Re-envisioning professional development of teachers

Re-envisioning professional development of teachers

Submitted by alvin on Thu, 2016-03-31 10:19 There is a long history of teacher education in Karnataka. The first teacher training college for training school teachers was started in Dharwad in 1857 and the Normal Schools, for training in-service teachers at the hobli (cluster of adjoining villages administered together for tax and revenue purposes) level, came up in 1868.Two kinds of courses – Teacher Certificate Lower (TCL) for those who had passed 8th Standard, and a one-year Teacher Certificate Higher (TCH), for those who passed 10th Standard, were offered till 1966, after which the duration of the TCH course was increased to two years.In 1987-88, PUC was made a prerequisite for entry into the TCH course. TCH was renamed as Diploma in Education in 2012-03. As per reliable estimates, there are currently about 1,70,000 teachers in elementary government schools in Karnataka. Out of this, about 1,00,000 teachers have a qualification of SSLC or PUC with TCH.This entry level qualification is inadequate by any standards to equip the teachers to teach the school subjects in a competent manner that translates into children’s learning. In the USA and many other developed countries, teacher preparation programs require budding teachers to go through a rigorous 4 to 5-year course, integrating subject specific knowledge and pedagogical training, on par with any other professional degree.In contrast, teacher preparation programs in India are of two years’ duration only, barring a few exceptions. From 2016-17 onwards, the National Council for Teacher Education has not only enhanced the duration of Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) course from one to two years but has prescribed the same for teachers at the higher primary level (classes 6 to 8), where the teachers start dealing with subjects in greater depth.   With globalisation taking deeper roots in every sphere of our lives, and the country aspiring to become a developed nation, there is a dire need to create a solid base at the elementary school level by providing our children with good quality education. This requires that besides acquiring the minimum specified learning levels prescribed for each class, children should be able to develop rational thinking, analyse facts critically and be able to make independent choices, and develop humane qualities like respect for other beings and concern for the environment, thereby becoming responsible citizens of the society.School subjects are becoming more and more complex year on year and text books are getting revised in every state in line with the National Curriculum Framework and other relevant policy documents. National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) prescribed text books are becoming a base for many states. Every time such a revision takes place, teachers necessarily have to upgrade themselves in terms of the enhanced subject content and pedagogical methods. In other words, a continuous professional development of in-service teachers is the need of the hour.The in-service training programs presently conducted at the state level take a one-size-fits-all approach with no systematic training needs assessment that identifies subject specific needs of teachers. There is a disconnect between one type of training and another. It does not account for their varied experiences; nor does it create spaces for peer learning and sharing. There is a lack of focus on follow up and on-site support for teachers. Ill-designed training in a cascade mode coupled with last minute planning and roll out implies that there is poor design and content, with very little time for proper selection and preparation of resource persons or relevant material. With unsuitable training venues and facilities that fail to provide conducive learning environment, this is a sure recipe for failure.                      Added to the complexity of the issue is the fact that in hundreds of schools, teachers have to handle multi-grade and multi-level class rooms. Single or two teacher schools compel teachers to teach many subjects without adequate background and competence. The low motivation and self-esteem amongst a substantial percentage of teachers, and the larger societal view towards teaching as not being a preferred profession, are all effects of the continual neglect of this critical social sector in terms of policy priorities.There is a need for a comprehensive overhaul of the current approach towards in-service teacher development. At the heart of this change is the shifting of the ownership of development onto the teachers themselves, yet making it mostly voluntary on their part.The current centralised effort at the state level has to be replaced by a collaborative, decentralised effort at the district level, with District Institutes of Educational Training (DIETs) being empowered to lead the design and delivery of capacity building programs, starting with the identification of training needs of teachers.In this changed approach, teachers should be offered a bouquet of choices in terms of well-designed short-term and long-term courses to choose from, and an opportunity to pace their learning to enhance their professional abilities over a period of time. Adequate attention needs to be given to selection and development of resource persons from amongst high quality teachers and academic resource persons from within the department.Such a radically different developmental approach obviously should lay emphasis not just on one-off workshops, but also on creating multiple modes of engagement with teachers – tele-cons, peer-learning platforms, seminars and paper presentations, exposure visits, practical assignments, sharing of material online, to name a few.Teacher Learning Centers (TLCs) should be established in areas where teachers reside in reasonably large numbers, to enable them to have access to learning opportunities after school hours and during weekends. This is to ensure that the teachers are not taken away during school hours for training. Additionally, long duration workshops should be conducted during summer and winter holidays and teachers be compensated with proportionate paid leave in lieu of the number of days of training attended. Kerala has already implemented this model effectively.A related systemic requirement is to revitalise the entire academic institutional structure in the state – right from the state up to the cluster level - including equipping Department of State Education Research and Training (DSERT), DIETs, Block and Cluster Resource Centers (BRCs) and CRCs) with interested, dedicated and competent faculty in prescribed numbers and with adequate infrastructure. Teacher Associations need to be taken into confidence in this all important change effort. They need to be engaged in a meaningful discussion to professionalise the teacher development effort, such that the resultant practice changes in their classrooms would enhance the learning levels of children, restoring the confidence of parents and the community in the public school system. Only such a major reform will prevent the erosion of the brand value of the government school system in the long term.    Author:S V Manjunath is currently heading Azim Premji Foundation - Karnataka as its State head. He made a mid – career shift more than six and half years back, when he joined Azim Premji Foundation.