Education: Teaching and Teachers’ Qualification

Years ago during my Presidency College days, I had heard an anecdote about a professor in Calcutta. Prof Ladli Mohan Mitra was a very reputed professor of chemistry in one of colleges in Calcutta. He had a textbook on chemistry perhaps for intermediate science course too. As the story goes, after his M.Sc he came for a teaching job in Presidency College but was rejected as he didn’t obtain first class in his examination. After Mitra became famous as professor, the authority of presidency wanted to employ him and sent a message for the same to him. Prof Mitra refused saying that he still was not first divisioner. I don’t know who was the looser Prof Mitra or Presidency with that rule of first division as entry restriction.

Looking back, I find some of the best teachers didn’t possess doctorate, and some who had Ph.D were really bad teacher. I still remember Prof TP Mukherji and Dr. Subodh Chandra Sengupta who taught English. TP (Tara Pada babu) was excellent while teaching Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Ceaser’, Dr. Sengupta’s performance as teacher was just dismal.

And in IIT, we hardly had any Ph.Ds. Perhaps Prof Chandiramani of mechanical engineering department who used to teach machining practices was the first professors to get Ph.D against his name. Even some of the Professors from US universities including Prof Seyfarth who taught me machine design as specialization in final year, were not having Ph.D. Prof. R Misra, the head of production engineering had joined IIT from the industry, and was perhaps one of the most inspiring teacher.

Recently I came across a news report: Some three decades ago, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) decided for selecting Ph.Ds as faculty. Currently, none of the IITs has faculty members who are non-PhDs, barring a few of them who joined the institutes in the 70’s when the PhDs were scarce. However, as reported, the HRD ministry has now allowed 10% non-PhDs to join as lecturers. And that is causing some controversy and heartburning for the faculty and directors. I fail to understand why Ph.D should be a criterion for becoming teacher in IITs for undergraduate courses.

Should not the teaching capability be a criterion in selection of teachers based on the classes or courses they are expected to teach? Teachers must be inspiring the students to acquire the knowledge required for the course, and to make them inquisitive enough to think holistically and innovate. Teachers’ educational qualification doesn’t ensure his ability to inspire and even impart the knowledge to his students. The most important aspect for the selection must be the aptitude for teaching. He must work really hard to get the best out of his students and from each and every one of them without any bias. The institutes no more require Dronacharya who may refuge teaching Eklavaya the tricks of archery or Parashuram who will not impart the best to Karna as he didn’t belong to his caste.

Today if we look at the qualifications of the teachers in primary schools, most of them may be qualified, but hardly some are dedicated and good in teaching. And that must be the urgent concern of the government.

I wish on Teachers’ Day, the media publish special issues on the best teachers at all levels in every field in the country.

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