Teacher education: The key to quality teaching and quality education
Recent national policy guidelines such as the National Curriculum Framework 2005 (NCF 05), NCF for Teacher Education 2009, and Right to Education Act (RTE) 2009 paint a commendable vision to radically transform India’s elementary education system.
However, no education system can rise above the quality of its teachers. While considerable energy has gone into bringing about some of these changes through the Indian government’s landmark Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme, mission-mode efforts will not be enough to bring substantial and lasting reform unless larger structural changes are brought about in the Teacher Education (TE) system. To date, though, this sector and its needs have not received enough public attention.
The alarming state of Teacher Education in the country is reflected in the fact that, in recent years, the majority of graduates that have appeared for the central Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) have failed to demonstrate even the most basic knowledge base expected from a teacher.
This is not to mention the vision, skills and values necessary for the kind of classroom envisioned by progressive policy documents, but which for the most part are not adequately addressed by teacher training programmes. Although a range of committees and policy documents in recent decades have decried the worrying state of teacher education and have made many recommendations for its urgent reform, the majority of these proposals have yet to be implemented.
While demand for more teachers has in recent years led to an explosion in the number of Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) and courses at various levels, this has not been coupled with a push on infrastructure, faculty expertise, learning resources or quality. A greater challenge is that more than 85 per cent of these TEIs are in the private sector where the state has exerted little quality control.
RTE provides momentum for government and partners to radically improve TE
Despite these challenges, a source of hope is the current renewed national momentum to bring significant changes in Teacher Education in coming years.
The RTE Act provides a strong policy framework for mandating time-bound changes in teachers and subsequently in teacher education systems, while the NCF TE as well as the Justice Verma Committee Report submitted to the Supreme Court in August 2012 provide a clear roadmap with concrete recommendations for the substantial reforms needed in the TE sector.
On top of this, the national government Twelfth Five-Year Plan places significant importance on overhauling TE systems in the country. In light of this, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in 2012 launched a revised Centrally-Sponsored Scheme for Teacher Education with an approved outlay of approximately INR 63 billion for the next five years, focusing on strengthening the capacity of TEIs, training of untrained teachers, in-service teacher training, decentralized teacher support by BRCs and CRCs , linkages between elementary teacher education and higher education, and systems for monitoring the performance of teachers and TEIs.
The MHRD is also in the process of initiating a National Mission on Teachers and Teaching in order to address a gamut of issues relating to teachers, teacher education and quality of teaching, through a range of policy measures, programmatic and scheme-based interventions, and project-based activities.
The mission will look at teacher education in a holistic manner as one continuum from school to university, and suggest ways to strengthen the institutional mechanisms at all levels. All these initiatives offer avenues for hope and the platform for a variety of partners to come together to work toward significant reforms in the Teacher Education system in India.
UNICEF In Action
Over the past few years, UNICEF has been offering support to TE primarily at the state level, through the education teams at its 13 field offices.
These experts have offered technical inputs to state governments on a range of interventions, such as in developing annual plans for TE; strengthening TE institutions, curricula, syllabi and materials; building the capacity of academic support systems; facilitating partnerships with technical experts; advocating on key priority areas; piloting and rolling out innovative programmes and materials; and documenting good practice.
In 2012, in light of the demand created by RTE and other national education schemes and the crucial role of teacher education in enabling larger systemic reform, UNICEF took the decision to streamline and re-conceive a more targeted involvement in teacher education for the coming years, to work out ways it could support national and state governments to overhaul teacher education.
This document outlines certain key focus areas and strategies for UNICEF’s involvement in the next five years. It was developed through a process of reviewing national plans and documents, discussing them with key government stakeholders and educationists and visiting states to get a better idea of their ground realities and individual needs.
In deciding key priorities for action, UNICEF attempted to strike a balance between immediate needs in order to meet RTE goals and the longer-term structural reforms that are needed to strengthen TE systems.
It also attempted to keep in mind the organization’s strategic position as an institution with considerable experience in partnering with state governments at field level, specifically in nurturing, identifying and documenting innovative practices, and supporting their implementation within the government system.
UNICEF’s strong relationships and access to diverse stakeholders from government, civil society, private and international sectors, also make it uniquely positioned to facilitate opportunities for greater collaboration between these diverse sectors and to bring together efforts to promote innovation in TE.
Vision for Teacher Education
UNICEF’s overarching goal for Teacher Education (TE) is to strengthen government systems that enhance the capacity of teachers to deliver quality education - with equity. Specifically, the following changes are planned:
Professionalization of the teaching profession by establishing stronger linkages with the higher education sector and promoting longer duration (four- or five-year) pre-service courses for teachers, along with continuous in-service professional development opportunities that nurture teachers through a process of personal transformation and growth.
A strong cadre of teacher educators who have a clear vision and understanding of NCF 05 and RTE, practical experience in applying these in classrooms, and strong facilitation and mentoring skills
Training programmes that use constructivist methodologies that enable teachers to reflect on their beliefs, attitudes and classroom experience, and to discuss together to plan the innovations they want to bring into their own classrooms.
A culture of continuous collaboration with Teacher Resource Centres having a variety of reading materials and resources regularly used by Trainers and Teachers, and Teacher Mentors who offer regular on-site support to teachers.
Teachers that are empowered to become reflective practitioners, equipped with the vision, attitudes, knowledge and skills required to design effective classroom strategies to meet diverse learners’ needs, along with the freedom and support needed to implement these.
To offer hands-on support to help states develop and successfully implement comprehensive roadmaps for Teacher Education reform under the new TE Scheme/ Mission.
To work towards strengthening of District Institute of Education and Training (DIETs) and capacity-building of DIET Teacher Educators in selected states, through partnerships with other Resource Organizations.
To generate resources to strengthen TE programmes and methodologies, to translate the vision of NCF 2005/ NCF TE 2009 into a reality in classrooms.
To explore quality options for Training Untrained Teachers, and help states implement these solutions for meeting RTE goals without compromising quality.
To partner with states and selected universities to develop six Schools of Education to become Centres of Excellence in Teacher Education, conducting innovative TE programmes (B.El.Ed, M.Ed.) as well as interdisciplinary research on elementary education.