Teachers hold the main responsibility of improving the quality of education and ensuring proper transformation of students into good professional and genuine citizens.
--BY DR VIBHUTI JHA
Education is a period during which you are instructed by somebody you do not know and about something you do not want to know. But on the other hand, education institutes represent an industry which gets students as the input but is required to produce professionals as the output. This is a complex situation from the students’ as well as the institutes' points of view. Only those institutes which provide “genuine professionals” or better transformed output to the market are considered successful institutes while rest are surviving as 'me too' ones delivering 'problem professionals' to the market. Is it easy for institutes to transform students into effective, knowledgeable and focused professionals? This basic question needs to be discussed and analysed.
Mostly, after leaving their schools, students fail to identify their natural interest or talent and end up studying 'non relevant' courses in graduation under the influence of others or pressure of parents or just go with the 'trend' and get pitted in “uninterested” programmes. This makes them puzzled/confused/less confident about their own capabilities that in turn leads them to perform poor in colleges and finally in professions too. A student with good capability in some other area starts performing poor in the area where he is pitted uninterestingly.
An example can be taken from the famous Hindi movie “3 Idiots” where a student not knowing his own core strength of becoming a wildlife photographer, is sent to study engineering without his interest. Nobody in the school or family helped him in identifying his area of strength until he was helped by his friend to realize his core area of interest and strength. A majority of students coming to colleges are like that “3 Idiots” case and they look up to their teachers for help in identifying core competency, strength, career and related matters.
Till school level, as it is a mass education system, a majority of students are unlikely to identify their core competency. Most of these students feel shy to display their latent capabilities. Here, though 'good' colleges claim to be providing student-focused pedagogy, factually we follow the same school pattern with a bit of freedom. In colleges also, students face a similar evaluation system consisting of tests, tests and tests to prove their worth without even knowing if they are made for the course or not! We as teachers also keep on evaluating them under same scanner, thinking that they have opted for the course out of their own choice and interest. We never try as teachers to know whether they are interested naturally in the course.
In this process, the student sufferers and we lose a good professional of industry X by forcing him/her to study a course suited for industry Y and making him/her join industry Z. We fail to impart the requisites of professionalism like knowledge, attitude, competency etc. in the true sense and leave the student after the course programme on the mercy of God and on his own strength to survive with no or less competency for the job.
Most of us are born with natural talents for some particular profession but end up doing things which have nothing to do with our natural talents. No one seems to be guiding students seriously at home, in schools or in colleges to identify their areas of interest and strength. As a result, students usually follow the wish of their parents - 'become a doctor/engineer' , 'do MBA and get into business' , 'acquire this degree from abroad and get your life set', 'go for a government job and live your life easy' etc. By the time we realize our interest/core strength, it becomes too late to reposition as we get involved in the unending race of survival in our “careers” with little interest in most cases. This is a serious issue which needs to be taken care of at college level. As a student, one needs to be guided properly regarding his/her interest area, career, and opportunities in colleges, which is the right time for that. Colleges need to provide that avenue through teachers so that the “output” of colleges becomes effective in the professional world.
Today, teachers hold the main responsibility of improving the quality of education and ensuring proper transformation of students into good professional and genuine citizens. They have the power to shape an environment that is favourable to good practice in education. Teachers hold the key if the next generation is to do well in all respects, professionally as well as personally. Students will “do well” both personally and professionally only if they haves interest and competency to be good in that professional field and in turn feel delighted in personal life too by becoming responsible citizens. But it is an established fact that mere interest without focus leads no student to success as a professional. Interest may be natural as a personal gift or virtual, developed out of references.
Students should be guided to focus on their natural interests because focusing on gifted natural interest pays high dividend in the long run. It's probable that one develops virtual interest over natural interest these days. This happens when the mind is unable to subtract useful information from the available sources or it is not trained what to unlearn, relearn or learn or it easily embraces distraction. Students, as they are of distraction-prone years of their age, are likely to be distracted under the influence of market forces which have not spared even the educational organizations. Hence, the role of teachers becomes even more vital for students in schools and colleges. Teachers need to encourage their students to identify their natural/in-built/inherent interests and focus on them.
But, the unfortunate part in today’s education system is most teachers don’t realize their role of mentors and take teaching just as a 'job'. Nothing more than that. They are always looking for better jobs and don’t really get involved with the students to help the latter in identifying their interest areas and focusing on them. Some teachers prefer to learn themselves than teach the learners. They keep on improving their own skills rather than focusing on sharpening the skills of their own pupils. In the classroom, many teachers start vomiting out subject contents of their Master's or Doctoral level to the students of plus two.
But only the teachers are not to be blamed; the students, too, don’t seem to be serious about their core competencies, natural talent, strengths and even about their own future vision. This era has brought the 'casual' approach and mindset in the young generation. Taking everything casually in their student-hood to complete the course with 'workable' marks is the mark of this generation. The bond between teachers and students lacks depth and exists superficially where both sides are trying to pass the buck. Students don’t realize the future challenges, requisites of professional careers , importance of focused vision etc and teachers don’t apprise them of all this. This makes students puzzled and confused and confines them to only one objective - passing the course by mugging up course contents, rather than gaining knowledge, identifying competencies, interests and instincts. Students finally lose focus and core vision in this state of confusion, stress and distraction. They get trapped in the puzzle of evaluation system and their precious time is wasted in passing the tests, doing the assignments and moving around the teachers. Majority teachers also feel happy in keeping themselves confined to their “job” of evaluating students on marks/grades during the whole course curriculum.
The responsibility of correcting things for students lies with teachers and the institute where the transformation process is taking place. Mentoring the students to identify their core strength, guiding them for acquiring desired professional requisites and finally developing them as good professionals is the responsibility of teachers and educational institute concerned. In fact, educational institutions should be meant to be open, questioning, trusting, experimenting, inspirational, direction setting, and enabling people to believe that nothing is impossible. They should also be universes of learning. They should be safe spaces for trying out new ideas, for diverse thinking, and for unpopular conversations that are based on deep thinking, research, new theoretical constructs new data etc. They should make our understanding of society more contemporary and solve its many knotty problems. They should always be places of the future; the future is shaped in their crucibles, classrooms and conversations.
Education is the basis of social and economic change in any country and the output of educational institutions shapes a society. If the output is good, it will set new standards of working, performance, culture, environment, values and competitiveness and if it is not, the levels will definitely be going down. So, we are left with no choice but to produce quality output from our educational institutes. The quality output means professionals. Such professionals will be more focused, interested in work to take profession to new high and will remain away from distractions. This might sound easy but actually it is a difficult task for educational institutions; it cannot be accomplished without the active role of teachers to change the mindset of students into a professional mindset by the end of the course. For bringing a mindset change in students, teachers and institutions need to change their minds first. There is an old saying:
“All teachers are good! Great teacher scores the highest points on two fronts: task and students-rapport and only the great teacher begets another great teacher.”
If it is so, why are we facing problems in establishing the perfect bond between students and teachers in educational institutions? Why the output is not matching the expectations of industries? And why the professionals coming out of the institutions are lacking requisites of professional performance?
Every institute is claiming to be providing industry-ready professionals (better than competitor institutes) but industries find those professionals unfit for the profiled job. Institutes claim to be imparting industry-based curriculum but industries find it non-practical. Institutes claim to impart all requisites in the transformation process but industries find them lacking in every aspect.
This is due to limited industrial exposure of teachers who prepare and teach curriculum and limited understanding of industries for academic pedagogy imparting inputs. No one on either side realises this failure point and blames the other for the failure to develop real industry-ready, focused and competent professionals. Due to non-exposure, academicians don’t understand the continuous change occurring in industries and keep on emphasizing on the 'once proven' pedagogy of teaching. Theories become obsolete and technologies change but students are given the inputs of the same old contents mostly.
This irony is the reality of industry–institute interface where no one feels the pain. Once we get 'adjusted' in an industry of the interest/non-interest fields, we professionals also join the party to blame the institutes and teachers for not developing industry-ready professionals. Very rarely do such suffering professionals come forward to provide feedback and help to change the inputs in institutes. On the other hand, teachers also never try to know the true industrial requirements. Nor do they change their strategy accordingly. And the blame game continues.
There is need to re-engineer the whole process of student-teacher bond. Considering its growing role in the development of quality and performing professionals with competency, zeal and natural interest in the industries they work for, there is a serious need for educational institutions and teachers to become effective in shaping the output. Professionals coming out of the institutes are essentially required to be effective and efficient in handling the changing industrial challenges through their knowledge, attitude and personality. Teachers must play the role of a mentor first to be at the level of student before delivering the curriculum contents. Effective teaching is about knowing your students well and knowing what can engage them to gain knowledge. Teachers should help them to come out of confusions, mentor them to identify and focus on competencies, listen to them for issues, respect them for extracting new ideas, recognize them as individuals and treat them to develop as professionals. They should take the industry feedback to formulate effective inputs, adopt latest teaching aids, get exposed to industries and change the teaching stance when needed. They sincerely need to transform students into effective professionals in the true sense - professionals who can take industries to new avenues and help in developing the next generation of professionals through valuable feedback.
Education may be the period during which you are being instructed by somebody you do not know, about something you do not want to know but one becomes educated if he/she overcomes both the aspects positively and starts learning from educational inputs. Teachers are the pillars of a civil society, equipping the future citizens with knowledge and strength to face the hardships of life. Teachers play a vital role in not only explaining lessons to a student but also in imparting lessons about life and living. If the teacher is not committed, expecting any miracle from the students is akin to wishing Good Luck on seeing a falling star.
Dr. Jha is Professor-Marketing & Director -CRE, Kathmandu College of Management, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org , 9810284079.