The role of a teacher in the 21st century is entirely different from that of the teachers in the 18th and the 19th centuries.
Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.
Rabindranath Tagore

India has learnt the lesson in the hard way that reliance on the tertiary sector is the key to eradicate poverty and build a stronger nation. Our reliance on the primary sector and the secondary sector proved fruitless. The tertiary sector of the economy refers to the service industry. If we want to see a flourishing and qualitative tertiary sector in our country, then we need to strengthen our education system from the grassroot level. The central government has taken a meaningful step toward this goal in the form of New Education Policy (NEP). In implementing the NEP, there are many hurdles and one such hurdle is preparing the teacher and the taught for the implementation of NEP. If not, the new education policy will prove to be a futile exercise. Have the state governments and the central government yet pondered over the role of the pedagogues in building the nation? Have we ever realized that most teachers in our country neither have the motivation nor have the desire to bring about a change in the lives of the children under their care?

Role of teachers in the nation building is a cliché-ridden topic. Nevertheless, the topic is still relevant in the present scenario. Indubitably, a teacher is the creator of tomorrow. He is a mentor and role model for the youngsters. The formative years of a child are like soft clay. Impressions are received, formed, and hardened during this period of life. An educator has a great responsibility in this regard. It is his responsibility toward the society. Lackadaisical and laid-back attitude of pedagogues toward their social responsibility has created generations that lack civic sense. Although it is pointless to compare our education system with that of other countries, the writer is compelled to point out the importance given to civic sense in Finnish and Japanese curricula. To cut the long story short, let us examine the role of a pedagogue in the process of nation building so that the educational philosophers and educationalists can zero in on the shortcomings of our teacher training facilities across the country as well as the ways to educate seasoned teachers who have been serving the society for decades without farsightedness and purpose.

21st century skills

The role of a teacher in the 21st century is entirely different from that of the teachers in the 18th and the 19th centuries. It is because of the availability of information. Students have access to information on their fingertips. A teacher is no longer regarded as the ultimate authority of knowledge in his field of expertise. A teacher of English literature is often a slave of classicalism and classical writers. He rarely explores the paradigm shifts in modern literature. Often students are more well-versed than the teacher in present-day-literature as they have access to Kindle and Project Gutenberg e-libraries. It has become absolutely necessary for the modern-day teacher to use the digital tools for training young minds. A hybrid mode or a convergence of conventional and digital resources is the key to win young hearts and to educate them. The American Philosopher Nancy Kassebaum has rightly said, “if we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” The responsibility of opening new vistas of digital and cyber skills is the sole responsibility of the school administrators and the governments.

New Wine in an Old Bottle

The career choices and career options have undergone a drastic change these days. The old and beaten two prong strategy (medicine or engineering) of the parents has seemingly lost charm these days as new career paths have emerged. Robotics to AI and Virology to wildlife photography have caught the fancy of many. A modern-day teacher should be someone who can help the students with their career choices. For that, teaching should evolve from mere imparting of knowledge to a skill-developer in tune with the needs of the learners. Students will certainly try out several multidisciplinary jobs and the teachers must focus on four Cs viz. critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. These are the four cornerstones of employability and hence, these skills must be given utmost importance. Education has a purpose and employability is one of the important purposes of education. However, a teacher should never promote rat race among the students. Value based education is also the responsibility of a teacher. Value based education should not be confused with religious teaching. ‘Let noble thoughts come to us from every side’ (Rigveda 1.89.1) is a mantra that every pedagogue should internalize for the 21st century learner must be a global citizen in thoughts and deeds.

Utilize the Cornucopia of Resources and Encourage the Use of Varied Resources

A new-era pedagogue should be able to direct his or her students to make use of a cornucopia of resources that is readily available for them. This should be done in accordance with the principles of multiple intelligence proposed by the great educational psychologist Howard Gardner. Some learners learn better through visual aids whereas some other learns learn way better than the rest through logical-mathematical intelligence or spatial intelligence. It is the responsibility of the new-era pedagogue to understand his or her students and suggest the most appropriate learning material for learners in accordance with their specific modalities of intelligence. While doing so, the teacher also should ensure that all resources are made use of. Z-library,, YouTube, Khan’s academy for reference, Bitsboard flash cards and games, Math fact master, Google public data, Trello, Apple and Google podcasts, BBC documentaries, Natural reader, Education place, Quia, Scratch jr, Lumosity, and Mindnode are a few learning materials available for the students and teachers to fill the teaching-learning process to brim with excitement and interest.

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Teacher as a motivator, communicator, and a third parent

In the past the first and foremost duty of a teacher was to transact the lessons to the taught apart from preparing lesson plans and give succinct classroom instructions from an unquestionable rulebook such as the almanac of the school. These fundamental duties remain more or less the same in theory but differ vastly in practice. Education is an arena that has not witnessed drastic and dramatic changes unlike automobile and computing fields. Although hybrid teaching, app-based learning, and online teaching have made inroads to the education industry, nothing much has changed in the brick-and-mortar classrooms. A few classrooms have become digital, a few private institutions have begun using smartboards. Chalk and blackboard have paved way for marker and whiteboard in cities, but village schools remain the same. Regardless of the infrastructural conditions and constraints, a teacher has three golden rules to follow-be it in a hamlet or in a cosmopolitan city. Motivate, communicate, and empathize. It has been rightly said that a superior teacher demonstrates, and the great teacher inspires. I am certain that the readers of this article will nod their heads in agreement with me when they look back and take a trip down their memory lane. There must be at least one teacher who has inspired you during your school or college days. A teacher must remain a motivator throughout. There are children who look up to their teacher for motivation. Although self-motivation is the best form of motivation, a child needs pump-priming to draw motivation from his own well. Discouraging, disparaging, sarcastic, and humiliating words from a teacher can adversely affect the mental development of his or her students.

Unlike in the past, a teacher has one more vital role to play – the role of a communicator. Modern nuclear families leave little room for interaction between the family members. Contrary to our expectations, keeping the gates of communication open with the school and the schoolteachers is nearly non-existent these days. A teacher has to chip in and inform the parents of the progress of the child on a regular basis. An attitudinal change is required in this regard. Most teachers often ask, “Why does n’t the parent show any concern?” Let us not wait for the parent to respond first. The teachers have to take it in their stride and must make it a point to communicate to the parents. The serious concerns and pieces of advice will certainly be appreciated by the parents. Teachers by following the maxim of ‘regular communication with the biological parents of their students’, will surely elevate themselves to the position of a third parent. Teaching is pure passion. Many choose to become teachers for the love of teaching and for the love of their subject. Teaching as a profession may not yield great monetary rewards if you compare teaching with other professions. However, there are not many professions that are fulfilling like that of teaching. When you receive a birthday message from a student whom you taught a decade ago will certainly spread a smile on your lips and a tug at your heart strings and a few teardrops of contentment. Money cannot buy that contentment and pride, for sure.

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A lifetime learner

As mentioned earlier, teaching the new generation kids has become challenging to the core. Tarradiddles and half-baked information can no longer be sold to the new generation learners whose hands constantly tap the touchscreens of their mobile devices. AI is the new oil and AI, augmented reality, and virtual reality along with personal assistants like Siri and Alexa have changed the landscape of knowledge acquisition radically. Hence it is of paramount importance to be a life-long learner. A teacher is a learner first and a teacher next. A teacher should be willing to unlearn, learn, and relearn constantly so as not to fall in the eyes of his students. With the 19th century repertoire, you cannot teach the 21st century learner. Knowledge is our arm and shield in this profession. Instead of sitting on our past laurels, a teacher must find time to constantly update and upgrade his knowledge for the fear of becoming obsolete in this most challenging profession that creates all other professions.

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