Published: 08th September 2021
It would take all ten of your fingers to count the degrees that this principal possesses. Here's his story
Dr Babu CP is a master of several subjects and is a true teacher at heart. He talks about his secret for success
They say that a true student never ceases to be one through life. And then there are those who take this old adage right to their heart. Here is the story of a man whose thirst for knowledge is truly unquenchable. Dr Babu CP, the principal at Mar Osthatheos College in Perumpilavu of Thrissur district, has completed a master's programme in ten different disciplines — a goal he set for himself — and at 54 years of age, he doesn't seem to want to slow things down. In a conversation with him, we find out what he has to say about his own career as well as the lost art of teaching.
Excerpts from an engaging conversation:
1. Tell me a bit about yourself.
My beginnings were very humble. I studied in a Malayalam medium school. My academic graph really went up a notch only when I got the university first rank while pursuing my master's degree (the first one!). After that, I cleared the UGC NET and worked as a guest faculty at Sree Sankaracharya University at Kalady and taught psychology and philosophy.
2. So when, why and how did this extended learning phase of your life begin?
I have always wanted to study different subjects. I never wanted to be one of those teachers who gets stuck in their profession and has to halt their learning pursuit. I feel in order to progress further, one has to keep setting targets for oneself. That is how I set the goal for myself to complete ten graduate programmes. I also recently completed my doctorate programme but that was a secondary goal. My primary intention was to gain considerable knowledge in as many diverse subjects as possible. My primary training was in Botany, after which I completed a master's in Education, English, Political Science, Sociology, Public Administration, Tourism Management, Counselling and Psychotherapy, and Business Administration. I also have an MPhil degree in English. People told me that doing an MBA would be very difficult and even I, at first, believed that as I don't have a background in Commerce, but I managed to complete it fairly smoothly.
I feel in order to be an authority on matters of the world, one needs to be knowledgeable in as many academic disciplines as possible. It is only then that you get to confidently state your opinion on worldly matters as well as things that are happening around you. If I had gotten stuck with Botany, I would not have been able to be knowledgeable in other subjects. People say that learning English is a must, so my journey started there and since then, I have not looked back.
3. How do you view your own life as a teacher? What do you have to say about today's education scenario?
I feel the fundamental issue of importance is teacher-student relationships. The real test lies in convincing the students that what the teacher is trying to impart or implement is for their benefit. If a teacher attempts to really connect with their students, I do not think this would be a tough task. Unfortunately though, a lot of the teachers do not choose to go beyond their primary role of academic teaching. This attitude needs to change. Typically, students remember only a handful of teachers who managed to etch their names in the students' hearts. Recently, a few of our students were finding online learning difficult as they didn't have smartphones. When I raised this issue with some of my previous students, they immediately set out to resolve this and provided me with phones, which I distributed to my students. I do not think that it would have been possible if I had failed to connect with them.
As their teacher, I make a sincere effort to know about the personal lives of my students by visiting their houses. This allows me to empathise with their real selves and understand their limitations. That is the real challenge. Teachers really need to take the extra step to know their students, especially during the adolescence phase. The problem that students face is that they lack people who can relate to them and their issues. If there are people who step in this role, everything else will be taken care of.
4. What are the domains that you are dealing with presently?
I am involved with catechism classes in the church. We provide pre-marital counselling. It is a crucial phase for people as we impart knowledge on various aspects that are missed out on during conventional education in schools. This includes sex education, which is hardly taught in the right manner to students. I feel that this is an intervention that is most useful to people who turn a new chapter in their lives.
5. What plans do you have for the future?
I feel like I will be a student for the entirety of my life. If you ask me, getting these many degrees is not a tough task if you have the willpower and curiosity to learn more every day. But at the same time, I do not think that many people possess that character which is required. Currently, I am pursuing a degree in Applied Psychology. Following that, I want to pursue Journalism and Gandhian Studies as well. I also have a particular attachment to the Malayalam language. I hope I can learn that soon too. Hopefully, I get time to do all that. (laughs)