Very soon, quite like legal and medical practitioners, teachers will be bound by a code of ethics and will undergo an oath in a bid to instill professionalism.
A four-member committee of the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) has unveiled a mechanism for registration of individuals eligible for teaching in schools. Freshly-appointed teachers are to be administered an oath to observe a 23-point code of professional ethics to enhance the dignity of their profession.
The committee, led by former NCERT director, A K Sharma, has drawn up a three-tiered code listing the obligations of teachers towards students, parents, society and their colleagues. This of course, implies that there will be further committees set up to deal with violations of the code. The penalties range from issuing advisories to withdrawal of eligibility or cancellation of registration prohibiting erring teachers from taking up the profession.
The code, while imposing restrictions on teachers from lowering the esteem of a child in front of others, obliges them to demonstrate love and affection to all students, irrespective of their achievement level. Once the code is in place, teachers will have to maintain confidentiality of information concerning students, their family, culture and community. The draft code states “A teacher should understand the difference between education and propaganda and in no case should use the platform of the school for the propagation of his/her personal views about different religions, regions or castes... While discussing current social and political conflicts in the country, the teacher should refrain from taking sides and should always present a balanced and objective view of the conflict,”
The code is being framed in the backdrop of the newly-implemented Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 which has a bearing on the duties and responsibilities of teachers. NCTE will evolve a procedure for registration of eligible teachers and the responsibility for registration will be shouldered by the state councils for education research and training.
Teachers would also have to politely refuse expensive gifts from students, parents and even from book publishers and science equipment suppliers. Given that a large part of the upper market schooling system in cities like Bangalore has teachers expecting gifts from students and suppliers, this certainly is a move in the right direction. It is quite well known in the industry that teachers and administrative staff of schools are regularly bribed by book distributors and retailers for maintaining business. Very often implants of publishers are appointed into the school administrative system that help in administration and are on the bribe roll of the local book supplier.
The draft code is under review currently. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) Karnataka advisor and educationist A S Seetharamu says it is difficult to justify a need for such a code for teachers. “All doctors today are administered an oath on professional ethics. But if you ask me whether they abide by it, it becomes difficult for me to answer,” he said. Perhaps Mr Seetharamu is unaware of the current situation or prefers to be unaware.
A more reasonable and practical Primary and secondary education minister Vishveshwar Hedge Kageri welcomed the move saying ”In today’s context there is a need for such a code. The state, too, is planning a similar code for teachers and we are holding consultations with stakeholders. This code, however, will be voluntary,”. And the last sentence is Mr Hegde Kaveri's statement is what keeps the code completely open to continuing of corruption which is so rampant among schools. The question is whether schools and teachers sign up for this, or how many teachers will stand up to be counted?