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Train the Trainer

Saumitra Mohan |

Of the many sectors critical to a country’s development, education is definitely the most important. And it is with this objective that all countries treat it with the utmost care and importance. This perhaps is the reason why the benefits of education have spread across the world. The countries, which had realised this earlier and had invested judiciously in their human resources, surpassed the rest which belatedly appreciated the value of education.

The Constitution of India very specifically mentions the need to universalize education. Article 45, as part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, states, “The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years”. Education policies, framed by the Government of India since independence, have rightly underlined the need to improve the primary tools, notably infrastructure and pedagogy.

However, there appears to be a great deal that needs to be addressed when we reflect on the net output of our education system. Above all, the teachers and teaching constitute the weakest link in the chain. While a teacher is supposed to be the most important factor, s/he appears completely out of place when it comes to imparting education. Be it his own motivation to teach, his qualifications, his teaching ability, his training credentials, his involvement in the school administration or his proactive role in building the holistic character of our future citizens, the teacher remains on the margins.

A teacher is said to be very high in the social hierarchy in the USA; only a teacher is allowed to sit in French courts; in Japan teachers can be arrested only with the Government’s permission; a teacher is equivalent to a Minister in terms of status in South Korea; a primary teacher gets the highest salary in America and many European countries. However, the popular image of an average government teacher is not very encouraging in India. S/he is perceived as an unconcerned, unaccountable, money-driven person who is involved with anything and everything but learning.

Hence, if we really wish to improve our education system, we need to pay the requisite attention to all aspects of the teaching profession. And, the beginning has to be made with the recruitment of teachers, a task that has been afflicted by sleaze, politics and politicking. Recruitment is often so politicised that it hardly leaves any scope for enlistment of capable and competent teachers who really love to spend time and energy with the children.

Ergo, the first step has to be restructuring of our teacher recruitment system. It ought to be designed in order to attract the best. The basic qualifications should be customised in accord with the needs of different segments of school education so as to attract the most well-trained and motivated teachers. The same should be coupled with a well-planned teachers’ training system, a sphere that is often marked by dilettantism.

There are many schools with either surplus or scarce teachers. Deployment of teachers should be rationalised to the extent that is practicable. There are schools with zero or negligible enrolment. The same should be either closed down or merged with neighbouring schools for optimum utilisation of available human resources. The availability of teachers in every school should be ensured with a view to ensuring regular and structured instruction.

Empirical studies have mentioned various flaws in our teachers’ training module and delivery. Most of these training sessions are allegedly conducted with minimal professionalism. The training is not taken seriously either by the trainers or the trainees. It is usually regarded as an opportunity for a ‘get-together’ at government expense.

Because of the fast-changing times and complications in educating impressionable minds, the teachers should be encouraged to keep pursuing and nurturing their knowledge for better appreciation of child psychology. Generally, most teachers are so engrossed in the dayto- day mundane demands of life that they stop enriching their knowledge. Special incentives should be provided to motivate them and enhance functional qualifications. It is imperative to make teachers’ training more structured, professional and relevant in terms of what is taught. It is with this objective that many state governments have been approaching this issue.

There are specific laws against our teachers imparting private tuition beyond school hours. And yet a large number of teachers continue to engage in private tuition, thereby denuding their commitment to classroom teaching. As long as this practise is allowed to continue, it would be very difficult to improve the quality of instruction in our schools. The authorities involved with the management and administration of school education need to enforce the law against private tuition by full-time teachers.

Teachers’ participation in regular politics needs to be discouraged and stopped immediately as it runs counter to the imperatives and objectives of imparting better education to our children. It also affects the commitment and motivation of our teachers towards their immediate tasks i.e. preparing our future citizens. The teacher should be allowed to participate in politics only after they resign from their schools.

Another impediment is that teachers are often bogged down with tasks that are unrelated to their primary profession. Most of the teachers are drafted for different purposes other than teaching which encroaches upon their time for teaching. This includes regular round-the-year engagement in extra-teaching duties like census, surveys, elections and various development-related activities which impinge on their duty to teach. Teachers’ involvement with running the Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme is also an unwarranted diversion. The rules should be strictly enforced to discourage teachers from engaging in private tuition, something which detracts from the professional honesty and commitment.

Teaching and school management should be segregated into two different cadres. Association and involvement with day-to-day management and administration of a school affects a teacher’s commitment to his tasks. Often, the unwarranted conflicts with the politically drafted Management Committees interfere with his teaching responsibilities. So, school management and pedagogy ought to be duly separated without compromising the efficiency of each other.

The system of school inspection must be revitalized and strengthened. Regular and systematic inspection of our schools, private and public, will ensure uniformity in terms of instructional quality and basic childcare. The School Inspectorate System needs to be reinforced through more recruitment and provisioning of the required logistic and regulatory support along with independence to do their work in keeping with the relevant policies and guidelines.

If we are really serious about school education, we urgently need to address these issues. Otherwise, our schools will not be able to cope with the challenges of a burgeoning population. We shall never be able to reap the demographic dividend with half-baked education of our children who shall be the future citizens and leaders of India and a globalised world.

The writer is an IAS officer, presently posted as the Commissioner of School Education, West Bengal. The views are personal and don’t reflect those of the Government.