Few years ago an American lady working as a volunteer in Kathmandu University’s Department of English commented with delight that she found the Nepalese students very different from those of America in terms of paying respect to their teachers. She had found it surprising that students here did not call their teachers by their names, but instead addressed honorifically with ‘sir’ and ‘madam.’ But she sensed some discomfort in the class and occasionally reported the department her experiences of humiliations on account of obstinacy and noise of few students. On one hand she praised the loyalty of many students, but on the other, she bore with her very unpleasant memories of such moments with some obdurate students. However, when she related tales of such behaviorism back at the US, we could safely assume this as a universal phenomenon.
There is no doubt that teachers who have spent a considerable part of their life in teaching have frequently come across many such odd moments with their students. Issues like this appear small when the whole nation’s concentration is on major problems like building an overall educational system or establishing peace and security. Though trivial apparently, it has been a regular challenge in the culture like ours, in which good teaching and learning is considered to depend on the holy relation between students and teachers. Today it is felt that a certain gap is gradually making its way between teachers and students.
It is unfortunate to hear news of teachers fallen victims of intolerable misbehaviors of students. This could be a new subject for psychologists, but the fact is that it so happens as the very few students with irremediable ill feelings against teachers turn rowdy. Problems like misbehaving in the classroom and outside, or misinterpretation of concerns, and above all, planned attacks as revenge to reasonable punishments have often arisen. Additionally, aggressive students create rows among themselves in front of the teachers who are expected to tackle them with no surety of a good result. Consequently, teachers are the first recipients of hostility and stubbornness, and very rarely do institutions interfere for amicable settlement. Can teachers make their teaching effective if their time is wasted in dealing with the adolescents who carry antagonistic attitude to learning and for the teachers?
A commonplace judgment even among the elites is to conveniently square the blame upon the teachers and the institutions in case of poor academic performance. Of late a new thinking has evolved and that certainly sounds plausible- that the attitude of grown-ups cannot only be shaped by the endeavours of schools and teachers, but there are indiscernible elements present in the context. Children can naturally be trained to be refined provided the environment at home and in the school is favourable, and very rarely unpleasant issues are created because of their misconduct. There can be pressure upon the teachers of small children but they may hardly come across such odd moments as to develop aversion to their profession itself. Grown ups are not ideal models of clay, unlike the old principle that says children are.
The number of youths going astray is appalling today and it does not seem to decrease. Perhaps the growing evils of the society are acting as contributory factors and parents are not usually able to cope with such situations today where youths are seen getting perverted day by day due to the lack of proper guidance. No less is the role of contemporary politics in shaping the attitude of students towards the class. Many colleges today are converted into platforms for nasty political disputes. Only financial support and fulfillment of needs by the parents may not render proper leadership to the youths who are obviously susceptible to the changes of the world. What a child grows to be depends upon the society it lives in. Many parents are not aware of the elements that negatively influence their children’s upbringing, and manners once depraved cannot be easily corrected. Aggression develops itself in the nature of a child at home, and due to the influence of different social evils, transmitted to them by wrong associations. Parents are either too strict or too lenient with their children against their wish. If grown ups are forced to be completely at command, they are sometimes likely to choose a third path, which in itself is more dangerous to both the parties.
Children are getting more independent these days and this love of independence is at times expressed in their disobedience of parental and institutional regulations. Parents should check if this takes the form of antagonism and obduracy. In this regard it is necessary for them to consider the choices of their children also. Schools and teachers cannot mould the ‘raw clay’ to any shape if it is already too hard or even too soft.
Some surveys point that few students today are already far ahead of their teachers who cannot pose newer challenges as they seem to demand. Consequently, these good students tend to avoid teachers who do not match with their level of aptitude. It indicates that even teachers have much to do to keep themselves up-to-date with the current developments in the subjects they teach. Many teachers are subject to misconduct also because they have not been properly trained.
The role of a teacher can never be argued out, as long as the need of learning persists. Today’s challenge, therefore, is to flow with the burgeoning need of knowledge and competence as per the academic demand of students. But only because of occasional hindrances, teachers need not nurture distaste for their profession. They do not have the sole responsibility for correcting the evils. What best they can do, at least, is to offer a hand for some reformation in the
society from their place. However, it is appropriate now for the people of all walks of life to think that our traditional environment of teaching and learning is at stake. Many solutions could be worked out if parents, teachers and the institutions work together for a coordinated whole.
(First ever publication)
Space Time Today 20 March 2002.