Teachers and some reflections

Amir Mohammad Sayem

Of course, teachers are respected and valued with some differences across countries including Bangladesh. This is not only because they are very important to guide students but also for a range of other crucial reasons including they disseminate good norms and values among students, the community and society. Indeed, they provide enormous time for playing their roles and responsibilities to students, the creation and dissemination of knowledge as well as their contribution to society. From the educational viewpoint, they provide services not only to the primary or elementary level but also to secondary and tertiary levels. For all of these, the desired roles of teachers at all tiers are expected in Bangladesh.

But, before moving further, it is needed to say something about ‘teacher’. The term “teacher” has a broad meaning, but its frequently-used meaning indicates someone who teaches or instructs as a professional. A teacher helps to increase knowledge, grow ideas, develop good norms and values or gain virtues. Teachers may teach or help gain knowledge and competence in economic, political, religious, and many other affairs of life. Teachers may be classified as educational institution-based and non-institutional. Sometimes, a teacher may also be classified as formal and informal. Informal or non-institutional teachers are those who teach in informal settings including home and offices. In this sense, a teacher can be a private tutor, a family member, or a colleague. But a formal or educational institute-based teacher is someone who instructs or guides others especially in educational institutes including mainstream institutes such as schools, colleges and universities.

Of course, formal or educational institute-based teachers usually require a wide range of educational qualifications including the ability to instruct, being knowledgeable in a particular subject matter, efficiency, and competency or skillfulness. In addition to the qualification of teaching, a formal teacher needs some important qualities including personal and professional integrity, responsibility, and respectfulness. In the broader sense of the formal meaning, a teacher not only teaches students on a particular topic or a problem merely for playing professional roles as an instructor but also guides them with integrity and responsibility reflecting a variety of good personal characteristics. In this sense, those teachers who harm students or instruct others for doing harm cannot be genuinely be rendered as teachers both in the formal and informal sense.

It is notable that teachers especially in the formal sense, on which this article focuses, are not perceived equally across societies, though they are valued in all societies. In some societies, formal teachers are more valued, professionally, economically, scientifically and socially. But in some other societies, the extent can vary. In Bangladesh, teachers are significantly valued — not only professionally but also socially —with some differences between rural and urban areas. But they were socially valued more in the past. Recently, there is a decrease in the social value of teachers in Bangladesh, not only in urban areas but also in rural areas for varied reasons. Though formal teachers are professionals, the usual perception of society is that they are an icon of good characteristics and they do activities that are good for students and others.

But an important question remains on whether all teachers at different tiers are genuinely good for students, educational institutes and society. Of course, it is not surprising at all to say that all teachers cannot or do not play the desired professional roles, although there are many teachers who are good for students and others and play the expected roles. Even though there are institutional and locality-based differences, a considerable portion of educational institute-based teachers ranging from the primary to the highest levels —both in the mainstream and other settings —in Bangladesh do harmful acts against students in a variety of ways, impart harmful ideas, norms and values to students, and fail to maintain professional integrity and to play their desired roles for society.

On some occasions, a portion of educational institute-based teachers, who are rendered as mentors of students and are supposed to help students to make good career plans, harms their careers so badly. This is especially the case in the higher educational institutes in which teachers have more opportunities compared to those at the primary or secondary level as students’ careers are related to their higher education on most occasions. Also, there are convincing criticisms that a portion of teachers makes unethical relations with students reflecting unacceptable characters that in turn reflect an imbalanced power between teachers and students. Of course, such a phenomenon is seen not only in the mainstream educational institutes but also in others such as Madrasha.

Of course, important questions remain on why a portion of teachers do not or cannot play the desired roles and why a portion of teachers do harmful acts. Of course, there are many reasons that may be rendered from several viewpoints such as personal, educational institute-based and broader society-based. Some important personal reasons are attitude towards life, personal education, personal norms and values and hegemonic mentality. Of the diverse personal factors, personal norms and values and hegemonic mentality are very crucial. In fact, teachers are usually less influenced by others because they are valued socially. Such a phenomenon can shape personal norms and values depending on the personality traits of teachers and can make some teachers more hegemonic.

Educational institute-based and wider social reasons are also very crucial factors. Some institute-based reasons are the culture of educational institutes, recruitment process and recruitment criteria of educational institutes and educational institute-based regulatory system.

Moreover, some notable wider social reasons may be the overall culture of a society, the national recruitment process and the national mechanism of regulation of educational institutes. Of the diverse community–based and wider social reasons, the recruitment process needs some detail here. The existing process is flawed as political consideration is given priority on many occasions and there are criticisms that recruitments are sometimes made based on corruption and the level of trust of students. More importantly, the existing recruitment criteria focus on academic qualifications only.

It is, thus, important to make sure that an effective regulatory system in educational institutes is developed and the right candidates become teachers at different tiers. Of course, the recruitment of teachers should not be politicized and corrupted. But political intervention may not be unacceptable at a limited scale especially when educational institute-based recruiters do not do justice for certain right candidates for personal disliking or perceived threat to hegemonic mentality. Moreover, some changes are very much needed in the recruitment criteria. In addition to the educational qualifications of candidates, some other criteria including responsibility to others and respectfulness to others need to be developed and employed so that educationally qualified, responsible and right candidates are recruited.

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