Honouring the teachers | Daily News

Honouring the teachers

Those who can, teach. This is a memorable slogan seen on London billboards some years back. The idea is that not everyone can teach. It takes something special to be a teacher, who is responsible for moulding the future of children.

Today (October 5), we honour and celebrate these guardians of our collective future. World Teachers’ Day is an occasion to remind ourselves of the selfless service rendered by those who engage in this most noble profession. Although we should be bearing in mind their contribution to make us what we are today every day, having a special day helps the society to focus on what more should be done to recognize and reward teachers.

This year’s theme is “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher.” This theme was chosen to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), where education is recognized as a key fundamental right - a right that cannot be fulfilled without qualified teachers. The declared aims of the World Teachers’ Day are celebrating the teaching profession and improving international standards for the profession, mobilising support for teachers and ensuring that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.

One of the main challenges to this right worldwide is the continued shortage of teachers. There are an estimated 264 million children and youth still out of school globally, and according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the world needs to recruit almost 69 million new teachers to reach the 2030 education goal of universal primary and secondary education. This ‘teacher gap’ is more pronounced among vulnerable populations – girls, children with disabilities, refugee and migrant children, and poor children living in rural or remote areas. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) estimates that to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2020 all countries will need to recruit a total of 12.6 million primary teachers in the short term.

Even if a school has all physical facilities such as desks and chairs, good classrooms, lab facilities and playgrounds, no school is truly complete without good teachers. Even in Sri Lanka, one of the few developing countries with a completely free education system from primary grades to university, there is a shortage of qualified teachers for certain subjects. This must be addressed without delay to make the “Nearest School is the Best School” project a success, apart from resolving salary anomaly and transfer issues. Sri Lanka is one of the few developing countries with exemplary education statistics that often match those of the developed world and addressing teachers’ issues will help keep it that way.

Teachers not only teach you lessons from textbooks, but they also teach the lessons of life. In a way, it is the latter that finally makes you a fine man or woman, someone who is useful to society and others around you. For a teacher, all students are his or her sons and daughters. It is a noble, selfless thought. Teachers are people worthy of celebrating for what they bring into our lives: Knowledge, discipline, values, ethics and skills.

Teachers will be able to make an even bigger contribution if they are given more recognition, resources, training and facilities. They continue to face challenges brought about by poor training and low status. Teachers must be given every opportunity to receive additional training in the subjects they teach. One must also not underestimate the service rendered by sports and physical training teachers, for sports help children to become better citizens who can accept victory and defeat in sport as well as in life with equal composure.

Universally, teachers are not a highly paid lot, compared to the immense service they render to society. Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam recently acknowledged this anomaly, saying the Government was committed to uplifting the teachers economically and socially. In fact, if they received better pay, at least some teachers would consider giving up doing private tuition which has now become a supplementary income avenue for many teachers.

The perception of teaching as a profession is not all that rosy here and in many other countries. There should be a renewed drive to recruit trainee and graduate teachers stressing the fact that teaching is a very rewarding experience in more ways than one. Quite apart from any monetary consideration, good teachers always take pride in moulding good citizens who are useful to society. That is one of the perks of being a good teacher and only a very few other professions can make the same claim.

More training should be given to those who are already in the profession, with attention to career enhancement, promotion prospects and technology skills. A teacher’s education too is never complete. Teachers must also evolve with the times, because printed textbooks and traditional blackboards could go out of style in a decade or so. With the Government eventually intending to move to a tablet-based, paperless education system, teachers must be trained in new techniques of teaching with such devices. The future is here already and teachers must adapt.


Add new comment