Teaching is one of the fundamental elements in the process of formal education. Effective teaching is often a requirement of the achievement of the educational goals. For this reason educators put lot of concentration on understanding the proper method of teaching. Many philosophers sketched the image of an ideal teacher from their self perspectives.
But teachers cannot always be as idealistic as they have been imagined in philosophical discourses. Though teaching is regarded as a ‘noble’ job in Bangladesh, it is not one of the most preferable jobs for young generation now particularly when they for teaching in the government primary schools. In Bangladesh, if we look the educational policies, we will find that the policies are not very supportive for the teachers. Low motivation factors, lack of opportunities for professional development, extremely high work load, scarcity of resources in the schools have really made the job of teaching difficult in the government primary schools in Bangladesh. So in such difficult reality, teaching like an ‘ideal’ teacher is almost an impossible job for the teachers.
This essay will try to explore some philosophical views on teachers, and then will describe the reality of teachers in government primary schools of Bangladesh. Finally, it will try to examine the controversial relationship between the philosophical view on teachers and teacher’s reality. The essay will also try to find out the policies which are responsible for this deviation in teachers from philosophical idealistic image to the practical realistic picture.
The Aim of ‘Education’ and ‘Teaching’
What is the Aim of Education, has always been a central focus of educational philosophy in different region of the world. Different educational philosophers expressed their views on the aim of education in different approaches. Aristotle considered Education as an essential mechanism for man to have self-realization and to achieve happiness which he believed as the supreme or divine good. In Aristotelian ethics, the arts (virtues, wisdom and happiness) of living are to be learned and learned through education (Hummel, 1993). Pashiardis (2009) mentioned that Aristotle’s philosophical leader Plato also believed that the one’s Virtue (Justice which is combined of bravery and wisdom) lie in the nature and quality of education that one receives. So it can be said that education is a process through which people make expected changes in their beliefs, behaviour and action. Human beings can learn informally through their experiences and formally from formal education process.
In formal education process, teacher plays an important role in students’ learning. Wragg (1984) explained teaching skills as strategies of teachers that they use to facilitate pupils learning. Leinhardt and Greeno (1986) argued that teaching is a complex cognitive skill based on knowledge about how to construct and conduct a lesson, and knowledge about the content to be taught. So teaching can be described as process where the teacher facilitates pupils learning by creating appropriate learning environment and applying effective methods.
Philosophical view about teachers
Who is an Ideal teacher or which qualities constitute a teacher Ideal? There is no straight forward answer to this question. There are a variety of concepts or images from different educators about an Ideal teacher.
Palmer (2003) accumulated different images of the Teacher from a range of educational philosophers, such as: the teacher as ‘midwife’ (Socrates); as ‘artist’ in the use of knowledge (Plato); as the conductor of dialogue (Bergman); as ‘purveyor’ of culture (Cicero); as ‘liberator’ (Freire); as one who focuses on teaching discipline (Breiter); as ‘role model’ (Aristotle); as ‘empiricist’ (Locke); as ‘trainer’ (Watson); as ‘educator’ in accordance with nature (Rousseau); as essentialist (Bagley); as ‘creative’ teacher (Luvenfeld); as ‘socialist’ (Barth); as ‘existentialist’ (Frankel); as ‘mediator’ (Feuerstein); as ‘child centered (Neill); and as postmodernist (Foucault).
Lamm (1972, 2000) categorized four major prototypes for Ideal teacher in his research, which are-
• Acculturation – Good teacher must provide cultures. So a good or ideal teacher has to be a cultured person having general knowledge and elements of culture and has to be able to transmit these elements to his/her students.
• Socialization – Good teacher must be an agent for socialization of his/her students which means a good teacher has to be able to transmit the social norms or in modern approach (after 1960’s) a good teacher should work as an agent for social change.
• Individualization - Good teacher should be a tutor who is able to develop or shape properly all his/her students. He/she should possess an open mind so that he/she would be well receptive by the students.
• Disciplinary expertise – Good teachers should have a keen knowledge on pedagogy or proper methodology they require for their teaching areas and also they need to undergo continuing education for updating themselves through research and studies on their teaching area.
Paulo Freire (1995), the famous Brazilian educator, also sketched his teacher which he named as progressive teacher. He mentioned certain qualities to be possessed by a progressive teacher such as-
• Humilities - A progressive teacher should be humble which implies to understand oneself with all his/her abilities and faults. Humility is a strong exercise that progressive teachers should always practice. Because humility implies some courage that progressive teachers need for teaching. It is not easy to practise humilities if teachers have contradictory feelings – “from wishing to be humble to finding it bad to be humble” as Freire (1995) described the contradictions of feeling about humbleness.
• Lovingness – Progressive teachers must have to have love. Teachers must love the very process of teaching. Teacher must have a passion for teaching as it involves ethics and aesthetics hand in hand. Teaching is beautiful in its ethics and teachers should love this beauty. A teacher cannot love his students unless he loves his job of teaching. Progressive teachers do not love students because they are students in the room where they are teaching, but they love the students to the extent in which they love the very process of being with them.
• Liberalism – Teacher should be liberal and should not try to make or transform his/her students into mere shadows of him/herself. Teacher should have the authority but also give the students their freedom. Authority and freedom are not contradictory but both can be achieved by having the other within a limit. Teacher should believe that both the teacher and his/her students are the subjects of the process of education.
• Tolerance – Progressive teachers must have tolerance. It is a quality that will allow creating something against some certain dimensions of oneself. It helps oneself to accept the change around him or to accept others view or opinion. Progressive teachers should understand that everyone has the right to be different from the others. Teachers should respect the individuality of the students.
In most modern societies, teaching is a profession. So teacher’s professionalism is also now considered as an essential quality for being effective teachers. But there are philosophical debates on teachers’ professionalism (Carr, 2005). The nature of professionalism in teaching is not like the ‘profession’ in law or in medicine where the lawyers or the doctors can be ‘impartial’ to their clients or patients regardless of their individual status such as race, colour, socio-economic or cultural capital. But if we look at the job of teaching carefully, a teacher must care the ‘interpersonal relationship’ with the students and concerned with special need or specific status of individual students. Carr (2005) made his point that teacher must know his pupils as ‘individual’ people and treat them as such.
Fullan (1993) mentioned that teaching is a moral profession at the core of it. Most young or beginner teachers start teaching with a perception that teaching is a noble profession and socially meaningful. It also gives teachers a sense of personal satisfactions. But Farber (1991) found in his research that with different personal issues and difficulties as well as social pressure, teachers become frustrated and they reassess the possibility of their investment of time and energy in teaching. So there seems to be a controversy between moral purpose of teaching and teaching in an effective and professional way.
Are ‘moral’ and ‘professional’ elements of teaching really contradictory? To answer this question Fullan (1993) came up with his new theme of teachers’ professionalism where he advised teachers to combine the ‘moral purpose’ of teaching with the skills of ‘change agentry’. This moral purpose will make the teachers to feel for the students, to be close with them where as the change agents will help them to develop effective strategies to achieve the moral goals. And to build the change capacity among teachers, Fullan (1993) and Senge (1990) mentioned about four core capacities such as ‘personal vision building’, ‘inquiry’, ‘mastery’ and ‘collaboration’.
Writer: Post-graduate student, University of Manchester, United Kingdom.