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Meaningful Education

 It augurs well that the Assam government has mulled over an Education Tribunal for students to lodge their complaints if any if their teachers play truant instead of the students themselves. If a teacher is failing in the sense that he has failed to complete the syllabus that he ought to complete within the time prescribed or is negligent in his duties vis-à-vis the cause of his students who are otherwise innocent and expect a fair deal from him in matters pertaining to the teaching-learning process, he must face the music – so promises the new State government announcement. There is no gainsaying that this new proposal, which can be radical if it is implemented in the right earnest, has many shades, of which we intend to list just a few major ones from the point of view of students’ welfare in a society that continues to be bereft of the benefits of an education system that must be both valid and reliable.

First thing first, then. Why should one choose to be a teacher in the first place? Here we are not talking of the poorly paid school teachers alone. We are also, and definitely, talking of those too who teach in colleges and universities, who are paid well under the new University Grants Commission pay proposals and the concomitant new regime, and who are never tired of showcasing their intellectualism on every occasion. We are also definitely talking of those who are never tired of filling up their bank account balances by virtue of them knuckling down at their best to evolve into wonderful private tutors, earning money that is not taxable. And, of course, we are also talking of those who, in their common rooms, are never tired of dwelling on as to whether the government should now not think of enhancing their pension emoluments so that they can survive at greater ease after their retirement just because they feel, in their closed worldviews, that they deserve a better deal just because they had enjoyed the classic privilege of them being called teachers (gurus?) despite them not giving a hoot at all to the ethics of teaching. Well, one is not, and cannot be, a teacher in the first place if he is a teacher not by choice but because he is a misfit elsewhere and has chosen the profound profession of teaching due to professional handicaps. Sounds harsh, but any sort of reality is harsh. We have a multitude of teachers right from primary schools to universities to research centres where one is a teacher just because he has some university qualifications that, practically speaking, have nothing to do with the methodology of education in most of the cases. These are teachers who merely pretend to teach and not educate anyone on earth. Such teachers are definitely not a boon to anyone on earth. Exceptions apart (and we salute such teachers who form the exceptional community), most of those in the business of teaching do not even know what teaching essentially entails, how to motivate and inspire their learners, how to enthuse them with creativity, how to guide them after having understood their intellectual proclivities, and of course how to show them the right path that they would love to trudge at their spontaneous best. 
Next comes the concept of micro-teaching. This is all about having a set of not more than 10 students in a class spanning over not more than 30 minutes, in which the teacher concerned has to implement a particular teaching skill, such as explanation, lectureship, problem-solving and question-and-answer session so that students participate in a real world of the learning phenomenon and cultivate innovation in their thinking patterns that are otherwise stereotypical. Any educational institution can go in for such systems of micro-teaching by altering their existing paradigms and by putting in place a flexible system for the benefit of both teachers and students. Remember, micro-teaching is a student-centric model; it has got nothing to do with teachers in the sense that the benefits of such a model must flow in to the students from the pragmatic point of view. The teacher is a mere guide or facilitator, and the student is an active learner, curious and creative. This is possible. Only, this will entail a radical system of education that can be worked upon if the minds at work in the domain of education are radical – innovative and experimental, willing to take risk and confident of them being successful in the long run.
This, then, brings us to the Dalton Plan of Education. This is far more radical. It is about a system in which there are no classrooms as such, no time-tables, no rigidity as is prevalent in the traditional system of education. It is a system in which students are given assignments – say, on a fortnightly basis – which they have to complete in the school/college/university hours, for which they are awarded grades (which are exams in themselves), in which teachers, in their subject-rooms, groom students in a free and fair ambience by way of explaining to them concepts and formulations, and which also entails conferences after noon in which teachers hold discussions with their students in the subjects concerned on a question-and-answer mode of teaching-learning. The Dalton Plan is a very innovative scheme in modern education, which can definitely be implemented in any school/college/university if at all it wants to be progressive and meaningful.
That said, meaningful education in that sense is not any Utopia. It is real – if there is the right intent and the right will. We want real educators for a better and progressive society.

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