— Dr. Manmohan Singh
I am indeed very happy to be with you today, on the eve of Teachers’ Day. We celebrate 5th September, the birth anniversary of Dr Radhakrishnan, our former President, as Teachers’ Day all over the country to honour and to express our nation’s gratitude to all teachers for their dedicated service to the nation. Teachers’ Day is the ideal day of telling our teachers that we feel blessed because of their presence in our lives. I join you in remembering Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the great scholar, the great philosopher, the great teacher and above all a great educationist.
Teaching has always been considered a noble profession. My own years as a teacher have been the most satisfying and fulfilling in my life. Through teachers flow the values and culture of a nation and its people. Teachers’ own value system, their character and their behaviour directly influence our children. But, misinformation and limited learning behaviours, that children sometimes internalize, can also be traced back to teachers’ lack of knowledge, poor understanding, or biases. We must guard against these negative features.
Teachers are invariably seen as front-line participants in educational reform, critical to successful quality schooling in our country. But, sadly, teachers are often excluded from policy-making, governance and management of our educational system as also from day-to-day instructional strategies and decision making. In our endeavour for educational reforms we must, therefore, emphasize the empowerment of teachers and that includes real opportunity for them to share policy perspectives and decision-making in pursuit of educational development and reforms. It is my belief that all teachers are creative, talented people; teachers respond remarkably when they are respected and included in the decision-making integral to their work in the classroom. They gain a sense of ownership over their work and their classrooms, when they are involved in the development of the curriculum, designing of the syllabus, making and selecting of teaching materials and in training programmes leading to their own intellectual and professional development.
One critical area that all teachers must reflect upon is equality and inclusiveness of our educational system. Numerous programmes have been initiated in our country that focus on equality and inclusiveness paying particular attention to the girl child, or children from the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe or minority communities, or for differently-abled children with special needs and problems. Such programmes will result in an empowered youth and citizenship, only if their teachers are empowered supporters of equality and inclusiveness. If efforts to increase student access, learning and retention in elementary and secondary education are to succeed and make headway, relevant and empowering teacher education is of critical importance. This is particularly true of women teachers who must serve as positive role models for our society at large.
Our Government is committed to provide quality education to all. The Right to Education Act was passed by the Parliament last year. The Right to Education Act and Article 21-A of our Constitution guaranteeing elementary education as a Fundamental Right, have now become operational with effect from 1st April 2010. I compliment and pay tribute to my colleague Shri Kapil Sibal for the zeal, dedication and enthusiasm that he has brought to bear on the work of this most important ministry of Union Government, that Human Resource Development Ministry is. I had on that occasion addressed the nation and recounted my own childhood experience of studying in extremely difficult and adverse circumstances. Time has come for all of us to change this situation and ensure that every child in this country of ours has the opportunity to exercise his or her right to an education of equitable quality, and thereby making the Right to Education a grand national movement. Today, you have both challenge and opportunity to provide good quality education to all our children. Through you, our nation aspires to build in our children a commitment to the values of democracy, and the values of equality, justice, freedom, secularism, respect for human dignity and human rights. I urge you to develop in our children independence of thought, action and capacity of carefully considered, decision making which is based on reason and understanding. Through you, our children must develop a sensitivity to others’ well-being and feelings. Through you, our children must develop the ability to work and participate in economic and social processes and in processes of social change.
These aspirations for our children necessarily mean that the school environment should be free from fear, trauma and anxiety. No child, irrespective of caste, gender or community to which he or she belongs should dread the thought of going to school. The RTE Act bans corporal punishment and mental harassment. It also bans detention and expulsion. These provisions have led many teachers to question how discipline will be maintained in the classroom. The answer to this important issue was given by the well known philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti: “Discipline is an easy way to control a child, but it does not help him to understand the problems involved in living… If the teacher can give full attention to each child, observing and helping him, then compulsion or domination or discipline in any form may be unnecessary”.
The educational system in our country is at a very critical juncture. We have to maintain the fine balance between tradition and continuity, between tradition and modernity on the one hand, and innovation and change on the other. As teachers, you are the most important nation builders, you constitute our nation’s most precious national resource, and we look to you to guide our children in their quest for knowledge, truth and in their capacity to lead a life of dignity and self respect.
With these words, I congratulate each one of you – the distinguished Teacher Awardees – on winning this very prestigious national award. It is a small token of our nation’s gratitude to the great fraternity of teachers in our country. On the occasion of the Teachers Day I extend my heartfelt warm greetings to all members of the teaching community and wish each one of you success and fulfillment in your personal life and vocation.
(The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address for the Awardee Teachers on the eve of Teachers’ Day in New Delhi.)