It was in 1962 when Dr Radhakrishnan became the President of India that his birthday on the 5th of September came to be observed as ‘Teacher’s Day.

Dr Nripen Kumar Dutta

(The writer is Founder & Principal, Miles Bronson Residential School, Guwahati. He can be reached at nripen.dutta@gmail.com)

It was in 1962 when Dr Radhakrishnan became the President of India that his birthday on the 5th of September came to be observed as 'Teacher's Day. It is a tribute to Dr Radhakrishnan's close association with the cause of teachers. Whatever position he held whether as President or Vice-President or even as Ambassador, Dr Radhakrishnan essentially remained a teacher throughout his life. The teaching profession was his first love and those who studied under him still remember with gratitude his great qualities as a teacher. Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a philosopher and a teacher par excellence. Since 1962, 5th September has been celebrated as Teachers' Day in India. On this day we honour the teachers who by inculcating values, knowledge and skills to the students form the pillars of nation-building. On this occasion, it is an opportune moment for us to think, reflect and introspect on the redefining role of the teachers in the context of the changing times and emerging trends in education.

Disruptive Trends in Education:

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. We are nearly one-fifth through the 21st century. With the pace of technological change, we could start to question if measuring change every 100 years is appropriate. Currently, education is poised at a tipping point, with one foot still firmly rooted in the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, when a teacher stands at the front of the classroom and students sit on chairs behind rows of desks, learning, in the same way, to be educated and eventually, take their place in the workforce. However, the workplace is no longer just the factory floor or the office building. It is in the boardroom, in the outdoors, a collaborative hot-seating worktable, or the cafe on the corner. How has education shifted to meet these new opportunities?

We are facing unprecedented challenges - social, economic, and environmental - driven by accelerating globalization and a faster rate of technological developments. At the same time, those forces are providing us with myriad new opportunities for human advancement. The future is uncertain and we cannot predict it, but we need to be open and ready for it. Schools can prepare them for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that have not yet been anticipated. It will be a shared responsibility of stakeholders – policymakers, parents, students, and teachers to seize opportunities and find solutions. To navigate through such uncertainty, students will need to develop curiosity, imagination, resilience and self-regulation; they will need to respect and appreciate the ideas perspectives and values of others and they will need to cope with failure and rejection and to move forward in the face of adversity. Their motivation will be more than getting a good job and a high income; they will also need to care about the wellbeing of their friends and families, their communities and the planet.

Recently, the Covid-19 pandemic is also throwing up challenges for an individual to cope with its impacts. Naturally, for such times, a different skill-set is required that would enable an individual to cope up and succeed in facing the challenges in real life, leading to his holistic progress. These skills are addressed as 21st Century Skills, Learning Skills, Transversal Competencies etc. In simple terms, it refers to the skills that are required to enable an individual to face the challenges of the world that is globally active, digitally transforming, collaboratively moving forward, creatively progressing, seeking competent human-resource and quick in adopting changes.

Innovative Teaching Methods:

The role of the new-age teacher is the determining factor to prepare our children for the new world. The teachers in this pandemic situation have largely shown how to use technology for maintaining the continuum of learning through virtual and online learning management tools, platforms, apps and systems. A teacher has to be abreast of new methodologies of the teaching-learning process, the curriculum framework and various formative and summative techniques of assessments and evaluation. Teachers in this new environment are the model and source of information, giving children the ability to turn knowledge into skill. Students collaborate with people from different schools and different countries to learn about issues that affect us all, as well as how we can solve them today and in the future. A good teacher knows what to do to make students reach the goal of 21st-century education. Therefore, it is important to know more about what knowledge, skills and attitudes should be developed during the learning experience. The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) strongly recommends that teaching should move away from rote learning and memorization to experiential learning where teachers must teach children through learning by doing with reflection and metacognition. It emphasizes the need to equip teachers with active learning practices like competency-based education where teaching objectives are focused on learning outcomes based on how to achieve student's competency through real-life experiences. The approach is to empower teachers for imparting lessons towards developing the life skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, adaptability, leadership and social and cultural awareness.

Teacher as a guide by the side:

Each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. A teacher aims to help students meet their fullest potential in these areas by providing a safe environment, supports risk-taking, and invites a sharing of ideas. Three elements are regarded to be conducive to establishing such an environment, (a) the teacher acting as a guide by the side, (b) allowing the child's natural curiosity to direct his or her learning, and (c) developing respect for all things and all people promoting.

When the teacher's role is to guide, providing access to information rather than acting as the primary source of information, the students' search for knowledge is met as they learn to find answers to their questions. Equally important to self-discovery is having the opportunity to study things that are meaningful and relevant to one's life and interests. Developing a curriculum around student interests fosters intrinsic motivation and stimulates the passion to learn. Helping students to develop a deep love and respect for themselves, others, and their environment- occurs through an open sharing of ideas and a judicious approach to discipline. When the voice of each student is heard, an environment evolves where students feel free to express themselves. Quality Circle Times are one way to encourage such dialogue. Children have greater respect for their teachers, their peers, and the lessons presented when they feel safe and sure of what is expected of them. In setting fair and consistent rules initially and stating the importance of every activity, students are shown respect for their presence and time. In turn, they learn to respect themselves, others, and their environment.

The major challenge faced by a teacher today is how to prepare effectively and efficiently in standards and accountability environment while modelling and inspiring their students to develop their higher-order thinking skills of analysing, evaluating, and creating; besides being self-aware, empathetic and internationally-minded. Instead of blaming teachers for poor learning outcomes in Indian classrooms, NEP 2020 holds these dismal conditions of teacher education, recruitment, deployment, and service conditions responsible for the lack of teacher quality and motivation. Recognising the 'Power of Teacher' the policy has put in place systemic reforms that would help 'teaching' emerge as an attractive profession of choice for bright and talented young minds. It proposes several reforms to empower teachers and 'restore the high respect and stay' to this profession hoping that it would eventually attract the best minds and talent to choose teaching as their profession. It is rightly said that the quality of national banks on the quality of its citizens. The quality of its citizens depends not exclusively but in critical measures upon the quality of their education. The quality of their education depends, more than on another single factor, upon the quality of their teachers.

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