Why we should celebrate and support teachers

As Teachers’ Day is being celebrated across India, we, at Educate for Life, salute our teachers who give shape to our vision of creating an inspiring rural school and changing the landscape of education in India step by step. Our Co-founder and CEO, Ed Forrest, writes about how our teachers accomplish this in an extremely challenging rural context of complex systemic challenges of poor health and living standards. In this blog, he talks about an ecosystem of support that has been developed to help rural teachers achieve great results and the commitment and dedication our teachers have shown towards making learning meaningful, fun and empowering for our children.

Today, on Teachers’ Day, we celebrate our teachers. This day could not be any more deserving. Finland has the highest quality education in the world. It is also one of the few countries where teaching is the most highly respected profession. India, where teachers in rural areas receive next to no support, has education standards that decline year on year. That’s no coincidence.

Teaching, done well, is one of the hardest professions, working at all hours to care for and protect the lives of the young, so that they may have happier, healthier childhoods and grow into fulfilled and capable adults.

Teachers have to be able to teach, manage complex groups with complex personal and social needs, identify children that need extra support and provide it, understand child psychology, work with difficult parents, try and change parental attitudes, and do it all under massive systemic and cultural expectations that the children should be passing exams, winning competitions, and generally excelling. In rural education in India, the outcomes of the education are almost never considered in the context in which they happen – take Bakhel, where two in three children suffer from malnutrition, only 2% have toilets at home so they get sick more, and one in seven dies before their fifth birthday. Imagine having to handle all of that as a background while trying to help the children learn well.

Educate for Life salutes the Hunar Ghar teachers, and is committed to supporting them. Be that through regular class observations, organising training from organisations like Apni Shala, bringing in systematic support from Adhyayan, or clear written direction from our Teachers’ Handbook – we recognise what a tough job they do and want to do everything we can to empower them to do a great job as a teacher, and appreciate that.

It seems to be working. Our teachers have an 89% attendance rate (compared to 75% nationally and 25% in nearby schools) and our children have learning outcomes 20-30% higher than the rural state average. Our teachers also create an environment where our children learn to be creative, curious, and independent learners. Their care is paramount, and their great learning outcomes secondary. Clearly that works too, otherwise why would enrolment have increased 60% this year, and 100% of our children graduating from Class 8 gone on to enrol in Class 9 hostel schools (46% national average).

Every team member anywhere in the world needs appreciation and support. Where the challenges are greater, the need for this is greater. We salute our teachers on this Teachers’ Day, and reiterate our commitment to finding and sharing ways to support more teachers across rural India, so they too can feel appreciated, fulfilled, and change learning experiences and outcomes for the better for marginalised rural communities.

Unless and until India learns to make its teachers the most highly respected profession, history will keep on repeating itself, teachers continue to suffer, and children continue to be failed in being given the best possible start to life.