TO SIR, WITH LOVE

The Peak (Malaysia) - - Peak Event -

As we cel­e­brate World Teach­ers’ Day this month, we need to look at ways we can make it a pro­fes­sion that will at­tract the best tal­ents avail­able.

My father was a teacher – he be­gan teach­ing when he was 20 and re­tired 35 years later. He was, by all ac­counts, con­tentious and dili­gent, and like all other teach­ers around the world, fondly re­mem­bered by some and not at all by oth­ers. A mod­est man in ev­ery as­pect, he was the fam­ily’s sole bread­win­ner, suc­cess­fully send­ing all three of his chil­dren through ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, the only thing, he as­sured us, we would in­herit from him. He en­cour­aged my love for read­ing by bring­ing home books from the school li­brary and pro­vided all we needed as best as he could. And, when it was my turn to think about a ca­reer, his only ad­vice was to never take up teach­ing.

Although he had come from a fam­ily of teach­ers – he was one of five brothers to go into ed­u­ca­tion – he was adamant that none of his chil­dren should fol­low his foot­steps, high­light­ing the poor job sat­is­fac­tion, lack of ac­cess to rel­e­vant teach­ing aids, end­less and, some­times, point­less pa­per­work and low salary. And, yet, there was al­ways that look of pride on my father’s face when an old stu­dent would stop and speak to him on the street – an­other one he had left a pos­i­tive mark on.

This month, we cel­e­brate World Teach­ers’ Day, which has been held an­nu­ally on 5 Oc­to­ber since 1994 and seeks to high­light the chal­lenges the pro­fes­sion faces, as well as its rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. The UN­ESCO In­sti­tute of Statis­tics es­ti­mates that the world needs nearly 70 mil­lion more teach­ers if we are to achieve uni­ver­sal pri­mary and se­condary ed­u­ca­tion by 2030 and the chal­lenge is re­ally in the re­cruit­ment. If the points my father made to stop me from me from be­ing a teacher re­main the case, it is un­likely this noble pro­fes­sion will at­tract the bright­est and the best. Which, con­sid­er­ing their du­ties of im­part­ing knowl­edge and val­ues to our young, is def­i­nitely what it needs.

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