THANK YOU SIR!
TEACHERS’ DAY IS CELEBRATED every year on Sept 1. It pays tribute to the many men and women who are tasked with the education of the young. Especially in Asian societies, teachers have always been honoured for their role in taking care of the children under their charge, and in preserving the values that uphold society. We may rightly applaud their, at times, unappreciated work.
In this globalised world of the 21st century, education is considered the key to a better future and is one thing for which parents are prepared to sacrifice. The enormous efforts that are taking place in the developing world are a testimony to their faith in the liberation of the mind and the power to provide untold opportunities for self-fulfilment. In all this, the teacher plays a key role.
However, the pursuit of personal success has its downside. Although there is much to be said for a competitive spirit, equating a good education and achieving the “perfect score” makes education a competitive race in which there are only winners and losers. In the process, some of the most important values that human societies have cherished are overlooked. Is life no more than competition for survival or mastery of the environment? What is it that distinguishes the human race from the rest of the animal world? What, indeed, is the difference between living and merely existing?
The real worth of education is to give meaning to life by providing an ethical dimension that is absent from mere technical or factual competence. The classroom is not simply a place where the teacher transmits information to his pupils. Rather, it is where a process through which certain values are “caught”. One of these is a respect for the truth and the effort it requires to find it. Another might be the importance of honesty in producing and being responsible for one’s own work. And there are other important values similarly transmitted through the interaction between teacher and pupil, the teacher acting as mentor whose advice is wise and helpful.
In making it possible to “catch” these values, the teacher must himself strive to be an exemplar. He cannot expect his students to be honourable, to respect the truth and to work hard unless he himself is seen as a rôle model. Whoever said that teaching is “easy” probably did not fully appreciate the real demands of the profession: the teacher is an important, perhaps critical conservator of the values on which society is founded. He deserves our appreciation.