The Knowledge bearers: teachers, guides and mentors down the ages
With the advent of mass education and all the problems which this entails for modern societies, the traditional role of the teacher is increasingly being called into question. Indeed today, for the very first time, the question is being asked as to whether the teacher is necessary to the learning process at all. Knocked from the pedestal of public esteem by the sudden proliferation of new sources of knowledge, the teacher has become merely one transmitter of knowledge among many others.
Such questions, however, implicitly overlook the teacher's most important function. The teacher remains the indispensable initiator, the one who, through personal contact with his or her pupils, awakens the spirit and kindles the vital spark. Breathing life and meaning into the inheritance they transmit, teachers enable their pupils to advance beyond mere accumulation of knowledge and to reach the stage of creative assimilation. In fulfilling this function they follow in the footsteps of the great Masters whose names are the glory of past civilizations. Midwives of truth like Socrates, visionaries, spiritual mentors, educators, guides to life and to thought, teachers are the models to which their pupils and society as a whole can refer.
It is doubtless true that, in a number of cases, the authority with which teachers are invested has been sullied by some abusive exercise of power; hence the current critical attack to which it is subject, at a time when the accelerating growth of technology and the continuous expansion of mass information and communication services are contributing daily to its démystification. If this authority is to be re-asserted, its intrinsic nature will have to change.
The teacher will be with us tomorrow, as he is today, but he will no longer be the same. The shadowy figure of the Master/ teacher of the future is being shaped under our very eyes.