As teachers around the globe, especially in the US and the UK, are being reminded of the importance of maintaining the balance between influencing students and imposing their own thought process on them, Indian teachers too believe this is important, especially considering that students here too come from diverse backgrounds.
“The idea of maintaining a balance in influencing students and making sure that you do not impose your thought process on them is in itself a very sensitive topic and that too in higher education,” Poornima Gupta, Associate Professor, Organisational Behaviour and HRM, at Great Lakes Institute of Management told Indianexpress.com. She said this is more important in India where students come from different castes, class, community and regions. Prof Gupta added that during higher education, students are actively picking up things by observing and looking for influences in their life.
But how can this balance be maintained while ensuring that teachers continue to have a positive influence on their class? Daviender Narang, Director, Jaipuria Institute of Management, Ghaziabad said the “sole purpose of education can be solved only if the teacher is unbiased and (they) maintain the same with students”.
Avoid the topics
Some teachers are of the opinion that no subject should be off limits while interacting with students, and everything should be impartial, but Indian institutes seem to have taken a different approach in such situations.
Prof Gupta told Indianexpress.com that their faculty members avoid getting into debates that can lead to controversial discussions. “We do not discuss politics with students. Although, we do have certain discussions among the faculty because our ideologies are not the same but we have healthy debates, and we agree to disagree,” she added. “We make sure we do not impose our ideologies on children. We do not talk about politics or reveal what stand we take on political issues in front of students.”
Backing this, Sandhya Gatti, Head of Pedagogy and professional development, Chaman Bhartiya School, said teachers should be deeply aware of their own actions and words. “It is incumbent that teachers develop the ability to be highly objective in their approach, be aware of their own thoughts and actions, and learn to question their own biases and prejudices regularly with their peers and colleagues,” she added. “Regularly challenging and questioning our own set ideas and beliefs, working toward cultivating a growth mindset, being aware of the world our learners are in, will find its way into objective discussion of concepts and real-world issues in the classroom.”
Meanwhile, students indianexpress.com spoke to underlined that such situations are rare in the Indian system. “I completed my undergraduation three years back and now my brother is in his second year, but neither of us have faced a situation in school or college where our teachers or professors have tried to tell us what we should believe in,” an MBA student from Delhi who did not want to be named. “Maybe we have been lucky because we are in the capital, but I really believe that there are very rare cases where teachers impose their thoughts on students.”
Another student from Chandigarh had a slightly different view. “We have had some situations where political jokes have been made, and during our sociology classes, the teachers have at times gotten into political discussions,” said Divyanshi Sharma, a second-year student of BA Psychology in Panjab University. “However, this was pretty common in our school. Political Science teachers used to often get into debates about political parties. During demonetisation days, one of the teachers had even ranted about the party in power introducing GST.”