Friday, 7 September 2012

Underpaid teachers - a global phenomenon?

Recently, we were pointed to an article in the Hindu Teachers... glorified, yet short-changed where, the story of a few generations of people taking up teaching in different countries & finding it hard to make ends meet, is given. In fact the article ends with the statement "I had always thought that underpaid, under-appreciated schoolteachers were particular to our country. But it definitely is a global issue."

No small sample should be taken as the "general" case. Just like the situation where not every IIM graduate earns 12 Crore rupees a year (as they tout the top salary in all and sundry magazines every year), there is no generalization that all teachers are living a life of difficulty and stress.

One may ask about the various professors in tens of universities who are well paid / well-off. Yes, some people are well-off, but I would also like to point out that many of them are actually doing two jobs - they get grants for doing research work, other than teaching. Hence, strictly speaking, if one were a teacher, in a full time capacity, one would find either a decent living or many times find it difficult to make ends meet.

So, how does that affect India and its education system. Unless some financial stress is reduced, the motivation to build thinkers, leaders, business-men, etc., is deflected towards "covering the portions and going home". Unfortunately, we also see the other end of the spectrum. Professors in plump university jobs who are simply pocketing half-to-one lakh rupees per month, who do not really imbibe knowledge or innovation or curiosity into their students. They are actually, overpaid for the job they do (many of them probably have the knowledge and probably deserve good money - but not when they don't do the job). Having said this, the sad state of affairs in Indian schools is that most teachers are under-paid.

Teaching comes from "within" as a passion. And if this passion is not there, then the pay probably does not matter. For those without the passion, if they are paid less their attention is less & if they are paid more, then they love to squander their attention. So, it leads to the next level (and possibly infinite regress), that teachers need to be trained to build the future thinkers, leaders & business-men. This needs a drive at the Teachers training level curriculum and agenda. The passion must be drilled into them in those years, especially for those who are looking to just get a job. Change the mind-set and for that, those teachers' colleges have to set the higher goal.

Back to the original title of story - teaching invariably means an underpaid job, unless you innovate and get into research in parallel & get someone to pay more for your other contributions. On the other hand, seeing someone's face suddenly brighten when they have understood a concept which was eluding them, is very very satisfying, at least for me.

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