Why Top Graduates From India Are Taking To Teaching at Government Schools

The #MeToo cries have currently taken the internet and the social media by storm, thanks to Harvey Weinstein. The victimized men and women want people to realize the magnitude of the problem, and boy, it is rather sad to see every second post on your feed being another confession. So now, we have it. We have had the galls to accept the problem, men and women are, apparently, willing to do something about it. As more and more people join the movement, the questions being raised become more and more sensible and relevant. People are now looking for the root cause of the problem. They don’t have to dig too deep. As all of our public debates generally end, this one also ends on the unanimous assertion and muffled acceptance that it’s the system that needs to be blamed. Be it corruption or education (or the lack of it), societal mindsets or poverty, somehow, the whole weight of the problem comes onto ‘the system’. Well, I think that’s good too. We have accepted the existence of the problem and now diagnosed the cause, too. Now, we get to pull up our sleeves and work on it.

How does one change a system? Because systems come with rigid mindsets, which, in turn, have been passed on and inherited from one generation to the next with great care and pride. It is here that we can appreciate the role that education would play in influencing and moulding the minds of the young. But then again, our education system is infested with myriad problems of its own which are again a part of the system. What’s more, it prides itself in preparing crores of people to thrive in this system and become the replacing cogs in the wheel whose journey doesn’t seem to end. So what do we do now? We bring in people who have been victims of this system and who are aware of it. We also ensure that they have the requisite intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and the resources and tools to facilitate the process of devising better pedagogies to impart impactful learning. In other words, we get the youth to participate and contribute. Various fellowship programmes and initiatives have been started and are now thriving to cater to this need of the hour. Teach For India, the Gandhi Fellowship Program and Azim Premji Foundation Fellowship are just a few of such distinguished programs. These programs train the fellows and then they are expected to work on improving the assigned government schools for a stipulated time.

Apoorv Shah, a Teach For India (TFI) fellow writes in his blog that he joined the fellowship because he had seen how a good teacher could change the life of a student and how a bad teacher could destroy it too. He had wanted to be that good teacher for someone and that he’s glad that he did it. Subhag Raj, an MBA graduate, took up the Gandhi fellowship because he always had been inclined to work in the development sector. For graduates taking up teaching in government schools, the motivation is, more often than not, intrinsic. They realize that they can be a part of the contributing factor in the greater good and that is where they find their satisfaction. Private schooling is lucrative and hence is seen more as a business opportunity than as a means for social development.

Reducing all private schools to that would be unfair. There are schools who aim for holistic development of the child but are they enough for a population so large and geographically scattered? India has around 71% of its population studying in government schools. Also, it is these institutions that require efficient human capital more than their private counterparts. The millennials, armed with decent education and fresh mindsets and heapfuls of optimism have taken the onus upon themselves to create a better future for the less privileged section of the society and thus ensure its empowerment. It’s always the satisfaction and the sense of being a part of the greater good, the power to influence and shape another life and then another and then another that drives them to do that. Saurabh Singh, another TFI fellow says that being greeted by the children with an enthusiastic smile everyday is what makes another hectic, crazy day worth all the exhaustion. Manoj Kalyani, who also left a well-paying job to teach in a government school elaborates. He says nowhere else would one find a more welcoming and energetic environment each day. As W. Somerset Maugham says, “It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.” And these graduates would know!

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