“It gives me immense pleasure to be with all of you today to celebrate the teachers day by acknowledging the outstanding work of a number of teachers across the country who are shaping the destiny of our nation.
I congratulate the 45 teachers selected to receive the National Awards. I commend each one of the award winners for their for their dedication, commitment and extraordinary initiatives taken to improve the quality of education in our classrooms.
I am really pleased to go through the citations of these teachers who have made dramatic improvements in their respective schools by involving the community, improving the infrastructure, making learning a joyful experience for children and innovating through development of new teaching learning materials. I was very happy to note that many of the award winners have developed mobile apps and videos to make instruction joyful and child-friendly.
Many of the award winners have ensured that the dropouts from the school system come back to schools and create a congenial learning environment for each child.
Dear award winners,
Some of you have also taken a lead in mobilising the parents and the communities to support your efforts for national programmes like Swachh Bharat. In my view each one of you stands as a shining beacon of hope and tireless quest for excellence.
It is because of teachers like you that our system of education is moving steadily towards greater heights of excellence. In recognising your outstanding contribution the government has not only recognised you as individuals but has also show cased what can be actually achieved with competence, commitment and collaboration.
India today is at an interesting point in its history. Over 65% of its population is under 35 years of age. Ours is a young India- an India that is dreaming of a new future. It’s an India that has more than a billion dreams. And those dreams can be realized only if we can educate and empower children and youth. The transition from dreams to achievement can made only if we transform our society into a learning society and a knowledge economy. The key architects of this vital leap forward are the teachers.
Sisters and brothers,
In our country we have valued learning and teaching from time immemorial. We have a grand heritage of pioneering thinkers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, astronomers, metallurgists and a host of path breaking innovators.
The countries of the world had recognized India as a world teacher or Vishwa Guru. In many ways this stream of intellectual pursuits and knowledge creation has continued over the last two millennia.
However, there are persistent challenges in providing good quality education for all children, youth and adults.
There is a significant segment of our population, mainly comprising of girls and women, which cannot read and write. One third of the total illiterate population in the world resides in our country.
While we have made rapid progress in enhancing access to education, we have still to make enough progress on equity and quality.
The National Achievement Surveys indicate that on an average only half of the children in schools are learning as well as they should. Barring a few institutions like the Indian Institute of Science, IITs and IIMs and a few private institutions the general level of learning outcomes is quite low. While there are many factors which are responsible for this sub-optimal efficiency in the system, it is clear that that the only remedy is to upgrade the professional competence of teachers.
It is the teachers’ competence, confidence and commitment that can make a real difference.
I am aware of a number of programmes taken up by the Government including Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, BetiBachao-BetiPadhao, Khelo India, Swach Bharat-SwachVidyalaya, and Sabko Shiksha Achchi Shiksha. All these initiatives are steps in the right direction. However, like all social sector programmes, ‘quality education for all’ must become a societal mission not a mere governmental programme.
Sisters and brothers,
The societal mind set and attitude must change. We have to create an ethos that values learning, an ethos that gives respect to teachers. In international studies of effective schooling, it has been found that an important contributory factor for creating high performing systems, like in countries like Finland for instance, is the respect that the society accords to its teachers. India has traditionally been giving the primacy of place to teachers. This societal norm needs further strengthening both in letter and spirit.
What is the type of education we want and how do we define and measure quality? These are important and crucial questions before the country. Answers have to be found through consultations and by drawing lessons from good practices within and outside the country. I recall what Dr. S. Radhakrishnan had said “Education should be imparted with a view to the type of society that we wish to build. We are working for a modern democracy built on the values of human dignity and equality. These are only ideals: we should make them living forces. Our vision of the future should include these great principles”.
The teachers are the key architects of national development. They lay the foundations of a vibrant nation through their knowledge, attitude, behaviour and their ability to create the right conditions for learning.
What constitutes excellence in teaching? We have a vision of some of our foremost educators who have given us some pointers.
As Dr. Radhakrishnan had said;“true teachers are those who help us think for ourselves”. In a similar vein, Shri Aurobindo has said “The teacher is not an instructor or task-master, he is a helper and a guide. His business is to suggest and not to impose. He does not actually train the pupil’s mind, he only shows him how to perfect his instruments of knowledge and helps and encourages him in the process. He does not impart knowledge to him, he shows him how to acquire knowledge for himself.” Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, a great pioneer of Indian education, had given four fundamental principles for good quality education:naturalism, humanism, internationalism and idealism. He felt that education should be imparted in natural surroundings and an educationalinstitution should not be “a dead cage in which living minds are fed with food that’s artificially prepared. Hand work and arts are the spontaneous over flow of our deeper nature and spiritual significance.” Education, according to these thinkers, should be child or learner centred. It should be holistic giving equal importance to physical, mental and spiritual aspects of human personality.
Sisters and brothers,
All these principles emanate from our ancient Indian heritage which views education as integrated development of all faculties. As Swami Vivekananda said, “We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded and by whichone can stand on one’s own feet”.
The sages of ancient India saw education as a great liberating force that enlarges our vision, makes us more humane, tolerant, empathetic and peaceful. The teachers must aim at not only imparting of knowledge and skills at a high level of proficiency but ensure that values are embedded in the teaching learning process. It has been said that “values are caught and that they can rarely be taught” which means the teachers must ensure through their behaviour, through their communication with students and in the way the classes are organised that values of equality, democracy, peace and working together become an integral part of the school ethos.
The teachers must make their instruction learner-friendly. This essentially implies that if we have to universalise quality education the teachers must individualise learning. They must know each child well and respond to the learning needs of each and every child in the classroom. Children have different learning styles and teachers have to adopt different teaching methods to maximize learning. Certainly, experiential learning or learning by doing is one the most effective methods. As Confucius had said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” The teachers should make students learn through activities. This is the basic principle which has been detailed by educationists like Gurudev Tagore, Shri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhiji. Gandhiji had,in fact, evolved a comprehensive, integrated vision of education called ‘Nayee Taaleem’ which relied on learning by doing.
If we have to transform our education system to a high performing one, the teachers must move on from being merely ‘teachers’ to become ‘instructional leaders’ and eventually don the mantle of the mentor, guide and facilitator- a role expected of a Guru. To make this happen the teachers should become lifelong learners by drawing from best practices within and outside India. As Dr. Radhakrishnan said “when we think we know, we cease to learn.” In education there is probably no full stop. There are only commas and semi colons. The teachers must constantly seek new ways of improving their own professional competencies.
We had institutions of learning that earned us the honour of being the world’s guru. We have a long illustrious list of gurus and eminent pace setters in diverse fields. You are all heirs to this rich Guru parampara or the lineage.
I do hope that today’s award winners will be able to carry forward this bright torch of knowledge and motivate many other teachers across the country to excel like you. You have shown that change is possible.
Swami Vivekananda echoed the Upanishadic call when he said, “Rise up, wake up and keep learning till you reach the acme of perfection”.
All of you in this hall today and those teachers in all educational institutions spread across our country have a sacred mission- to transform our country’s classrooms into centres of instructional excellence. It is an opportunity that comes only to a select few. It is a mission that has a lasting impact on young minds and hearts which are going to shape our country’s destiny in the years to come.
I wish you all a very joyful, fulfilling professional life in the pursuit of this mission.
As the Vedic sages in one of the benedictory lines have said,
“Subhasthinahasantu” (May you take the path that is auspicious)