On being a teacher!

 

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Teachers today are confronted with some of the greatest challenges they have ever had to face. In a world of rapid social and economic change brought about by monumental advances in information technology and globalization, in a world of wealth for some and excruciating poverty for millions and millions of others, education is our only hope for the future. Teachers provide leadership in education and the role they can play in creating and shaping the future of nations is remarkable.

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The lack of discipline that prevails in the schools and the violence associated with youth are to a great extent traceable to the down grading of the teachers’ role in the classroom and in the community. The support the teacher should get from the parents and the community is often totally lacking. If a teacher reprimands a child, the parents take umbrage and sometimes even threaten the teacher.

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The community too does not give its whole-hearted support to assist a school to maintain and sustain a value education. Parents are more concerned with examination results and a teacher’s worth is calculated not in terms of the moral and spiritual values he imparts but the grades he helps students achieve, by hook or by crook! As such it is no wonder that teachers tend to regard their role not as moral formatters of young minds but rather as (usually) ill paid employees churning out know-how for examinations.

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But there is another side to the story. Let us examine what is involved in the process of recruitment of teachers in Pakistan, especially at government level. The basic procedural steps of the recruitment of educational personnel in Pakistan are:

  • Assessment of the job
  • Attracting applicants
  • Analysis of the application
  • Placement and follow up

The selection procedure in case of educational personnel in Pakistan suffers from a number of defects. Sadly enough, teaching is not considered a specialized vocation in our part of the world. One factor for this state of affairs is the rather shabby status our society affords to teachers and another, may be more pertinent factor, is that we are seldom inspired by the teachers we come across, to aspire to follow in their footsteps. Most of the teachers are teachers not by design but by duress or certain limitations and teaching is often considered only a stepping stone to better opportunities.

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The first screening of potential teachers is at the time of admissions to the training courses. Their academic achievements in public examinations are usually the criterion before the head of the training institutes. No aptitude or intelligence test is given and the criteria differ from institution to institution. Educational attainment is the main recruitment hurdle used by administrators. On the whole those who complete the requirements of a professional degree are considered to possess the requisite skills and knowledge to work in an educational system.  It must be borne in mind that acquiring a teaching certificate or university degree is not an assurance of success in the profession.

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The quality and credibility of the degree awarding institution is also a major concern because of the irregularities, mal-practices and corruption which is rife in many universities. A realistic and well thought out recruitment and selection policy must be formulated which also takes into account the social and personal merits of an applicant. Teaching is an extremely demanding and challenging calling. It has far reaching implications and it is important for both the teacher and administrator to realize that a teacher affects eternity and one cannot tell where his or her influence ends.

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There are a number of problems which an administrator usually faces in the recruitment of educational personnel in Pakistan. Most of these problems are concerned with inadequate salaries and unfavourable public image of teachers in Pakistan. Because of these two factors not many suitable people opt to join the teaching profession and it is usually referred to as the last resort.

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Although some reforms have come around in the government controlled education sector and salaries have been upgraded, private schools still simultaneously compromise on quality and exploit the unemployed  by disbursing salaries less than minimum wage. The mass media seldom portrays teachers in a positive light and teachers themselves are often seen cursing and criticizing their profession, thus contributing to their sorry state of affairs.

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The existing teacher’s associations have also not done much to create interest in the profession. The lofty ideal that teaching is a mission no longer holds water in the fast changing world of today. The fault is not that of the teacher only, many factors contribute to it. His economic station in life, a plethora of diversions for the taught and the weakening links between parents and teachers all are to be blamed for this state of affairs.

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The job of the teacher continues to become more arduous as he has to face challenges from within and without to measure up to his noble profession. Whatever the circumstances, a committed teacher should not be status conscious as the respect he earns should amply compensate for all shortcomings, but this has become increasingly difficult to manage in the materialistic world of today.

This state of affairs can be improved if the economic problems of teachers are solved by making their salaries and benefits more attractive. This will also help to raise their status in our society and so more able and suitable people will be attracted to the profession. Professional and personal development should be made a priority. The recruitment procedure should then be revised and made more strenuous and should include personality, aptitude, proficiency and intelligence tests.

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Teachers are professionals who should harness the curiosity of learners and the excitement of learning. They are not only professionals but, most importantly, they are and should be accepted as important leaders in their respective communities. We see a stark contrast in the developed countries where teachers are exalted and revered and their contributions are respected and honoured by the society.

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The future of the world lies in our classrooms today. Without teachers, education would not be what it is meant to be, because to teach is not simply to tell a child established facts and figures. It is to inspire, to unlock his or her potential, to offer new perspectives, to help children realize their dreams to build a better world.

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There is indeed a dire need to introduce momentous reforms in the selection, induction, training, compensation and promotion of teachers if we are desirous of imparting quality education to our youth and making progress in the true sense of the word.

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