Who are our teachers?

14 May 2019 / 20:02 H.

TOMORROW is Teachers Day. We all owe it to our teachers to be where we are now. To describe who are the teachers may not as easy. ‎But movies like To Sir with Love or our own Adiwiraku may help to give some ideas of who can qualify as teachers. Generally, they are the ones who make an impact on us and our lives. And thus they become the heroes or icons or even angels to us depending on the kind of experience that is etched in our memories.

If that is the case, then “teachers” need not be the persons that are confined to educational institutions like schools and universities. Our parents could just be the teachers that we need to recognise. For without them it is hard to imagine where we will be. But we often take things for granted. Sometimes we “believe” more in the school teachers than the ones at “home”. Even though what they say is almost identical.

Somehow the former command more respect perhaps due to their “qualifications”. This may be where the breakdown is, when the dichotomy becomes too wide to reconcile, leaving schools to have the upper hand. Moreover there is this obsession with examinations and grades and this is entirely dependent on the teachers. And teachers can really make the difference; they can either make it or break it for the students. A powerful differentiator that put the teachers way above the parents when it comes to the crunch.

But wait a minute, learning is now said to be everywhere – lifelong is the word. Some add: Anytime and any place from just about anybody who cares to “teach”. ‎The community in this case has a pool of teachers giving rise to the axiom: “It takes a village (read community) to educate a child”. This is definitely true in very close-knit communities where the boundaries of families are indeed blurred. It is almost like one happy family that makes the community. And members are responsible for the welfare of one another – a concept so much alive in the East where it is more community-oriented rather than being individualistic as in the more developed and elitist settings.

But then again, the notion of a community has changed with the advent of technology.

The reach is greater and wider, cutting through geopolitical limits imposed physically. ‎

So who is the teacher now. Some said Mr Google, Dr or Ustaz Google (or any of your favourite browsers) as the case maybe.

We do not need a face-to-face situation anymore as claimed by many. At the most a blended version. Yet in such a world of virtual reality, “depression” and suicidal tendencies dominate. And it is a worrying trend worldwide.

In most cases, it translates into behavioural problems (bullies, sexual harassment, etc) which seems to contradict what is advocated through education and learning.

Like it or not such occurrences point back to the individual concerned. Meaning to say, the “real” teacher is the self as reflected by Unesco’s Four Pillars of Learning, where one of which is, “Learning to Be” as described by Jacques Delors in his report for Unesco on Education in the 21st Century. The others are “Learning to Live Together”, “Learning to Know” and “Learning to Do”.

The latter two are something that we are familiar with in formal teaching mainly, meaning that the other two are often left unattended. This is when the Falsafsah Pendidikan Kebangsaan should come in full swing – developing critical self-concept, character- and capacity-building with vital values embedded in balanced and harmonious ways within the definition of “kesejahteraan diri”. This at once creates a sustainable worldview at all levels as to how we see ourselves as part of the larger community if not humanity.

In other words, “Learning to Be” must be actively addressed and constructed so that the students can “teach” themselves, especially when faced with challenging circumstances of education without soul ushered in by the rise of machines.

Looks like we are back full circle but this time the question is not so much who are the teachers? But rather what are teachers? It is something that we need to figure out moving into the 21st century so that education is not just about “doing” and “knowing”, but more fundamentally “being” and “living” as human beings and becoming.

Happy Teachers Day anyway.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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