Teachers’ Day – A Reperspectivisation

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Epoch Times, Singapore Edition (Issue 493, Aug 22 – Sept 4, 2014)

By Claire Ong
Epoch Times Staff

In today’s world of the Internet and grade inflation, the teaching profession might seem obsolete and largely oriented to students’ whims and wants.

But what is teaching about, really? Why has this title been treated with decreased respect over the years? Nearly a century ago, Mahatma Gandhi forewarned: “[People] have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more.”

Nine years ago, Indonesian bestselling writer Andrea Hirata wrote in his closely autobiographical novel, ‘The Rainbow Troops’: “The current world no longer saw school as Pak Harfan had seen it. To him, knowledge was about self-value, and education was a celebration of the Creator, a celebration of humanity, one that stood for dignity, the joy of learning, and the light of civilisation.

“He knew that school didn’t have to be a means toward getting to the next level, making money, getting rich. School nowadays was part of a capitalistic plan to get power and fame,” he concluded.

As paper qualifications increase in purely pecuniary value, this is a tale of how learning and teaching alike are devalued – and need urgent rescue.

Teach for Life
In Old English, the word “teach” is translated to “show, declare, warn, persuade”.

In this light, thank you to my Math teacher for persuading me to drop A-Level Mathematics, declaring my ineptitude. Because of you, I resolved to work harder and prove you wrong. I got a B at the end.

Thank you to my English Literature teacher for warning my class that we were rubbish as 17-year-olds, giving us C minuses and Ds and not relenting until we improved. We did you proud by scoring distinctions at the A-Level – and only then did you praise us for our tenacity and hard work.

Thank you to my Higher Chinese teacher for showing us how delightful the language is by making us partake in class skits and debates, and brightening our lives with Mandarin oldies, Jimmy comics and period dramas. I spoke no word of Mandarin at home, but fell in love with the language because of you.

You were demanding, and kept telling us how little we know – which only takes on significance in retrospect, after we became adults.

Educate for Peace
In a world torn by war and strife, it is imperative for us to face conflicts right from the time we enter school. Instead of fighting to win all the time, however, we need to learn to communicate with teachers and peers peaceably – and transform setbacks into positive lessons.

According to The Alberta Teachers’ Association, “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) believes that education, culture and communication are the means to building peace.”

UNESCO states on its website: “Since teachers are the most powerful force for equity, access and quality education, … [quality] education offers hope and the promise of a better standard of living. There is no stronger foundation for lasting peace and sustainable development than a quality education provided by well trained, valued, supported and motivated teachers.”

Around the world, however, teachers often remain “under-qualified, poorly paid and with low status”.

Ironically, while developing countries hunger for education and embrace individuals like Malala Yousafzai, a 17-year-old education activist who escaped an assassination attempt by the Taliban two years ago, students run amok or tune out in classrooms in swathes of the developed world. Worse, students are increasingly getting their way with grade inflation and a ‘customer’ mindset.

It is thus not uncommon to see humility and diligence thrown out the window, with arrogance and solipsism in their stead.

From – http://printarchive.epochtimes.com/a1/en/sg/nnn/2014/08%20August%202014/493/AUGUST22-SEPTEMBER4_01_lowres.pdf (Pg 1), http://printarchive.epochtimes.com/a1/en/sg/nnn/2014/08%20August%202014/493/AUGUST22-SEPTEMBER4_34_lowres.pdf (Pg 2)

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