“I am delighted to be with all of you today on the occasion of Teachers' Day, a day when the nation celebrates the extraordinary contribution teachers are making to national development. It is a day when we respectfully remember the first Vice President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a great teacher, an intellectual giant and an eloquent exponent of Hindu philosophy.
Ours is a country that has given a central place to teachers. We call them ‘gurus’, a Sanskrit word that connotes ‘a source of illumination’. In fact, the respect a teacher receives in our culture is well depicted in the lines:
“Gurur Brahmaa, Gurur Vishnuh, Gurur Devo Maheshwarah Guru Saakshaat Parabrahma Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah— ‘Guru is like Brahma the Creator initiating us into learning, Vishnu the Preserver nurturing our talents and Maheshwara the Destroyer dispelling doubts and negative thoughts. Guru is the Supreme God and my salutation to such a Guru’.
We are the inheritors of the system of gurukulas. A system in which the teachers and the students lived together and pursued studies in a caring environment. It was a system of education that was based on a constant dialogue between the teacher and students. It was a system that promoted the concept of ‘Vidya’ as a process of discovery.
You are all blessed to have the unique opportunity to shape the destiny of our nation in your classrooms every day and every minute through your interaction with students.
We, in India, have come a long way after independence. Today, 95 percent of children are in schools and we have more universities and institutions of excellence than we had in 1947.
Nearly 70 lakh teachers are teaching 20 crore children in 15 lakh elementary schools across the country. The literacy rate has been steadily improving from a mere 18 percent in 1947 to nearly 80 percent at present.
One of the most important issues facing school education today is the need to improve quality in education and learning.
We need more teachers who can build in our children a commitment to the values of democracy, equality, freedom, justice, secularism, concern for others well being, respect for human dignity and human rights. Children should be made aware of our rich heritage and the glorious history.
I call upon all teachers at all levels in the country, in the pre-primary centres, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities to rededicate themselves and pledge that they will transform the classrooms into hubs of joyful learning and raise the entire education system to a much higher level than what exists today.
We cannot rest on the past laurels. Nor can we be satisfied with a few islands of excellence. We need a system that responds effectively to the learning needs of all children, youth and adults and keeps constantly innovating.
We need teachers who have the required competence, confidence and commitment to make a difference to the educational landscape of our country.
As has been said:
“The mediocre teacher tells;
The good teacher explains;
The superior teacher demonstrates;
The great teacher inspires.”
What we need today are more and more great teachers. We need teachers who are learners and creators.
We need inspirational, transformational leaders in our classrooms.
It is not merely the grand building that makes a school good but the dedication and commitment of teachers that makes it great.
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”.
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 which one can stand on one’s own feet”.
The new education policy contains a lot of good ideas. It is before the country for comments, suggestions and ‘innovative’ inputs. Please have a look at the draft and contribute to the shaping of a policy that will take our country forward in the 21st century.
You, teachers, are the key architects of national development. You lay the foundations of a vibrant nation through your knowledge, attitude, behaviour and your ability to create the right conditions for learning. You lay the foundations for your happy, fulfilling life. I wish you all the best in your efforts to shape a new, resurgent India.