When John Buchanan, a former collegian and first class cricketer, was appointed the Head Coach of the Australian cricket team in 1999, there were many disputing the validity of the decision.
Buchanan had a dismal cricket record of 7 first class matches, scoring just 160 runs at an average of 12.30 and a top score of 41. He never picked up a wicket, neither was he a Jonty Rhodes on the field.
But the panel saw something in him that the rest of the world didn’t. And they weren’t wrong.
He carried the Aussies to two straight World Cup triumphs, recorded consecutive victories in 16 test matches and 21 ODIs, bagged three Ashes series wins, a Champions Trophy and a test series victory in India after 36 years, all while ensuring they stayed on top of the ranking. With a staggering success rate of 78 percent, he is now identified as one of the most successful sports coaches of all time, outshining even Vince Lombardi, the NFL coach who became a national icon in the US.
This isn’t unusual in cricket. It was under Dav Whatmore, a former Australian player with just 8 international matches under his belt, that Sri Lanka won their first world cup; Bangladesh, their first ever test series; and Kerala, their first Ranji Trophy semi-final berth.
The bottom-line is, not all bad players make a bad coach. It is the ability to evaluate, engage and inspire that differentiates an ordinary trainer from an exceptional one.
Why NEP May Be Good In Theory But Tough To Execute
With the introduction of the New Education Policy, it is the same fate that awaits the teaching fraternity. Much like coaches, teachers have to up the ante and bring out their inventive side to stay in the business, post the paradigm shift. Or in other words, credentials on paper, mean very little moving forward.
The NEP is a double-edged sword, appearing to be good in theory but never easy to execute, given the volume of institutions we have in this country. One of the demands it puts forward is to have more engaging, concept-oriented sessions, where instructors connect to students on an individual level through creative discussions.
But if teachers themselves lack creative make-up, how would it possibly give us the desired results?
Take history, for instance – a subject that is both aesthetically appealing and notionally boring. Unless the mode of delivery is at least half as alluring as a Disney movie, the chances of one failing as a teacher, is extremely high.
“If you had the chance to change one thing about the 20th century, what would it be?” It was with this question that my 10th grade history teacher started our final revision class. From the British rule to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we mentioned 15 different events we would have loved to change, before turning the question back on her.
And here’s what she said, “I would have changed the admission criteria at Vienna School of Arts”. Just as she finished saying it, there was a 10 second silence that pervaded the room. Students were both confused and curious; so she went on to explain the underlying story.
‘Hitler Could Have Been An Artist....’
“Adolf Hitler was a compelling artist in his early teens, and as he grew up, his ambition to become an artist also grew within him. Right after high school, he applied to the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, but got rejected – twice. Crestfallen, he then joined the army – only to lose a war, his friends and his country’s territory before being sent to jail, charged with treason. These series of failures made him determined to succeed, but in pursuit of it, he instigated the most fearful and eventful six years of the 20th century, resulting in the deaths of over 70 million people and the division of the post-war world.”
“If it wasn’t for the admission test that went awry at Vienna in 1908, he would have remained a wannabe Picasso perhaps, striking our hearts with the artistic slenderness of a paintbrush, than the brute force of a rifle”.
The students were intrigued. “Wasn’t Stalin more evil? What about Gandhi, could he have done something better?” Questions started pouring in.
She explained to us how Hitler’s decision to invade Austria served as a catalyst to everything that followed. From the world war that ensued, to the nuclear bombing that destroyed Japan and the cold war that kept us on our toes, the explanations are still etched in our memories.
How Institutions Bury The Unfulfilled Genius Of Individuals
All it took was 30 minutes of brainstorming for her to revise 60 years of world history. She never carried a note or a pen drive, yet was more effective than many teachers of the same school, who held better credentials on paper. But here’s the sad part. After serving in a private school for over a decade, she was laid off to make way for a more ‘premium candidate’, endorsed by a top-level administrator, and has remained in obscurity ever since.
When institutions run by religious communities, trusts and political associations, prioritise affiliation over potential, and ‘premium’ applicants over the ordinary, what they often bury is the unfulfilled genius of individuals who are missing out due to the lack of recommendation, affiliation or sometimes, a decent financial option.
There is nothing more sinful than unfulfilled potential. Whether you fulfil it yourself or leave it for others to recognise, the attempts from both ends should remain unprejudiced.
Much like the selection of John Buchanan who displayed more prowess on the field and less on paper, it is high time school and college authorities started recognising real talent by ignoring endorsements, arranging multiple demonstrations, taking in-depth interviews and student feedbacks before making a final call. Because what defines the proficiency of a teacher is not just their credentials on paper, but the creative, proactive and adaptive capabilities of dealing with an assemblage of young minds. Unless these abilities are put in check, the giant wave of challenges the NEP brings forward will consume the prospects of improvement, for both teachers and students alike.
(Nirmal Abraham is a Qualified Tax Advisor, Management Consultant and Corporate Trainer who has adjudicated several competitive events in the domain of Management in India. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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