Educational Pursuits: Public Service, Not Personal Gain

Educational Pursuits: Public Service, Not Personal Gain

Posted on: Sat, 03/16/2024 - 17:34 By: admin
Public education


                        Educational Pursuits: Public Service, Not Personal Gain


"Education is a public service" counts the National Education Policy (NEP) as the fundamental principles that will guide the path of education in India. The new education policy has maintained the commonly held belief that education is the fundamental component for a more just and equitable society, and thus it cannot be a personal affair. Education is essentially a public affair. In this background, let’s explore a common challenge which professionals face in their professional circle in general, and in education, in particular.


Many teachers have confided with me that they are discouraged from engaging in the pursuit of learning. Such endeavors are often portrayed as ‘personal work for personal gain’; a totally misunderstood phenomenon. In fact, such assertions are against the fundamental principle, i.e., "Education is a public service". The arguments given for such discouraging acts are that in the service, one needs to engage in what one has been appointed for. In the case of teachers, it’s teaching, and therefore any act of learning is seen as delinquency. Whereas research suggests that teaching without learning is like hopping on one leg. One can only walk properly when one walks on two legs; teaching and learning cannot be separated. Teaching deprived of learning is not teaching but mere supervision in the classroom.


One can argue that if it is related to the subjects of the teacher, then it is fine. Otherwise, if a history teacher is learning mathematics with the aim to qualify in a competitive examination, how can it be justified? The simple answer is that a history teacher with knowledge of mathematics will be able to make more cross-disciplinary connections while teaching the subject. Imagine how much math is required when teaching timelines in history, or estimating the lives of people by mathematically operating upon the GDP of an era and the population. A teacher, whenever found engaged in learning for whatever purpose, is actually engaged in the most authentic work of teaching. Merry Roche, a primary teacher from Ireland, has proved through her doctoral research that students learn better when they see their teachers learn. A teacher who is always learning is far better than one who simply teaches without continuing to learn.



A learning person in any profession is far better as a professional compared to people who do not engage in learning. In teaching, it’s beyond the capacity of the teachers to withhold what he/she has learned from sharing with students and the colleagues around. In the profession of teaching, learning by a teacher is directly proportional to his/her teaching; rather, the teaching becomes more magical. Not because a learning teacher knows more, but because he/she is aware of the vulnerability and the challenges a learner faces when he/she goes through the process of learning. Such teachers connect deeply with students.


Unfortunately, there aren’t many opportunities for teachers to learn, and those opportunities that are created through mandatory training are against the principles of andragogy; how adults learn. They cannot be forced to learn against their will. The only effective way is to promote all their initiatives to learn. This could be in several different forms, including preparation for competitive examinations, writing, presenting or attending conferences, pursuing higher education, online courses, or availing fellowship opportunities. In my understanding, this is the only effective way to promote learning among teachers, and such learning opportunities lead to professional development.


In this context, a remark that a teacher is involved in personal pursuit (if he/she is engaged in higher education) is against the principles of education policy, but also demonstrates a lack of common sense understanding. All educational experiences are shared experiences. Let’s read what Dewey (1916) writes in the classic book "Democracy and Education" to understand it even better:


"When the mother is taking the infant outdoors, she says “hat” as she puts something on the baby’s head. Being taken out becomes an interest to the child; mother and child not only go out with each other physically, but both are concerned in the going out; they enjoy it in common. By conjunction with the other factors in activity, the sound “hat” soon gets the same meaning for the child that it has for the parent; it becomes a sign of the activity into which it enters. The bare fact that language consists of sounds which are mutually intelligible is enough of itself to show that its meaning depends upon connection with a shared experience."


The pursuit of education can never be personal; it’s always public.