Text of the Convocation Address delivered
Professor A. N. Maheshwari
Khalsa College of Education, Amritsar,
4th March 2000
It is an honour and my privilege to visit the Khalsa College of Education, Amritsar, and to address its alumni who have assembled today to receive their M.Ed. and B.Ed. degrees. Visit to the holy city of Amritsar is a pilgrimage. This city is the seat of Guru Nanak who was a great teacher and is revered as the true Guru by millions of persons all over the world. I am thankful to the Khalsa College Society and to Dr Pritam Singh, Principal, for inviting me to the College and giving me an opportunity to meet the students who have returned to their alma mater for receiving their degrees. Before I proceed further I congratulate each one of you for some of you will become teacher educators and others will join the noble profession of teaching.
It is universally accepted that no nation can rise above the level of its teachers. This statement might have been the beacon light for our Parliament in setting up the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). As you know the NCTE came into being on 17th August 1995. Its principal mandate is to regulate standards of teacher education. It has framed norms and regulations for determining conditions necessary and sufficient for quality teacher education programmes. I am very happy that your college, Khalsa College of Education, Amritsar, fulfils the NCTE norms and the dedicated performance of its teachers has made it a model college of teacher education.
Yours is the first teacher education institution I am visiting after assuming charge of the office of the Chairperson of the NCTE. I will therefore use the opportunity of the convocation day of your college to share some of my thoughts on teacher education and education of teacher educators. The principal challenge before the nation is that its citizens have to be prepared for a learning society. You will like to know, what is a learning society? A learning society consists of lifelong learners who are problem solvers and are creative thinkers.
The world is entering into an information age. At the same time unprecedented advances in science and technology are taking place at a phenomenal pace. Recent developments in information and communication technologies have reduced the world into a global village. This village has neither geographical nor political boundaries. It is possible for someone to contact some other person in the world in real time without the need of physical movement. Roads in this village are cyber superhighways and for moving smoothly in the cyberspace each person has to be information technology literate. The Internet has wired this village. More than 100 million computers can be connected with each other for exchanging data that might be text, audio signal or video images. A sizeable number of inhabitants of the global village are engaged in information creation and share it democratically with each by using the world wide web. A good amount of this information has been organised as knowledge that can be used by both professionals and by common men alike, and also by students in their learning.
In the wake of these developments people are likely to get divided into two distinct groups. One group will be of high-paid knowledge workers, the other of low-paid service workers. The group of high-paid knowledge workers will comprise of all those information technology literate persons who are also problem solvers, creative thinkers and have the ability of learning how to learn. If our children have to live effectively in this global village they may have to be given schooling that will help them in becoming knowledge workers. The new schools may have to function very differently from what takes place even in the best of our schools today. Emphasis of teaching-learning in our schools by and large is on acquisition of information. Facts and concepts are learnt by rote and memorised. Children seldom learn by thinking. Such learning will not be of much use in a learning society.
Information age is marked by information explosion. Therefore, in an information-inundated society mere possession of some one-time information will not be of much value, as new information would make the earlier information redundant. In such a scenario valued abilities will be those of information gathering and processing, seeing hidden patterns and using them for solving some problem of human interest. For attaining such abilities learning has to be through thinking. It will be crucial that parents, teachers and all those who are responsible for the education system in the country endorse this concept of education and agree to introduce appropriate changes in the schooling system. The new system of schooling will recognise autonomy of learners. The role of a teacher shall now to be that of a navigator of her pupil’s learning. She will chart alternative learning tracks for her pupil to select from. It is the learner who will decide how to reach learning destinations by selecting the learning path best suited to that individual.
The learning process that I have described I first came across in the book "Road Ahead" written by Bill Gates, the most famous information technologist of the world. I found that similar concerns have been expressed in the UNESCO report on education for the 21st century, "Learning the Treasure Within". But it is a matter of great pride for all of us that in 1910 Sri Aurobindo while visualising a national system of education laid down three principles of true teaching. He recognised the autonomy of learners and the role of teacher in helping each learner in learning how to learn. In the following I quote from Sri Aurobindo’s article his prophetic vision of education:
"The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor or taskmaster, he is a helper and a guide. His business is to suggest and not to impose. He does not actually train the pupil’s mind; he only shows him how to perfect his instruments of knowledge and helps and encourages him in the process. He does not impart knowledge to him; he shows him how to acquire knowledge for himself. He does not call for the knowledge that is within; he only shows him where it lies and how it can be habituated to rise to the surface…
The second principle is that the mind has to be consulted in its own growth. The idea of hammering the child into the shape desired by the parent or teacher is a barbarous and ignorant superstition. It is he himself who must be induced to expand in accordance with his own nature. There can be no greater error than for the parent to arrange beforehand that his son shall develop particular qualities, capacities, ideas, virtues, or be prepared for a prearranged career. To force the nature to abandon its own dharma is to do it permanent harm, mutilate its growth and deface its perfection. It is a selfish tyranny over a human soul and a wound to the nation, which loses the benefit of the best that a man could have given it and is forced to accept in stead something imperfect and artificial, second-rate, perfunctory and common. Every one has in him something divine, something his own, a chance of perfection and strength in however small a sphere which God offers him to take or refuse. The task is to find it, develop it and use it. The chief aim of education should be to help the growing soul to draw out that in itself which is best and make it perfect for a noble use.
The third principle of education is to work from the near to far, from that which is that which shall be. The basis of a man’s nature is almost always, in addition to his soul’s past, his heredity, his surroundings, his nationality, his country, the soul from which he draws sustenance, the air which he breathes, the sights, sounds, habits to which he is accustomed…It is God’s arrangement that they should belong to a particular nation, age, society, that they should be children of the past, possessors of the present, creators of the future. The past is our foundation, the present our material, the future our aim and summit."
The challenge before you, teachers, is to accept wholeheartedly the role of an ideal teacher as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo. You may have to believe from your heart that each one of your students has the potential of learning, though differently, and your task will be to help that occur.
I have in mind another role for teachers. I call it teacher as a transformer. Each one of us can trace that some teacher helped us transform into a good human being, made us more self confident and more committed to pursue excellence. This might have occurred when the teacher spoke to us some words of encouragement especially when we thought we were in the dumps. She pulled us out of spiral of negative thoughts and imbued in us faith in ourselves for facing life with self-esteem and restored confidence in our abilities. According to me, such teachers are those who have empathy and love for their students. I expect that each one of you will be remembered by your students as a teacher transformer.
I next address myself to those of you who will get the M.Ed. degree today. I will like you to become teacher educators who will prepare the type of teachers whose profile I have given to you. This will remain a tall order until serious thought is given to education of teacher educators. The M.Ed. courses may have to be made into professional programme for preparing teacher educators for nursery, elementary and secondary stages and for preparing cadre of educational administrators. Their professional isolation has to be removed by conducting for them in-service programmes and making available to them resource support.
We hope to meet this challenge at the NCTE by using information and communication technologies. A web site has been created for the NCTE. On the NCTE web site information related to regulatory functions and academic resource support such as NCTE publications and good classroom practices are being put up. By bringing out a journal in print called "The Teacher Support", the resource material will be additionally disseminated.
I conclude my address by pointing out that in many countries of the world schooling process similar to what I have described have been implemented. For autonomous learning access to information technology may be helpful but is not essential. A good teacher can improvise and stimulate learning through thinking even by using the existing resources.
I once again congratulate you for earning your degree by studying at this premier teacher education institution and for your choice of the teaching profession.