We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Good professors? What are they?

Education could make or break a country's future. I have had chance to see how a professor could make a student learn better and in more understanding and confident way in my university, now while I am doing masters. I have had chance to see how a bad professor could do exactly opposite while I was doing my undergraduate engineering while in India. That brings and raises lot of questions about the role of a professor,teacher, parent in my mind.

When a child is growing he /she has lot of questions that are posed by his/her surroundings around him/her. What role adults play in developing that curiosity? Computer Science as being perceived in India is much different than what it is. Computer Science is not IT. Why do then Indians mostly relate IT to the computer science? Lots of unrelated questions. What does a professor has to do with all this? More on this in a later post someday.

Well, a child gets on the right track if she is guided correctly during the growing up years. The role a parent/teacher plays is very important. The questions which he/she has in mind needs to get answered. When the same kid enters college for higher education like say engineering the questions rise manifold. Now the intensity of the questions increase and its even more important for these questions to get answered since they directly link to his future. The role his professors play in guiding him for the correct direction becomes even more important now. Why do premier institutes churn out premier students? Why do kids of professors, researchers become good mathematicians, good researchers? Why is it that only few of the bright students who do not have a correct support system thrash up the barriers of the system and rise up to make a mark on their own?

Professors play a critical role in this entire scenario. A kid who has an amazing maths teacher during his growing year need not need a good professor in the college. What matters is developing the confidence and the attitude towards the right thing. A teenager who has a great inspirational professor during his college years will for sure make a great progress in his later years.

One can see two types of professors and teachers. One which are extremely effective in getting the best out of students, making them stand on their own by providing them the necessary guidance and the way to think. And at the same time, there could be excellent professors who are extremely renowned researchers but make a miserable professor.

How should a good professor be? First and most important quality is he should be able to motivate and interest students in the material he is teaching. Second quality is he should be able to understand that different students have different backgrounds and different absorbing capacities and adjust his pace accordingly without thinking somebody is dumb and somebody is brilliant. Yes, there are different grasping levels but nobody is dumb. Third is he should be able to provide students sufficient resources to make them think on their own the basics of what and why they are doing, the things that they are doing in his class. Have these three qualities and you will have an excellent professor.

Is every professor that is present in every US university a good professor? No. It is very hard to find excellent professors who understand the way a student should be made to learn things. So US is not an exception. But yes at the same time one will see the percentage of exceptional professors way higher than its in India. A part why US is so ahead technically goes back straight to this level of education that the students are able to receive and the way it makes them think independently without being slave of the system that many times Indians tend to get into.

Recession is here. I hope we would get good teachers and professors as an effect of it in some of the Indian schools. Money is needed but at the same time, the satisfaction of making somebody learn and understand and seeing him/her succeed is beyond description.

I hope someday we would have good professors in abundance back in India. India, you have a long way to go to be a superpower. No country could afford that burden when the basics like education are wrong. And all this hype about all this, seems a bad timed, badly scripted joke.

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