Making of a good teacher via The Hindu

Teaching needs three qualities. Knowledge is the first. The ability to pass it on to others, what we usually call communication skill, is the next. Aptitude is the third. Which quality of a teacher is tested in the so-called eligibility tests?

TEACHERS ARE born and not made. A teacher is a social entity. A poor teacher tells. A good teacher teaches. An excellent teacher demonstrates. An outstanding teacher motivates. Time and again we hear these proverbial sayings from various sources at different occasions, especially as we near a teacher's day. If any of the above is correct, how can one find a teacher through a test, whether it is conducted by the UGC (National eligibility test) or by the States ( state eligibility test)?

In a democratic country like India, any one with a medical degree from a recognised institution and medical council's registration can practise as a doctor. One can practise as a lawyer, if he has degree in law and completes the formalities of bar council. Engineers can get a job right away from the college campus through campus placement cells. But to become a teacher a person has to write a minimum of three examinations. A post-graduate degree examination followed by one for a degree in teaching and then the so-called eligibility tests. Even this does not get one a job, but only qualifies one for it!

Teaching needs three qualities. Knowledge is the first. The ability to pass it on to others, what we usually call communication skill, is the next. Aptitude is the third. Which quality of a teacher is tested in the so-called eligibility tests? Is it the first one? That is unbelievable. Any recognized educational institution in India offers a post-graduate degree after completion of a minimum of semester course. The incumbent is then examined at the end of each semester by a qualified and experienced faculty appointed directly by the supreme body of the university called the syndicate. One has to prove the ability before these examiners. A post-graduate paper is valued independently by two experts. If necessary, there will be a third evaluation as well. In science subjects, the performance in the practical examinations has to be satisfactory. There will be a project evaluation. And then, there is the viva-voce test. One has to go through all these complex and difficult manoeuvres before getting the degree. Then, which knowledge not proved in the above is tested in the eligibility test in just around three hours, even if it is a UGC standard test or eligibility tests run by the states?

We must also recall that these tests, in at least some states, are reduced to the level of an ordinary entrance examination for engineering and medicine. There is a group of expert educationalists who believe that an objective model entrance test is inadequate even for engineering and medicine. They recommend IIT model entrance tests. Then, how can we justify the objective model teacher eligibility tests now in force in some states?

The second quality, that is, communication skill, cannot be found through a test either. It would be like studying acting through post. Either you have it or you do not. It is as simple as that. One can never create this. You can only discover whether you have it or not. But if it is within you, it grows with experience. So to have this you have to become a teacher. But to become a teacher you need this. Looks like a vicious circle, isn't it?

Which component of the teaching is more important? Is it the knowledge or the ability to pass it on? Well, it very much depends on the class one is teaching. If you are in a post-graduate class, knowledge is more important than presentation. The students of the class are filtered stuff. They expect information from the teacher. Half the knowledge is where to find it. If this it true, they need only know where to find things much more than the thing itself. But if one is teaching in a school or plus two class, the ability to communicate is more important than the knowledge itself. Here `teaching is innovation' become true.

We have to find independent, natural and new methods for presentation of the subject and the topics. The emphasis has to be more on how to tell than what to tell. The classes have to be interactive. Teaching has to be a dialogue and not a monologue. This would mean we should have patience towards questions, no matter how silly they are. Those who are successful in these respects alone can become good teachers at this stage. Even with a limited knowledge a person can become a good teacher, if he/she has these abilities. Here you study to teach and then teach to study more.

The aptitude for teaching too cannot be found through a test. It can be decided only by the persons themselves. Here again, it comes to your mind that you want to become a teacher, or you would never. Only those motivated to this profession opt for it. Others withdraw from the race. The motivation sets in early. Sitting in a good teacher's class, those with aptitude always probe whether they can teach like this and then believe they can. Similarly, sitting in a poor teacher's class, the experience might dissuade even those with possible aptitude to opt out of the profession. Thus our aptitude is well influenced by the classes we sit in and the teachers who teach us in our student days from primary school to college.

So these tests cannot really test knowledge. They cannot test communication skills or aptitude either. The tests are reduced to the level of a mere common test for various people who come from different streams and who have obtained degrees from different institutions. But if we have a method to measure marks obtained from different recognised institutions by the same yardstick, these tests become superfluous.

The Birla Institute of Technology, commonly known as BITS Pilani, is one of the country's leading educational institutions. There is no entrance test for admission to courses here. They have got a method to standardise marks from different institutions. We should adopt something like this to dispense with eligibility tests. These tests never determine any eligibility. If ever they do test anything, it is only the luck and time of the person.

Didn't we have famous devoted teachers before entrance and eligibility tests were even thought of? They live in our minds for ever. What eligibility test did they write? This leads us to a simple straightforward truth.

No matter who conducts the tests be it the state or the UGC and no matter how transparent and credible it is, the ability of a teacher is decided in class rooms and that too by students and not by entrance and eligibility tests.


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