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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 165-166

Need for correction! The equation between teacher and adult learner in India

1 Department of Urology, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Former Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh; Department of Surgery, Saraswati Medical College, Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication29-Jun-2018

Correspondence Address:
Apul Goel
Department of Urology, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/iju.IJU_184_18

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How to cite this article:
Goel A, Kumar S. Need for correction! The equation between teacher and adult learner in India. Indian J Urol 2018;34:165-6

How to cite this URL:
Goel A, Kumar S. Need for correction! The equation between teacher and adult learner in India. Indian J Urol [serial online] 2018 [cited 2023 Mar 25];34:165-6. Available from:

Recently, there were some complaints by the trainee residents against their teachers for mental abuse that were widely circulated on social media platforms. Such abuse is not uncommon in all streams of education and apprenticeship. At the outset, we insist that mandates, stricter rules, and regulations cannot solve this problem. Behavioral change of teachers alone is the permanent solution. Undoubtedly, the student of today is a teacher of tomorrow and he or she shall emulate the role model teacher.

In India, the teachers or “Gurus,” enjoy a status that is considered to be even higher than that of God. Probably, India is the only country that has 5th September as Teachers Day. Ironically, the equation between teacher and student is not equal. Teacher has a superior status! Is this status correct? Can a teacher exist without students?

The residents who enter residency training after completing MBBS or postgraduation are more than 22 years of age, the usual age being above 25 years. They should be considered adults when they enter residency. Teaching an adult is different from the way a child is taught and is termed Andragogy. Underlying philosophy of Andragogy presumes that adults are responsible and independent. Adult teaching is based on “dialogue.”[1] The concepts of andragogy were popularized by Malcolm Knowles in his book “Modern Practice of Adult Education” published in 1970.[1] For dialogue to happen, there has to be an informal and open relationship between the guru and shishya. This relationship should be equitable and one should not be superior to another. The teacher should earn respect and not command it. In fact, in andragogy, the students must be shown respect. The environment should be “nonthreatening.” Effective learning involves humility and respect, ability to listen and comprehend, and hard work. On the other hand, a teacher should not use power to dominate the students, develop collaborative and congenial relationship, provide atmosphere for participant communication, foster original thinking, provide space for free and freak thinking, and at all times be sensitive to the vanity of this adult learner. An adult learner should be encouraged to practice “praxis” and reflection. Without reflection, learning will remain superficial.

There has been a shift in focus from teaching to learning. Learning is determined by primarily three factors: Student characteristics, teacher's approach, and context characteristics.[2] If the environment of the department/college is hostile and if the teacher is intimidating then learning does not happen. Certainly, in most traditional Indian institutions, the environment for learning is lacking.

In addition, it can be said that this “adult” behavior does not come automatically. It is a learned behavior that is to be inculcated both in teachers and students. The student must be gradually weaned away from childhood psychology into adult psychology. The role of the teacher is paramount in this transition. Certainly, most teachers in India are used to “pedagogy.” They treat even adult students as “children.” The teachers in India encourage not infrequently memorization and, thus, superficial learning. Even, the examination system is such as to encourage “recall” and not understanding. A latest trend in medical education is “education through simulations.” A huge effort is onto train teachers into this modality of medical andragogy. This has come after the gap analysis that showed that even trained and knowledgeable doctors often fail to take prudent action based on treatment algorithm from knowledge alone unless training is imparted in simulation laboratories similar to training of pilots.

The modern medical teacher will have to learn not to be possessive about students. Education from a teacher should float in air (cyber). It is fairly common to see that the communication between the teachers and students is unidirectional. The teachers usually only “tell” the students. It is rarely a “dialogue.” Education in India has followed a strict hierarchical system where seniority has been respected and acknowledged. The teachers typically are not questioned and their orders are respected. The Head of the Departments are usually considered like Gods and some use this power to take advantage from the trainee residents.

Trainee residents are clever and pick-up clues from the cues and prompts of the examiners and other important faculty members and will do favors to them to make them happy. It is this practice of nepotism that has led to centralization of examinations in many cases like admission to postgraduate medical education.

The relation between the teacher and adult students must be equitable for learning to happen. There is an urgent need to correct this equation.

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There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Knowles MS. The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge; 1980.  Back to cited text no. 1
Newble D, Cannon R. Helping students learn. A Handbook for Medical Teachers. 4th ed. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers; 2001. p. 5-7.  Back to cited text no. 2


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