Where Are Tomorrow’s Teachers?

Here in India we celebrate Teachers’ Day on 5th September. However, this tends to mean that World Teachers’ Day (5th October) doesn’t get so much attention. However, I was struck by the article linked below which was published as a response to the debates taking place in Paris as part of World Teachers’ Day this year, organized by UNESCO;

Edweek Article – Elevating The Status of Teachers

The article picks up on the fact that a big element in the discussions at that conference will be about how to elevate the status of teachers throughout the world (the cynic in me suspects it’s probably been a major part of the debate over many years, but progress may be hard to discern).

Here in India, we know that there are vast issues about;
a) the numbers of teachers required to be trained and recruited to give effect to the Right to Education Act,
b) the major steps required to tackle the skills and competence deficits in the teaching profession,
c) the modernization of the working of the profession to ensure delivery of Twenty First century learning

Some months ago, I read “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christenson. In it he talks about how ‘great’, successful companies can be prevented from truly innovating by their strength. Their markets, their regular customers all indicate they are happy with existing products and services so they fail to innovate. However, the fact that companies are destroyed in this process might seem, in ecological and evolutionary terms to be healthy for society when it makes ways for the truly innovative. However, when reading it struck me – lack of innovation may kill companies, it doesn’t kill educational institutions! They don’t operate in pure markets and are therefore not subject to the same market forces.

I believe this slowness to innovate plays a key role in the diminishing respect for the profession. Respect won’t come just because the teachers of the world demand it at the tops of their voices. Sir Ken Robinson’s first TED Conference lecture video has been viewed over 12 million times. However, since it was first recorded, as a profession, how much can we really say we have responded? How many of those views were by teachers and school Heads who nodded sagely, agreeing with so much of Sir Ken’s pithy reflections? But, how many marks out of 10 can we really justify in terms of bringing the changes that he called for/ responding to the fundamental systemic weaknesses that he highlighted?

I wrote a couple of days ago about personalized learning and the need to break away from industrial ‘one-size-fits-all’ education models. Apart from anything else, I believe that when a teacher has the experiences I described hour after hour, day after day, we cannot really wonder that morale and motivation levels in the profession are weak. I believe that, in any country, the vast majority of people who are teachers want to do work that is meaningful, that makes a difference in children’s lives and that contributes to the building of a better society and children who can fufil their potential. However, I fear that far too many of them see themselves as helpless to change a model and a system that places severe limits on their ability to achieve an of those things to the extent that they believe/ want to believe should be possible.

The Edweek article contains a number of videos demonstrating strategies adopted in different countries to attract people in to the profession – there’s everything from the Singapore emotion-laden appeal to the hard-nosed UK ‘look how much dosh you can earn’ approach. Overall, I didn’t find any of them very convincing. Ultimately, I believe teachers do want to make a difference, are capable of making a difference, but only if they are part of education systems that enable them to make a difference – that means education relevant for the Twenty First Century.


9 Responses

  1. Good morning , Mr. Mark .

    I would like to mention Azimji Premji University. They have taken it to themselves educating Educators of Tomorrow. Personally speaking , I believe a Teacher is born , not made but discovered . So, discussion on this may continue.

  2. Dear Mark,

    I wish what you wrote in the last paragraph was true.

    ‘Ultimately, I believe teachers do want to make a difference, are capable of making a difference, but …’

    Well, you are lucky to have a wonderful team of teachers with you. And the reasons for that are obvious. But the fact is that schools like yours are in the minority, perhaps fewer than 2 per cent schools in India. And the note copied above is not applicable to the vast majority in our field.

    Well, if you think about the enormity and complexity of the task of teacher development in India, you will lose sleep over it for ever. However, as we know, we must keep doing whatever best we can–as you are doing with your blog and other activities, we are doing it with our association and teacher training programmes.

    The only ray of hope is ‘student empowerment’, thanks to the revolution/s in the mobile and the Internet industry. I see students, though not many, becoming less and less dependent on teachers or academic institutions. It is high time we re-defined roles of students as well as teachers.

    Best wishes,

    • Now , here hats off to your calling Spade a Spade . When it comes to having a Team ,. motivation , talent , training are all merged into System . I am not pessimistic but in a developing country like India , we have crunch , either take it over positive , either presume it over negative. Seeing a thing in complete 03D view is hardly a trend over with us .But , as you rightly said IT & Enterprise is being seen mentor by our Learners .

      Its’ a good sign and shows , Awake , Arise , Achieve.

    • I had to run back , suddenly recollecting , you mentioned in your Post that …….will lose sleep forever. Well, I understand the time Mr. Mark posts his Educational Blogs , say 12:35 a.m. . We have not to worry at all. He is one of those who have already lost his sleep over the issues of the field.

      This is one thing admirable and mention worthy , as for his human side and professional understanding , he is a Team in himself.

      I go back to my Work , now all smiles , thinking , ” losing sleep ? ” .2% majority !

  3. I read your earlier post too on your new endeavour and am happy to note that your new school shall try breaking out of the mold. I think to do that you require a team of already broken-out-of-the-mold teachers/ educators. Where does one find them? I dont need to tell you that the existing pool of teachers are vastly inadequate in terms of training, experience, skills and temperament to address the needs of this new methodology. Why dont you think about a Teacher-training academy where they are trained in the new methodology? It could be a 1-2 year course with the most rigourous screening procedure coupled with the best training and knowledge imparted on how to be a new age teacher. I am sure that given this kind of backing, the teachers graduating from such an academy shall command remuneration normally reserved for the corporate sector. Correct me if I am wrong when I say that the reasons teaching does not attract all but the truly motivated, are the lack of extraordinary remuneration and recognition. I wish for the kind of educational system that is prevalent in Finland that we keep reading about so much lately. I am sure this is possible in India. Only, someone needs to take the first step.

    Wishing you the very best.

    • I thought , this initiative has already been taken ? Heard about young spark Anurag Behar ?

  4. I couldn’t agree more with Geetha’s comment. I look forward to a 24-carat institue helping good teachers become great.

  5. Good post, Mr. Mark.

    “teachers want to do good but they need to be enabled” – Completely agree.


  6. I really agree with Mr Dinesh’s words about “Student Empowerment”.
    I truly agreeI with Geeta. I feel the kind of motivation and dedication that is required from todays teachers does not match the remuneration. Till the time teachers salary matches the coporates we will slowly see dwindling population of teachers in coming years!

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