The birth anniversary of the second President of India Dr. Surepalli Radhakrishnan (who was born in a Brahmin family) is celebrated as Teachers Day on 5th September every year in our country with enthusiasm and dedication in schools and colleges across the country. Dr. Radhakrishnan also served as the First Vice President of our country and his contributions to education, philosophy and history are widely read and recognized by Indian scholars.
However, some of the radical young Ambedkarites argued that Teachers’ Day should be celebrated on January 3 instead of September 5 because on this day in 1831, a great pedagogue and first feminist Savitribai Phule was born in Maharashtra. She with the support of her husband Jyotiraoy Phule and Fatima Sheikh had opened the schools of Maharashtra specifically to educate lower caste women, for the first time in colonial India. As a teacher, Savitribai and her husband had not only educated the lower classes and opened schools for girls, but had also played an important role in combating Brahmanical patriarchy and societal ills such as discrimination based on widespread caste and gender in the wider public sphere. colonial India. Feminist historians have argued that Savitribai should be considered India’s first feminist thinker. Considering his contributions in the field of education and social reform, a section of Dalits have strongly advanced the view that every year on January 3, the Teachers’ Day should be celebrated and have significance in society and educational institutions.
That said, my purpose is not to raise controversy regarding Teachers’ Day celebrations, rather in this piece I am more interested in highlighting and understanding what the role of teachers should be as agent of social change in civil society. To be specific here, an ideal teacher role should not be limited to providing education in the classroom only, but he/she should also act as an agent of social change and try to fight against Brahminical patriarchy and the problems of society such as inhumanity.
practices of untouchability and religious orthodoxy widespread in our society and politics even today. Here I am not underestimating the role of contributions of Dr. Surepalli Radhakrishnan in the 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 should also be recognized and celebrated in schools and colleges. Based on my experience as a school teacher, I have noticed that students, including school and college teachers, are unaware of the contributions of said bahujan icons. Students and teachers are only aware of Dr. Radhakrishanan’s contributions in the field of education and philosophy.
Having said that, let me come to the role of the teacher as an agent of progressive change in civil society. On the occasion of Teachers’ Day, I would like to declare that the role of teachers is very important in the field of education, social reform, education of students and nation building. According to my understanding, an ideal teacher should have good academic qualities and be committed to secular values and try to develop the sense of scientific temperament and creative thinking among students. The ideal teacher should play the role of twins in the wider society. On the one hand, as a teacher, he must discharge his academic responsibilities with dedication and work hard to instill and promote educational and critical thinking in students, especially to ask questions, speak truthfully and surrender to power. On the other hand, the teacher as a public intellectual should also play a crucial role in society at large and should devote his entire academic life to the service of humanity at large. In other words, if a teacher wanted to become a role model for students and junior classes, he/she must have a broader outlook and try to inculcate ethical values such as honesty, compassion, discipline, dedication and sense of academic responsibility within himself and among students. Thus, together with teachers, students could also become agents of social change. In doing so, he/she should play a socially responsible role in society. It should be noted that the purpose of education will be well served when students have to relocate
beyond prescribed textbooks and develop a sense of critical inquiry and should take a firm stand on issues faced by the lower classes. Students and teachers must express their own dissenting voices and try to control the authoritarian tendencies of the ruling establishment.
Allow me to share the importance of teachers in my academic life. I was not thought of pursuing higher education in my college life as my socio-economic background was not strong enough to pursue higher education, however, due to stimulating academic lectures from respective teachers in class (during in Political Science at the University of Delhi in 2003-2005), had inspired me to pursue my academic career tirelessly at the University of Delhi. The list of teachers is long and varied and has shaped and developed critical thinking in my academic life. Let me take a few teacher names here. The classroom lectures of eminent scholars like Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Prof. Gopal Guru, Prof. Achin Vanaik, Prof. Rajeev Bhargava, Prof. Nivedita Menon, Prof. MP Singh, Prof. Ashoka Acharya, Prof. PK Dutta and last but not least, my thesis supervisor, Dr. Saroj Giri, etc., who shaped my academic thinking and developed a sense of critical inquiry into relevant issues, which our country is currently witnessing.
Honestly speaking, these progressive-minded teachers shaped my academic thinking and instilled secular and democratic values. In fact, this background and background motivated me to pursue graduate studies and research. So far, I have been able to contribute more than 100 articles on the topics of education, social justice, women’s rights, secularism, communitarianism, human rights and minority rights , etc.
On this occasion, apart from my research, I am now as a teacher and a member of the university community, particularly associated with left-wing university circles, committed to educating students and trying to nurture good and amazing qualities among them at the time. come.
In short, the teacher’s responsibilities are not only to teach students in the classroom and produce academic literatures while sitting in a distant ivory tower, but they must play the role of an organic intellectual ( in the Gramscian sense) and articulate the true concern of subordinates. masses in society at large, as Phule, Periyar, Savitribai, Fatima Sheikh and of course Babasaheb Ambedkar did in colonial India. In my view, an ideal teacher must play the role of both a good teacher and stand alongside the working masses, especially whose children are unable to enjoy the benefits of classroom education due to the rapid commercialization and deprivation of public education that has been happening in India since the 1990s. These processes have been further reinforced by the current political dispensation with great vigour.
In given pathetic situations of our society, politics and education systems, in addition to the teachings of the classroom, we as progressive and secular teachers in particular and civil society activists in general must assume their social responsibilities and try to tackle larger problems like poverty. , communalism, the caste system and discrimination based on gender are widely present in our society and our politics today. It should be noted that our schools and educational establishments, both public and private, are not immune to these social scourges. In this sad scenario, the teaching and academic community should become a role model for students and must motivate them in a progressive direction. So that they can also become an agent of social change while fulfilling their academic requirements. In other words, both teachers and students outside educational activities in schools and colleges must become an agent of social change rather than maintaining a status quo approach, as can be seen in the field today. audience.
The aim of secular education and pedagogy is to bridge the gap between different social classes, as recommended by the Kothari commission in the late 1960s. However, it is sad to see that successive governments, including the he current ruling establishment, have not taken seriously the recommendations of the Kothari Commission so far to bring about social change in our hierarchical society.
The author is a researcher in the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi.