The recent textbook fiasco has been a textbook case of how a dot becomes a circle. First we ignored the quality of teachers. Then we ignored the quality of students. There have been rumors that schools were being asked to liberally grade examination papers so that the greatest number of students could get the highest possible marks. Then we had the rude awakening that only a tiny percentage of these high achievers could actually cross the threshold of university admission tests. Now comes the fat in the fire. Academic institutions in this country are starving for teachers.
This crisis has snuck up on us to make things worse. We don’t have an adequate number of teachers in schools, colleges, and universities. The teacher shortage seems to be a cumulative effect of mismanagement and neglect over the years. For all these years, it appears, we have been planning to fight a war without recruiting enough soldiers.
It goes without saying that the failure to have a sufficient number of teachers in our academic institutions is costing us dearly in terms of our commitment to education. The quality of teaching has been badly affected by the teacher shortage. It sadly enunciates that we are handling one of the most delicate businesses in our life less carefully than glassware and dishes in our kitchen sinks. It is also scary proof that in this country, ignorance is the pillar of knowledge.
Coupled with the poor quality of textbooks, question paper leaks and relaxed grading, the absence of qualified teachers gives us a chastening glimpse at the declining standards of our education. If we cannot get things right at the beginner level, imagine what it tells us about the quality of higher education. If a little learning is a dangerous thing, we are dangerously learning too little.
Utilitarianism is an ethical system that determines morality on the basis of the greatest good for the greatest number. Our education system is zealously driven by a caricature of that philosophy, laying more emphasis on quantity than quality. The high percentage of students graduating under a botched-up education system has deluded us like someone wearing loose-fitting clothes indulging in the satisfaction that he has lost weight.
And this has produced its own vicious circle. The poor quality of education due to shortage of teachers and other reasons has turned education into a big mess. And that big mess has made teaching an unattractive and unrewarding profession. The most crucial business of nurturing talent requires talented minds. It is a ringing contradiction that teaching is one of the most neglected professions in this country, which is expected to harness our best minds.
Forgotten is that education is neither a lottery nor charity, but something that must be earned with hard work. Somewhere in our experiment with education, we have lost that message. It is not too harsh to say we may have altogether given up on education.
What remains is a certificate-spitting process that whets our lust for credentials more than our thirst for knowledge. We have miserably failed education at once in its backward and forward linkages. Our schools swarm with ill-fated slaves, who carry the burden of books made ever heavier with sciolism and ignorance.
Meanwhile, education has been eviscerated by organized efforts. Those who make policies, draw up curricula, design study materials, teach and study, they make a daisy chain of a zero-sum game, in which everyone else's gain has cumulatively bankrupted the ultimate beneficiaries: the students. That schools do not have an adequate number of teachers only adds to the growing string of disappointments where our nation is thriving at the expense of its children.