In the whirl of global education reforms, it is inevitable that education and its associated teaching profession have become a common topic in the office pantry. Most people will agree that education ought to be a necessity provided for all, not a privilege for those who can afford it, and I can’t agree more. But take it further and propose being teachers themselves, the opinion changes. Lack of covetable income is usually the reason. It is insufficient for the insatiable appetite of a capitalist economy and as part of this economy; we can not help but resign to our fates. Besides, the argument follows, being a teacher is noble but every one knows the ‘those who can’t do, teach’ stigma. No one intelligent would like to be seen as unintelligent and they wouldn’t be able to put their university-honed skills as well in the industry unless, of course, they studied education. Some would suggest being a short-term volunteer teacher, giving up money and comfort to bring enlightenment to an underprivileged soul. Bottom line is, either become (almost) a saint or don’t be a teacher.
These are viewpoints that I cannot hope to change as they are embedded in our culture. When I recently announced that I would be quitting my higher paid engineering job to explore teaching, I was met with extreme disappointment from my parents who didn’t speak to me for weeks after that. If I had chosen to be a volunteer, they would at least have agreed it was noble and something to be proud of. There’s nothing to be proud of in educating privileged children. At least, that was what they believed.
Education is empowerment. It enables the underprivileged to level the playing field and I have witnessed this enough times in my elite education to believe fully in the power of education. However with wealth, what more education can you give that can’t be bought? A good one would be my answer. I have had great teachers and not so good ones. Everyone had remarkable qualifications no doubt, but the great ones are those that had been transferred to the school due to their outstanding performance in other schools – for being a mentor more than a teacher. A great teacher is able to shape the children into the compassionate, mature and successful adults they later become. Following that train of thought, teachers can help privileged children in more than their academic studies; they can be their teachers in life and inspiration as well.
Think about it.
Inequality, for example, can be resolved by simply having a generation that is willing to share their wealth. In a recent article from the Arup thoughts website, the author talks about why engineers should become teachers at some point in their lives and how it is still relevant to the industry. If we have enough good teachers to inspire the next generation, we might be able to create a more holistic era. Idealistic as it sounds, it is like the familiar story of the man who throws a starfish back into the water. Even if a teacher only reaches one child in his/her life, it is worth the domino effect of the child displaying the spirit of charity in which he/she had been taught and in so doing, passing it on. What more if the child happens to have the wealth that could either make or stifle the change that society needs? No, being a teacher is not a noble career but neither is it one to be scoffed at. It is a career like any other except that the change they can make is more sociological than physical. And right now, perhaps that is what we need to create a greener, happier and morally wealthier society. So instead of committing the occupation to stereotypes, a reform is needed. This time it is to inspire new teachers not just of the under-privileged but for all children because morality is a necessity, not a privilege.