Teachers Day 20201: Rare glimpse of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s life as an Educationist, Philosopher, Scholar and Diplomat

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September 05, 2021 10:39 AM

In India, the profession of teaching is one that has always been viewed as a noble calling.

In India, the Teacher's Day has been observed in honour of the birthday of India's former President, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Teachers Day 2021: Wondering why 5th September is celebrated as Teachers Day? Not only does it observe and honour the birth anniversary of a former President, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, it also honours every teacher whose efforts contribute to the growth of the country’s educational ecosystem.

In India, the profession of teaching is one that has always been viewed as a noble calling. From the early Gurukul system to the influx of the Western model of educational institutions, the transformation that has touched the Indian education landscape is phenomenal. This has been multiplied manifold during the pandemic even as there are continuous debates on bridging the growing chasm between those who are privileged enough to access virtual classes and those who are less fortunate.

How did Teachers Day originate?

In India, the Teacher’s Day has been observed in honour of the birthday of India’s former President, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, an eminent scholar, philosopher, teacher and a gifted person who had dedicated his life to the sphere of improving and enhancing the quality of education in India.

From the year 1962, September 5th has been celebrated across the country as a day to celebrate Teacher’s Day.

What do we learn from the life of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan?

In former diplomat Maharajakrishna Rasgotra’s memoirs ‘A Life in Diplomacy,’ which has earned the highest praise for its candid insights on India’s foreign and strategic policy, there are fascinating details about the extraordinary brilliance of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. The former diplomat writes in his memoir, “When he spoke, his audiences were mesmerised.”

Sharing few insightful, lesser known facts about Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan:

  1. A contemporary of Betrand Russel, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan was a great scholar, a humanist and one of the finest and most articulate speakers on human brotherhood.
  2. His knowledge of other religions and their scriptures was unparalleled at the time.
  3. In 1936, Dr. S.Radhakrishnan became Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and a fellow of All Souls College, at Oxford.
  4. His philosophical expertise was such that he wrote many books on Hinduism and Vedanta and he was globally recognised as one of the world’s most respected and authoritative interpreters of the same.

Extraordinary rise of a diplomat who impressed Stalin

At a time when tensions between Russia and the US were escalating, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan was sent to Moscow. His informality, simplicity and directness touched a chord with Stalin, who held a meeting with him on 15th January 1950. They touched upon sensitive issues where India’s stance was made most clear with appropriate answers by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.

When Stalin observed that the other side was also responsible, a striking reply from Dr. S. Radhakrishnan was that it takes two to clap and that in his opinion, “As a peace-loving country, the Soviet Union should withdraw its hand as it takes two hands to clap.”

Both men were impressed by each other’s directness. This historic meeting paved the way for a new warmth that began to characterise Indo-Russian ties.

Interestingly, when Dr. S. Radhakrishnan visited Russia a second time after taking up the post of Vice-President, he was personally and warmly received by Stalin on the basis of the earlier trust and goodwill that he had nurtured between the two nations.

According to Maharajakrishna Rasgotra’s memoirs, he refers to Dr. S. Radhakrishnan S meeting with Stalin in these words, “These were the first results of the impact of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan’s personality, his sincerity and his candour, his good will, his humanist thinking and love of peace.”

Why 5th September is celebrated as Teachers Day

From the years that saw India’s freedom struggle movement embracing social change through education, the profession of a teacher is seen as one that contributes to the future of a nation. The outcome of such a noble calling is that several generations of Indian families viewed the teacher with respect.

A few decades ago, the role of teacher was so revered that they used to be told byIndian parents that they are entrusting their child’s future in the teacher’s hands. Many times, teachers used to be burdened with not just teaching the lessons in class but they used to even be persuaded to listen to a child’s family problems as though a magic wand is enough to make the child’s challenges completely vanish into thin air.

With the progress of new methodologies of teaching , the student-teacher relationship has undergone a sea change across the globe and India has experienced the ripple effect too, particularly during the pandemic.

Teachers Day: Transition from pre-Independence to current times

While RK Narayan’s ‘The English Teacher’ brought forth a most elevating perspective on the role and responsibility and inner struggles of a teacher, you can now fast forward to the grim reality shown in ‘Kota Factory’.

We understand from the series clearly the depiction in grey – of dull lives and rigorous mental and physical pressures endured both by students and teachers, how a once-sacred relationship seems to have moved past the conventional norms of learning to something more complex through a competition-based approach, new ‘Kota Factory’ like educational systems, the influx of online learning and more.

We are today witnesses to a new era in education where knowledge itself has become a more valuable commodity that defines a student’s ‘market value’ and ‘career prospects’ over and above a value-based exchange of learning and ideas.

There is also an urgent need to draw lessons from the history of India to understand and appreciate how the country’s educational landscape has derived tremendous cultural and social resilience from bygone years.

At a time when the world is increasingly fractured by emerging faultlines and divisive events that are threatening world peace, the legacy of a great philosopher and humanist such as Dr. S. Radhakrishnan provides the nation with an eternal and universal vision of the brotherhood of humanity.

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