Role of a Teacher, as an Agent of “Social Change”

education teacher

The birth anniversary of second President of India, Dr. Surepalli Radhakrishnan ( who was born in brahmin family) is used to be celebrated as a teacher’s day on 5th september every year in our country with enthusiasm and dedications in schools and colleges across the nation. Dr. Radhakrishnan was also first Vice-President of our country and his contributions in education, philosophy and history is widely read and recognized by the India scholars.

However, a section of radical young Ambedkarites have argued that teacher’s day should be celebrated on 3rd January instead of 5th September because this day in 1831, a great educationist and first feminist Savitribai Phule was born in Maharashtra. She with the supports of her husband Jyotiraoy Phule and Fatima Sheikh had opened the schools in Maharashtra especially for educating the lower caste women, for the firs time in colonial India . As a teacher, Savitribai and her husband had not only educated the subaltern classes and opened girl’s schools for them but played a significant role in fighting against the brahmanical patriarchy and societal evils such as caste and gender based discriminations widely prevalent in the larger public sphere in colonial India. Feminists historians have argued that Savitribai should be seen as a first feminist thinker of India . Given the her contributions in field of education and social reform, a section of Dalits have strongly put forward a view that every year on 3rd January , a teacher’s day should be celebrated and given importance in the society and educational institutions too.

Having said that my purpose is not to raise the controversy regarding celebrations of teacher’s day, rather in this piece, I am more interested to highlight and understand what should be the role of teachers as an agent of social change in the Civil society. To be precise here, a role of ideal teacher should not be confined to impart only education in the classroom but she /he should also act as an agent of social change and try to fight against brahmanical patriarchy and societal problems such as in-humane

practices of untouchablity and religious orthodoxy widely prevalent in our society and politics even today. Here, I am not underating the role of Dr. Surepalli Radhakrishnan’s contributions in field of education , philosophy and as a great teacher, however, the role and contributions of Dalit- bahujan icons like Savitribai, Phule and Fatima Sheikh should not be forgotten and it should be equally recognized and celebrated in the schools and colleges. On the basis of my experience as a school’s teacher, I have noticed that students including teachers in the schools and colleges are not aware about the contributions of said bahujan icons. The students and teachers both are only aware about the contributions of Dr.Radhakrishanan in the field of education and philosophy.

Having said that let me come to the role of teacher as an agent of progressive change in civil society. On the occasion of teacher’s day, I would like to state that the role of teachers are very important in the realm of education, social reform, nurturing the students and the nation-building. In my understanding, an ideal teacher should have good academic qualities and committed to secular values and try to develop the sense of scientific temper and creative thinking among the students. The ideal teacher must play twins role in the larger society. On the one hand, she/ he as a teacher must perform their academic responsibilities with dedications and work hard to inculcate and promote educational and critical thinking among students especially to ask questions and speak to truth and surrender before the power. On the other hand, teacher as a public intellectual should also play a crucial role in the larger society and must dedicate their entire academic life in the service of the larger humanity. In other words, if any teacher wanted to become a role model for students and subaltern classes, he/ she must have a larger vision and try to inculcate ethical values such as honestly, compassion, discipline, devotion and sense of academic responsibilities within themselves and among the students. So that along with teachers students could also become an agent of social change . In doing so, he/she should play a socially responsible role in the society. It should be noted that the purpose of education will be served well when the students will have to move

beyond the prescribed textbooks and develop a sense of critical enquiry and should take firm stance about the problems witnessed by the subaltern classes. The students and teachers both must express their own dissenting voices and try to check the authoritarian tendencies of the ruling establishment.

Let me share the importance of teachers in my academic life. I was not thought of pursuing higher education in my academic life, because my socio-economic backgrounds was earlier not so sound to pursue higher education, however, due to thought provoking academic lectures of respective teachers in the classroom (during M.A. Political Science in University of Delhi in 2003-2005) , had inspired me to continue unabated my academic journey from the University of Delhi. The list of teachers is vary long who have had shaped and developed a critical thinking in my academic life . Let me take a few name of teachers here. The classroom’s lectures of eminent academics like Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Prof. Gopal Guru, Prof. Achin Vanaik, Prof. Rajeev Bhargava, Prof. Nivedita Menon, Prof. M.P. Singh, Prof. Ashoka Acharya, Prof. P.K. Dutta and last but not the least, my PhD supervisor, Dr. Saroj Giri , etc., who have shaped my academic thinking and developed sense of critical enquiry on the pertinent issues, our country is now witnessing.

Honestly speaking, these progressive minded teachers have had shaped my academic thinking and inculcated secular and democratic values. As a matter of fact , these stated backgrounds and context had motivated me to pursue higher education and doing research. So far, I have able to contribute more 100 articles on themes of education, social justice, women’s rights, secularism, communalism, human rights and minority rights, etc,.

On the said occasion, apart from my research, I am now as a teacher and part of the academic community especially associated with the left-leaning academic circles, committed to educate the students and try to nurture a good and amazing qualities among them in times to come.

In short, teacher’s responsibilities are not only to teach the students in the classroom and produce academic literatures while sitting at an ivory tower from distance past but they must play role of an organic intellectual (in the Gramscian sense) and articulate the genuine concern of subaltern masses in the larger society, as done by Phule, Periyar, Savitribai, Fatima Sheikh and of course Babasaheb Ambedkar in the colonial India. To my mind , an ideal teacher must play both as a role of a good teacher and stand with toiling masses especially whose children are not able to take the benefits of the classroom education because of rapid commercialization and privitation of public education happening in India since 1990s. These process has been further strengthened by the current political dispensation with much vigor.

In a given pathetic situations of our society, politics and education systems, besides the classroom’s teachings, we as the progressive and secular minded teachers in particular and civil society activists in general must perform their social responsibilities and try to fight against the larger problems like poverty, communalism ,caste system and gender based discriminations widely present in our society and politics today. It is to be noted that our schools and educational institutions both public and private are not immune from these social evils. In this sad scenario, teaching and academic community should become a role model for the students and need to motivate them in progressive direction. So that they can also become an agent of social change along with fulfilling their academic requirements. In other words, both teachers and students apart from educational activities in schools and colleges must become an agent of social change rather than maintaining statusquoist approach, as can be noticed today in the public domain.

The purpose of education and secular pedagogy is to bridge the gab between different social class, as recommended by Kothari commission in the late 1960s. However, it is sad commentary to note that successive governments including current ruling establishment has not taken seriously the recommendations of Kothari Commission so far to bring out social change in our hierarchical society.

The author is a research scholar, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi.


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