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Teaching As A Career: The Future?

Posted: September 2, 2010

Is teaching as a career option for Indian women dying? In time for Teachers Day, we examine what was once the working woman’s first option.

By Suganya Lakshmi

Remember a time when teaching as a career option for Indian women was considered the most “suitable”?  Since the 90s though, career options in India have multiplied (exploded!) and teaching no longer holds the charm it did. Why would it, considering the low pay, no extra perks or benefits, unlimited responsibilities and poor management?

Admission in B.Ed courses is declining rapidly, and it is difficult to find teachers with the same passion for teaching as in the past. Nevertheless, as Teachers Day (September 5th) approaches, Women’s Web spoke to a few young teachers, all under 30, in an attempt to understand what draws them to the profession.

The charm of teaching as a career

“For me teaching is less about the money and more about the sense of satisfaction I feel when I help a child accomplish a difficult task,” says Niva Manivannan, a part-time tutor for children with learning difficulties at a private tuition centre in Chennai. “I love children. They say, ‘find what you love doing and make a career out of it’ and that’s what I did, so I have no regrets!”  

Another young teacher, Samah, who teaches at a primary school in Chennai echoed her sentiments. “Teaching, especially young children isn’t for everyone. You need to have a certain level of patience and interest in children. Children are very easily influenced and it’s our job to guide them. If you’re thinking of choosing teaching as a career, do it for the right reasons.”

Teaching, especially young children isn’t for everyone. You need to have a certain level of patience and interest in children. Children are very easily influenced and it’s our job to guide them. If you’re thinking of choosing teaching as a career, do it for the right reasons.

The teaching profession: Not ‘easy’

Contrary to popular perceptions, the ‘right reasons’ are not that it is an ‘easy’ job with shorter working hours. Sure, it may seem like a less taxing job when compared to the long hours in other industries but teaching comes with its own sources of stress.

“People tend to assume that teachers have it easy,” says Madhi Jamal, a lecturer at the under-graduate level at a co-ed college in Hyderabad. “Yes, we do work less hours and get our fair share of holidays but the demands of the job are equally high. Parents tend to hold you responsible if their children fail to perform in examinations or bunk college. There is only so much we can do; students too have to take an initiative to excel in their class work.” 

This is of course besides the demands that most school managements place on teachers – to do administrative work, help during admissions, qualify themselves further and even organize events or raise funds for school causes.

Anuya Ulpe did not fall into teaching accidently. Holding a first class degree and masters to boot, this young woman gave up a corporate job and 6-figure salary to pursue her first love – teaching. “I always wanted to teach-ever since I was little. I loved most of my teachers and a lot of what I know today and who I am, I owe to them. Most of them have clearly had a great impact on me in ways more than one,” she says. Now teaching at a prominent all-girls college in Bangalore City, Anuya is quick to defend a decision which few are brave enough to take. “I have no regrets whatsoever. Having left a six figure salary for this was one of the best decisions I made. I can now go to bed and tell myself that what I did today meant something and made some difference. My journalism course made me a better writer and my corporate job made me a professional – these qualities I bring into my current job.” 

It is well known of course, that teachers are paid a pittance when compared to other jobs, with private school teachers often being paid wages that have no relation to the value they add to children’s lives.

Wider career options for Indian women?

It is well known of course, that teachers are paid a pittance when compared to other jobs, with private school teachers often being paid wages that have no relation to the value they add to children’s lives. “I know I can get a better paying job,” says Niva. “At the end of the day however, how many of those in corporate jobs can report 100% job satisfaction? How many of them can say that they made a difference in someone’s life? That’s the kind of feeling all the money in the world can’t buy.”

Ameena Taher, a mass communication and media teacher at an all-girls college in Bangalore, is hopeful of change though. She says, “I think through teaching I can bring a change in our society by talking and motivating my students… Sometimes it does bother me that I’m not paid on par with my other batch mates who chose different industries but I hope someday that teachers will get the pay scale they deserve. For now, I’m satisfied doing what I love doing.”

Anuya sums it up when she says, “The quality of service and level of remuneration cannot be compared to another field…If it were to bother me, I would not have made this decision!” Still, it cannot be denied that attitudes such as these are rare. Most women are now keen to earn well while doing something they love. Nor can every woman afford to miss the chance for better money. If school managements don’t wake up in time, we may soon have Teachers Day with very few good teachers worthy of any celebration!

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