Teachers can't be replaced by robots

Many highly qualified professionals are haunted by one worry: "Will I be replaced by computers and robots?"

Unfortunately for many, the answer is "yes". The onward march of technology cannot be stopped.

What about teachers ("Robot teachers for the future?" by Harshita Manikandan; July 13)?

That depends on how we define teachers.

If a teacher is only an instructor or technician, he can be replaced with computers and robots.

The latter can do a much better job, are easier and cheaper to maintain, more flexible, more easily accessible and very much easier to upgrade or replace.

But a teacher is more than a figure who introduces historical facts of nations, geographical features of countries, rich meanings of Shakespearean verses, ingenious solutions to equations and amazing laws of physics.

He is also someone who shows how to acquire and use knowledge. He imparts wisdom. He teaches how to earn a living as well as how to live. His discipline is always backed up by reasons and seasoned with love.

He is an expert in his field and infects others with the same passion. He makes learning a compulsion as well as fun. He desires to make his students better and happier citizens.

He knows that he is teaching not only his students, but also their parents and future children and grandchildren.

The ancient Chinese gave a very exacting but precise definition of teachers: "A teacher is a pattern. Each of his speech, behaviour, action or inaction is worthy to be examples."

How can computers and robots compare with this? There can be no replacement for teachers.

Ee Teck Ee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'Teachers can't be replaced by robots'. Print Edition | Subscribe