The eternal human quest to explore, create, refine and reveal the secrets of nature requires the presence of teachers to enlighten the path that transforms an innocent, lay individual into a personality. When Albert Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge,” he was defining the teacher in totality—his role, functions, expectations from him and how it reshapes human evolution. It is rather impossible to fully comprehend what teachers have contributed in the knowledge quest, upgradation of human life on this planet, and finally, in moulding the lives of individuals.
Every society finds its own ways and means to express gratefulness to teachers. Indian scriptures are full of respectful adulations of them. Auspicious occasions begin with a prayer to the guru, who alone has the potential to take an individual from ‘humanity to divinity’: Gurur Gurutamo Dhamah. Teachers’ influence shall never diminish, as Henry Brooks Adams points out, “A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops.” Every teacher aspires to prepare students who would surpass him, and contribute better than him to society. A true teacher devotes his life in pursuance of quality and excellence.
There is no dearth of luminaries in each society. India pays its tribute to all teachers on September 5 each year, the birth anniversary of former President and teacher, Dr S Radhakrishnan. It is also the time to recall how he made singular contributions to the shared ‘global knowledge capital’ of the humanity. On this day, the nation honours not only Dr Radhakrishnan but all its teachers, and thereby sustains a great tradition of offering the highest place in social hierarchy to the learned.
It is globally acknowledged that ‘lifelong learning’ is the key pillar of the modern knowledge quest, both scientific and spiritual. The adage, Yavadjieevait Adhiyate Viprah (the wise continue to learn throughout life) has an eternal relevance. One factor that confronts teachers is the ‘pace of change’ and the increasing measure and magnitude of new knowledge. The world today is a far more complex edifice than that of the past. Every nation faces some sort of a moral crisis and impacts of similar crises from elsewhere as well. Man has acquired sufficient knowledge and skills to free the world from misery, hunger, ill health, violence and wars. Teachers’ task emerges from what Dr Radhakrishnan said, “We must educate not for cruelty and power but for love and kindness. We must develop the freshness of feelings for nature, the sensitiveness of the soul to human need. We must foster the freedom of the mind, the humanity of the heart, the integrity of the individual. Even from the nurseries, we must train human beings by unconscious influence and conscious effort to love truth, beauty and goodness.”
In pragmatic terms, the concern of teacher preparation deserves a fresh look and approach. The emphasis must shift to a basic understanding of the Indian tradition of acceptance of diversity and the need to bring in the moral, ethical and humanistic elements in education, and in the lives of teachers. Our teachers must comprehend the import of the immortal words of Swami Vivekananda: “The only true teacher is he who can immediately come down to the level
of the students, and transfer his soul to the student’s soul and see through the student’s eyes and understand through his mind.” Let every teacher strive for perfection. In the process he/she shall achieve quality and excellence, and prepare individuals.
Former director of the NCERT