Teachers’ training needs attention

| | in Oped
Teachers’ training needs attention

Teacher shortage, quality of teaching-learning processes and learning outcomes are some of the new challenges that the Indian education system is facing today

The great demographic dividend of India can easily turn into a curse if over the next decade the education system is not overhauled completely to transform from input-based system to outcome driven education model that boosts critical thinking and not rote learning. The most significant, yet perhaps the weakest link in this system is the teacher and the quality of Indian education is limited by the quality of its teachers.Teacher shortage and quality of teaching-learning processes and learning outcomes are the new challenges which the Indian education system is facing given the sharp increase in enrollments over a short period of time and the unique challenge of rising up to the aspirations of families and communities of first generation learners and expectations of good education system. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Global Education Monitoring Report, 2016 that focused on education for all, with the help of the landmark initiatives such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, District Primary Education Programme of 1990 and Right to Education Act of 2009, India has taken rapid strides in ensuring access to education for all, however, it has failed miserably in guaranteeing quality of education and ranked 105th among 128 countries. Home to the oldest university in the world, Takshashila and the guru-shishya tradition, India should reclaim its lost glory and have an excellent education system by investing significantly to build a cadre of quality teachers.

At present, India is staring at an education crisis with a collective shortage of one million teachers. As per a report by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), about 74 countries face grave shortage of teachers, with India being second on the list. Assocham, in a report last year, finds that the dearth of school teachers is a problem that is pervasive at all levels of government schools in India, with 50 per cent vacancies in schools across India beside 30,000 vacancies for teachers in Haryana alone where more than 800 schools are being run without principals. Among 36 States and Union Territories, Jharkhand has the most acute secondary school teacher shortage at 70 per cent. Half of all secondary school teacher posts in Uttar Pradesh are vacant, as are a third in Bihar and Gujarat. The situation is no good either in Delhi, the Capital of India. Of the sanctioned strength of 66,736 teachers in Delhi government schools, only 38,926, or 58.3 per cent, are filled at the moment. Of these, 21,926 are regular and 17,000 are guest teachers.

Apart from teacher shortage, teacher education, both pre-service and in-service, is another pressing issue facing us. Currently 6.6 lakh teachers lack the requisite qualifications and the results of the the Tamil Nadu Eligibility Entrance Test (TNTET) in July last year is an eye opener for policy makers as a whopping 95 per cent of the candidates failed to clear it. Out of the 7.53 lakh candidates who took TNTET last year, only 34,979 managed to pass. The situation is no different in other parts of the country, with only two out of 100 aspirants in Maharashtra who want to teach in English-medium schools, meeting the minimum qualifying criterion for the job. In-service teacher education, obviously, cannot be good with low-grade pre-service teacher education institutes (TEIs) that have mushroomed over the years, 90 per cent of which are in private sector and are largely sub-standard and unregulated. The rampant commercialisation in teachers training has led to corruption and malpractices like price reductions and forgoing rigourous training requirements. Many of them are dysfunctional but still churn out fake degrees. This is like a cancer to the education system in India and needs to weeded out at the earliest. Thus, developing institutional mechanisms for periodic monitoring of teacher training institutes and strict adherence to quality parameters is vital. Additionally, clear selection criteria for testing aptitude needs to be in place before accepting students into teacher training colleges. The Government appears to have woken up to this problem and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) has promised last year of drastic action against errant institutions. It is believed that nearly 3,000 teacher education colleges may be barred from admitting fresh students from this academic year. NCTE is also resetting its grading system on contemporary lines and focussing more on students’ learning outcomes with less emphasis on physical assets. Now on, physical assets will get just 10 per cent weightage, 20 per cent  weight will go to academic assets, 30 per cent  to teacher transactions and 40 per cent  to students’ learning outcome.

Simultaneously, to weed out the low quality training institutes, NCTE will soon put out a ranking mechanism for teacher training institutes using a new framework - TeachR which will divide them in four categories - A, B, C and D. The institutes falling in D category will be asked to shut down with immediate effect and those falling in C category will have to meet the bar within 12 months or face shut down. To give the genuineness to the degrees, NCTE also plans to carry QR code in addition to the institute’s name on the certificates, which will curb the menace of fake degrees that allowed fraudulent teachers to corrode the quality of education in India till now.

Technology can play a very important part in India’s quest for quality education. The problem of shortage of teachers in remote locations could be reduced by introducing AI-enabled robotic teaching assistants connected over the Cloud who would help standardise teaching curriculums and impart knowledge to students.The potential benefits of emerging technologies for the education sector include personalised coaching, improved relevance of course coverage by continually updating academic literature to encompass the latest developments, and improved liaison of academic institutes with industry professionals for imparting ‘jobfocused’ skill sets. Government can also look at a public-private partnership models to improve teachers training, vocational and employability skills in India by funding innovative organisations.  For example, the Teacher App is contributing towards building a national teachers platform and has leveraged on individual pedagogical experts and organisations with exemplar content to create digital courses in Math, Language, Pedagogy and Science for teachers which are available as short interactive offline videos to use anytime, anywhere.

Although the writing on the wall is clear that focus on teachers and teacher education is critical to ensure quality education, the Narendra Modi Government has been unable to frame a new National Education Policy (NEP) since it came into power. After publishing a part of the report submitted by the TSR Subramanian committee titled ‘Some Inputs for Draft NEP 2016’, a new committee headed by Dr K Kasturirangan, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, was set up in June last year and the NEP is expected to be out by March 2018. Although late, the nation hopes to have an education policy with clear directives to improve the quality of teachers and teachings. The Government should also take tough actions to root out corruption in granting licences to TEIs to stem the degrading quality of teachers and the rise in fake degrees which will in turn make Indian education contemporary, at par with international standards or maybe even exceed it.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, Amity University)

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