Thursday, January 22, 2009

More on methods of teaching

There is such great 'variety' between the teaching methods employed by university teachers in India that I am somewhat aghast when I think about it. For those who understand literary texts, I once knew of a teacher in some Indian university, who took one lecture (damn it, just one lecture and I wasn't the unfortunate student) to complete Henry Fielding's novel, Tom Jones.

I am not trying to state that all Indian teachers are bad. In fact, Indians are known as good teachers in many countries of the world.

One excellent teacher that I had heard of was P. Lal, the person who used to teach in Calcutta and who was singularly responsible for the publishing boom in Indian English writing. He started Writers Workshop, a publishing house. One of my father's friends studied under him and he used to tell me that when P. Lal taught in the 1960s, there used to be huge classes and even students, who did not have courses with him, would troop in. The interesting thing here is that there used to be silence in his classes and he never scolded anyone. He was certainly a great teacher, however, he was also a publishing pioneer and I am sure, he must have escaped the petty politics that plagues many of us, even if we don't want to be part of it.