Teachers are the backbone of the education system, all across the world. They are the ones who impart knowledge to the new generation. They facilitate their students to identify and develop their skills, transforming them into wholesome and educated beings.
World Teacher’s Day was instituted by the UN and is observed annually on October 5th, from 1994 to highlight the contributions of the Teaching community.
Sanskrit has got four words Sikshak, Adhyapak, Acharya and Guru which are often used as synonym. Each of these words can be broadly understood as:
- Teacher being equivalent to Sikshak
- Professor being equivalent to Adhyapak
- Principle being equivalent to Acharya
- Guru doesn’t have an equivalent word in English. Hence it is used as Guru in all the languages.
Education is termed Shiksha in this land, and which comes from the Samskrt word, Shikshan. Shik means ‘to sparkle’ and Shana refers to a ‘touchstone’. Shiksana is a process where the special qualities of a student are identified, brought out and channelized so that at the end of education, the person is sparkling or shining. It the teachers who plays a pivotal role in this education process, and are known as Shikshak. The students are known as Shishya.
In this land, a teacher is not just somebody who passes on information, but teaches by example. Thus teachers of a higher grade are the principals. They are known by another special word “Acharya”, which means conduct. In other words, Acharya is one who brings about transformation in his students, through the example, and not just by transferring information. The Acharya not merely fills the mind, but also shapes the mind of his students.
Kinds of Education
There are two kinds of education:
- One that teaches us how to make a living
- One that teaches us how to live
An Acharya is the one who teaches us how to live, and also how to earn a living.
The education system that India followed before the Colonial invasion, catered to both the above aspects of education.
5 tier Education
In medieval India, there was a 5 tier education system, before the British arrived. In every street, there was a Pathashala and in every village, a Gurukula. We also had Vidyalaya for senior students and college level universities were called Mahavidyalaya. International universities were known as Vishva Mahavidyalaya.
Education system in medieval India
Acharya at the helm in all the above levels of education, were verily revered as divine. Thus we have the popular Samskrt saying, ‘Acharya Devo Bhava’.
In ancient India, the whole education system was of a different dimension. The educational institutions then were known as Gurukula. Guru is a word much bigger than Teacher. As a noun, the word means the imparter of knowledge. As an adjective, it means ‘heavy,’ or ‘weighty,’ in the sense of “heavy with spiritual wisdom”. Guru is one’s spiritual guide on earth. One is considered ‘orphan’ without a Guru.
In fact a Tamil saying describes the word “Guru” beautifully:
“Guru illaakru vidhaiyum illai, mudhal illaarku labamum illai”
i.e. This saying in Tamil means “The Person who has no Guru has no skill; just like a business without principle makes no profit.”
Gurukula System- An Artist’s Impression
Need for Change
In the modern era, a teacher is given not much respect but is instead looked up to, for the limited professional role that he / she plays and more often than not, only for a commerical purpose, for a pecuniary return.
It is because of this attitude both among the teacher and the student, that the role of the teacher has now come down from the exhalted pedestral. It is time to once again bring to light the role of a teacher.