve these goals.
1. Respect our teachers. Let the practitioners decide teaching standards, assessments and testing. Create the much-talked-about Indian Education Service (IES) along the lines of the IAS, IPS, IRS and so on. Let only those who chose education as a profession regulate teaching. As of now, most appointments in the human resource development (HRD) ministry are punishment postings.
2. Kill teacher training institutes. The current teacher certification system has done the biggest disservice to India. Integrate teacher qualifications into the university system. They must be part of the arts and sciences schools of the universities. B.Ed and M.Ed should be a part of our university system and not in the teacher training institutes.
3. Teachers must do a major in the subject they will teach. Simply knowing how to teach doesn't make good teachers.
4. Make teaching a respected, revered and aspirational profession. Treat teachers the way we treat our armed forces. They are securing our future too. Give them the stature that puts them one step ahead of any other profession. It can be through housing schemes, subsidised schooling for their children, medical allowances or pensions. A careful look at our fiscal policy with respect to teachers will yield the desired results.
5. Make teachers' salary tax free. It will give them a stature, acknowledge their importance and contribution, and make the profession aspirational. Put more money in the hands of our teachers without increasing the cost of education.
6. Maintain a national registry of teachers and faculty — academic, publication, research and consulting records. This ensures a free market for teaching jobs.
7. Incentivise people who chose teaching as a profession. Their salaries must be at the least competitive, if not the best. Our best students must be tempted to choose 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 teachers 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.
If we want to chart a new path for India and its youth, if we really want to derive our demographic dividend, it must start with teachers. This government has the mandate. It have the will power. If it starts with teachers now, the results will only follow.
This is the sixth part of a series of articles on the New Education Policy.
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