Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dismal performance of aspiring teachers

National Council of Teacher education at the directive of Ministry of HRD conducted a national wide Teacher eligibility test that is going to be mandatory for any teacher wanting to join a government or a private school going ahead. The results of this test which was conducted this year through CBSE in June this year was declared last week. To say the least, the findings are highly discouraging. Amongst the over 7.15 lakh candidates who gave that test, barely 14% were able to get through.

At the outset, we need to laud the government for hitting the problem at the right end by revealing to itself and everyone around, the yawning gap of quality of teachers. It also throws up a lot of questions in parallel.

With the Right to Education getting included as a Fundamental Right, if we don’t have teachers to translate that legitimate right into a reality then what does it leave us to feel elated about.  RTE opens up a need for 6.5 lakh teachers for its successful implementation. And it is just one of the several complex requirements that it gives way to. Teacher quality is one of the fundamental pre-requisites for ensuring that a school delivers. Thus if this Act has to see the light of the day in both letter and spirit, it would require a systemic view to the problems that plague our education system- starting with the issue of addressing the challenge of getting teachers who can deliver followed with aspects of resources, enrolment, reducing drop-outs, incentives, public private partnership etc.

Secondly, we need to have requisite checks and balances to evaluate the effectiveness of the teacher training programs. A society which is transforming gradually into a knowledge centric economy has to understand these aspects from the very core. This becomes all the more important in an environment where unlike Finland and Singapore, teaching as a profession (particularly in primary and secondary levels) in India doesn’t attract huge number of bright minds. And thus the nature of intervention and its currency with regards to changing times has to factor in this reality.

Thirdly, this test was not meant for the existing teachers who are already on the job so we can’t say how they would have fared. But still we can rationally presume that there may be a significant number of teachers who would have not fit the bill. If teachers who are not fit to qualify such an exam are assessing students and their learning, what is the credibility of those assessments? How many a tender minds must they be labeling incorrectly to thwart their learning journey for long..

Fourthly, on one hand there is our growing economy with its ever increasing need for skilled people and on the supply side at the farthest end we have teachers who are not in a position to teach children.  Does that imply that more and more students would end up in either being under-employed with no idea of what their strengths are or else seek short term vocational courses to atleast be fit enough to earn their bread and butter. Last year Aspiring minds managed to hog front page news by coming up with the startling finding that just 18% of our tech students are fit for IT jobs.

Another problem that this result gives way is the fact that it further convolutes the debate on whether the system is weak or is it that we don’t have the right teachers to work within the system which may or may not be really so weak.

The only silver lining to this outcome is probably the fact that it should encourage our institutes and aspiring teachers to introspect and try harder going ahead so that they are able to shoulder the responsibility which the entire country is expecting them to do today.  Build a truly powerful nation. 

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