5 Sep ; President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil addressed the teachers honoured with National Awards for the year 2009 here today on the occasion of Teachers’ Day. Following is the text of the speech of President on this occasion:
“On Teachers’ Day, I am indeed very happy to be with all of you. On this day, we celebrate the work being done by teachers all across the nation, as well as remember the life of a great educationist and our former President Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, whose birth anniversary falls today. I extend my warm greetings and felicitations to all the teachers, particularly those have been recognized through the National Awards for their meritorious service.
Last year on this occasion I was not with you, as I was in Russia on a State Visit. Yet, my thoughts were with you, as on this day, I was in the city of St. Petersburg, at a Russian School established on the 10th anniversary of India’s Independence. I was greatly impressed with the interest amongst the students and teachers of this school in a foreign country about our culture. I believe that an appreciation of the diversity that exists in our world invariably broadens horizons and promotes understanding between peoples. Today, in a globalized world, it is all the more necessary that our children understand these inter-linkages, as also the human values of love, respect and tolerance, which are essential for a peaceful world. It is, therefore, vital that teachers emphasize the importance of these values, which are a part of our country’s ancient civilizational heritage. Students should be made to think in terms of the welfare of humankind and progress of the nation. I am sure all teachers, whether they teach social sciences, environmental studies, science or mathematics, subjects very important in themselves, would also inculcate in their students a sense of pride in our cultural heritage.
Teachers have always been given a special place and respect in our society, as they prepare children to be active and responsible participants in society. This profession is noble as it involves imparting the precious gift of knowledge to the youth. The question may arise that in an age where there is so much information available in books, on television and the myriads of vehicles of electronic transmission, what is the role of a teacher? In this environment their role has only expanded. They have to interpret the vast information, often guiding children in distinguishing between what is relevant and what is not. This is important so that children are not submerged in a barrage of information, but instead develop an understanding of events and happenings around them by analyzing them. Moreover, teachers must inculcate in their students the approaches and principles that constitute civilized human behaviour. Even the best of technology of today cannot do this. That is why teachers have been called Acharyas in our ancient texts, as they teach the norms of conduct to the next generation. Thus, for teachers the Vichar or thought and knowledge that is transmitted by them to their students, should be as important as the Achar or conduct that their students are grounded in. This is crucial today, as our nation is passing through a period of economic transformation. In such phases, the anchor is usually found in values such as tolerance, understanding and respect for different opinions. We are a large, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and pluralistic society. The youth therefore, must develop an attitude that embraces all and which unites rather than divides. They must be responsible citizens. If our teachers do this well, then, along with prosperity, we shall have a society which is caring and compassionate. As Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan said, “The aim of education is not the acquisition of information, although important, or acquisition of technical skills, though essential in modern society, but the development of that bent of mind, that attitude of reason, that spirit of democracy which will make us responsible citizens.” Indeed, a comprehensive education system would help shape the younger generation into one that has a sound ethical base and a strong sense of social responsibility.
Today, one sees the disturbing trend of ragging in our institutions of higher education. I have often said that this practice is not healthy, as it is a manifestation of intolerance on the part of senior students towards their juniors, who are new to the campus. It must be strongly condemned and should not take place in any institution of the country. You have a role in preventing it.
Schools are the basic units of an educational system, where children spend the formative years of their lives. It is here, that the process of learning begins, and the opportunity is given to children to acquire skills and values necessary for their growth as confident and self-assured adults. The coming into force of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act is a historic milestone. It places greater responsibility on all stakeholders. The challenge before teachers is to ensure that children actively participate in school activities. They particularly in rural and distant areas, should hold classes regularly and ask students to attend school every day. They should remain in contact with parents and pay personal attention to the difficulties that their students may face.
Good teaching is a long term investment. It is said, that in the teaching profession the fruit is often invisible for a long time. The results can be seen only when their students begin to bear the responsibilities of their families, society and the nation. Gurudev Tagore, who started the well known Shantiniketan, wanted teachers to help young children to grow on their own, as a gardener helps young plants to grow. In Gurudev Tagore’s view, the higher aim of education was the same as that of a person’s life, that is, to achieve fulfillment and completeness.
Students should be made aware of the many hues of life, and the reality that along with opportunities, there will invariably be obstacles and difficulties. Challenges are a daily occurrence, we should not get intimidated by them, but rather learn to surmount them. As self discipline is that one quality which can help tide over many difficulties, due emphasis must be placed on this aspect.
If our youth, are to be utilized for building up a new country, a new India, a new society, the beginning must come from the teachers themselves. You must not only be a teacher, but more. You must be a facilitator, friend, philosopher and guide to those whose lives you mould. I am sure that our teachers, by the dint of their hardwork and their passion, whether in schools in our cities or in our remotest villages, will strive to achieve high levels of professional work. You must constantly upgrade your teaching methodologies so that children get quality education. Use new techniques to make lessons more interactive and effective. Moreover, in-service teachers’ training is an important aspect of a good education system. It enables teachers to renew their teaching skills.
With these words, I once again convey my best wishes to all the teachers assembled here and in the country, and wish you all the very best in your careers.”