Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Schooling teachers

Schooling teachers

Rama Kant Agnihotri, Bangalore, March 12, 2015, DHNS:
The new kid on the block is the age- old teacher, now in the avatar of ‘teacher education’. Every agency, national or international, is now suddenly talking about reforming teacher education as if that will solve all the problems that plague our education system. Irrespective of whether it is the MHRD, teacher training colleges or 
universities, open universities of India or UK or USA, local or international NGOs, everyone os focusing on teacher education right now. 
Setting down criteria
The National Council for Teacher Education, following the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee and after much debate and dissent, has finally published the guidelines for a two-year BEd, a two-year MEd, 4-years BElEd (Bachelor of Elementary Education), and an integrated MEd programme in addition to several other diplomas etc. Suddenly, it seems to have downed on people that increasing the length of the course is the key to all our woes. I am sure that’s not what the Committee had in mind.
From the romanticisation of the learner, we moved to romantic perspectives on 
curriculum and the materials. It is now the teacher. The new bandwagon, loaded with huge amounts of sterling pounds and dollars, is teacher training, particularly in the marginalised world. It is another matter that there are well-established ways of ensuring that the money flows back to the faculty and business of the country providing the support. 

On the other hand, we also have several leading scholars and practitioners who strongly suggest that teacher can only be treated as a worker; he/ she is meant to deliver only, not think, read or analyse. No training is therefore needed except the kind given to a delivery boy. Both the romantic and the sub-human perspectives are equally dangerous. Like any other human being, a teacher is entitled to a decent life and the freedom to think and try out her new ideas.

For some reason, people don’t even to seem to realise that we don’t even have as many teachers as we need and those that are there to be trained constitute a huge number. And the RTE demands that every teacher be trained! So, the agencies that be are busy training teachers almost overnight through both contact and distance modes. 

No localisationFor decades, we did not appoint any teachers. It is now acceptable to the country to have para-teachers of all kinds on much lower salaries without any assurance of their jobs being continued. DFID and the Open University, UK of course know it all, have solutions to all our woes and are ready to ‘roll out’ millions of teacher training units written indeed in collaboration with the Indian experts. There are deadlines to be met and money needs to be spent before a certain date. Voices of dissent in India are simply 
removed from the email ID loop. Projects are completed. No teacher gets trained in any meaningful sense. Since the materials are not contextualised in any sense to any local environment, they are largely not of much use.

As the generally misunderstood and ill-implemented concepts of activity based joyful learning, learner-centred curriculum, innovative materials, constructive and generative classroom processes failed to bring about any ‘revolution’, authorities thought that they should now turn their attention to teacher education. 

During the highly-charged DPEP days, the best that could be transmitted through the BRCs and CRCs to the rural school was for teachers to add an ‘activity period’ to their timetable and get children to make things with whatever they could collect from their surroundings. Though there were some substantive gains in terms of establishing new structures and involving competent teacher trainers, they soon disappeared as the flow of money was checked. Project based interventions are no solutions to issues that are a part of our being.

We do need to walk out of our romantic perspectives on education. It is a formal domain which needs formal and careful planning from all perspectives, the learner,   materials, teachers, teacher trainers, infrastructure and the community. We do tend to romanticise each one of these components and indulge in far too much rhetoric about education being an agent of social change. It is indeed a powerful structure of society for both transmission and construction of knowledge and for providing the society the kind of person power it needs.

So what do we need to do? First of all, we need to conceptualise education of children as a whole from KG to PG as the say in all its dimensions, with clearly defined goals and explicitly stated philosophical underpinnings. 

We need to ensure infrastructure that is friendly to all kinds of children, not just to the so-called ‘normal’ children of whom there are only some but also to children with different languages, different ‘learning problems’, hearing, visual or orthopaedic disabilities, children with dyslexia or cognitive deficits and bi-polars, safety for girls and prevention of child abuse; this list is indeed very long; the only way to handle this is to interrogate the concept of the ‘normate’ as Dr Bhattacharya says. We have yet to witness even a single school that is sensitive to all these issues. Teacher training can make sense only if we are aware of all the above. We need to fight for a ‘reformed’ system rather than keep saying that we should learn to function efficiently in an ‘unreformed’ system.
Once this is ensured, we indeed need the best of teaching materials and optimal levels of community participation. And we need professionally trained teacher educators. Our teachers deserve the most rigorous training and not a capsule-based training of 21 days in which a day is kept for gender sensitivity and another one for road safety etc. 

Our teacher training programmes must focus on conceptual clarity about the learner and the learning process; a solid grounding in their content areas and their pedagogical practices. We must also ensure spaces for sustained teacher growth where teachers can have access to their colleagues and trainers; to libraries and electronic media. We need build a ialogic space, conspicuously absent from our education system, between the school, college and university teachers.

Remember, there are no shortcuts and no cosmetic solutions would help.

1 comment:

  1. The information was really amazing. Thanks a lot for posting it.
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