NEW DELHI: With some incidents of harsh punishments meted out to children apparently weighing heavy on his mind, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh Saturday said the school environment should be “free from fear, trauma and anxiety” to make the Right to Education (RTE) a grand national movement.
“The RTE Act bans corporal punishment and mental harassment. It also bans detention and expulsion. These provisions have led many teachers to question how discipline will be maintained in the classroom,” he said.
Addressing the National Award winning teachers at his residence on the eve of Teacher’s Day, Dr Singh said that no child, irrespective of caste, gender or community should dread the thought of going to school.
Every year September 5, the birth anniversary of former President Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, is celebrated as Teacher’s Day.
He said that the answer to the issue of maintaining discipline was given by philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti who said, “Discipline is an easy way to control a child, but it does not help him to understand the problems involved in living…If the teacher can give full attention to each child, observing and helping him, then compulsion or domination or discipline in any form may be unnecessary”.
Noting that the government was committed to providing quality education to all, Dr Singh said that time has come to ensure that every child in the country has the opportunity to exercise his or her right to an education of equitable quality and making the RTE a “grand national movement”.
“The educational system in our country is at a very critical juncture,” the Prime Minister said stressing the need to maintain the fine balance between tradition and continuity between tradition and modernity on the one hand, and innovation and change on the other.
Observing that teachers as front-line participants in educational reforms and nation’s “most precious national resource”, he said, “Sadly, teachers are often excluded from policy-making, governance and management of our educational system as also from day-to-day instructional strategies and decision making.
Dr Singh said as part of educational reforms, the country must emphasise on the empowerment of teachers and that includes real opportunity for them to share policy perspectives and decision-making in pursuit of educational development and reforms.
“It is my belief that all teachers are creative and talented people. Teachers respond remarkably when they are respected and included in the decision-making integral to their work in the classroom,” he said.
Teachers gain a sense of ownership over their work and their classrooms, when they were involved in the development of the curriculum, designing of the syllabus, making and selecting of teaching materials leading to their own intellectual and professional development, Dr Singh said.
However, the Prime Minister said one critical area that all teachers must reflect upon was equality and inclusiveness of educational system.
“If efforts to increase student access, learning and retention in elementary and secondary education are to succeed and make headway, relevant and empowering teacher education is of critical importance. This is particularly true of women teachers who must serve as positive role models for our society at large,” he said.