The National Policy on Education 1986 emphasized: “The status of the teacher reflects the socio-cultural ethos of the society; it is said that no people can rise above the level of its teachers”. The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has observed that teachers are the single most important element of the school system and the country is already facing a severe shortage of qualified and motivated school teachers at different levels.
Current / traditional teacher training limitations are known – being based on centralised modules rather than on individual learning needs of each teacher, lack of on-site support during actual transaction (conversely lack of monitoring on actual implementation of the workshop training), scale of training does not allow for sufficient time for reflection and peer learning/sharing. The training does not remove the isolation of the school/teacher from other institutions of learning – there is no live linkages with DIET-BRC-CRC academic support institutions as well as university departments of education, which deprives teachers of opportunities to connect with peers and mentors for their learning and also deprives education system of vital links between research/theory and practice. These limitations affect the impact of the huge amounts being invested in this area.
Two recent documents – the RTE act and the NCF 2005 seek new thinking about teacher education, in terms of philosophy, context understanding, need, role and approaches. “The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 would increase the demand manifold for qualified elementary school teachers1. The country has to address the need of supplying well qualified and professionally trained teachers in larger numbers in the coming years. At the same time, the demand for quality secondary education is steadily increasing. It is recommended that the aim should be to reach universal secondary education within a maximum of ten years. Given the problems of inadequate quality in most secondary schools due to poor infrastructure and insufficient and poorly equipped teachers, the need for addressing the professional education of secondary teachers acquires great importance.
“The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 places different demands and expectations on the teacher, which need to be addressed both by initial and continuing teacher education”.
The NCF TE 2010 document suggests “Teachers need to be creators of knowledge and thinking professionals. They need to be empowered to recognize and value what children learn from their home, social and cultural environment and to create opportunities for children to discover, learn and develop. Educationists are also of the view that the burden arises from treating knowledge as a ‘given’, as an external reality existing outside the learner and embedded in textbooks. This view of education points to the need to take a fresh look at teacher preparation. Education is not a mechanical activity of information transmission and teachers are not information dispensers. Teachers need to be looked at as crucial mediating agents through whom curriculum is transacted and knowledge is co-constructed along with learners. Textbooks by themselves do not help in developing knowledge and understanding. Learning is not confined to the four walls of the classroom. For this to happen, there is a need to connect knowledge to life outside the school and enrich the curriculum by making it less textbook-centered.
Issues related to inclusive education, perspectives for equitable and sustainable development, gender perspectives, role of community knowledge in education and ICT in schooling as well as e-learning become the centre-stage in the Framework.
The NCF TE says “In this situation, it is necessary to conceive ways in which teachers can opt for different kinds of trainings, based on their interest and requirement, and along with the recommendation of school supervisors. “For this, it would be necessary for training schedules to be announced well in advance (at the end of each academic year, for the next year) and for processes to be in place to enable teachers to register for the trainings they wish to undergo. Processes for field support for training would need to be worked out by these agencies providing training, and this need not fall as a mass responsibility of the concerned CRP, or co-ordinator in-service programmes as is currently happening. Allocation of funds, training dates, duration and other logistics would need to be made more decentralized and based on individual teacher’s preferences, thus, doing away with the current model of mass trainings, based on the one-size-fits-all design. Further training dates allocation could also include time spent in other professional activities such as seminars, conferences and other activities suggested in this chapter. Systems that would enable teachers to avail of long-term courses, sabbaticals and fellowships would also need to be evolved. A follow-up mechanism for keeping track of trainings and professional activities of teachers would need to be evolved and put in place.”
Some examples of new models which have been able to look at new models for teacher education are discussed in the NCF TE; the Delhi University School Resource Network (USRN)2 which aims to build professional networks of learning amongst teachers in government and private schools, teacher educators in Govt. and private institutions, university depts of education. This program is also revising the DED curriculum of Delhi and participants have created digital educational resources in Hindi and resources that link practice with theory. The MA Education program of TISS explores new 'blended' learning models for teacher education, using contact and distance modes of learning. A third program, the Kerala IT @ Schools program provides opportunities to teachers to become resource creators in their own subjects – mathematics, science, social science, languages and enhance their subject matter mastery, using digital tools. These programs have been able to establish new models for knowledge access, construction, storing, sharing and publishing, using 'techno-pedagogical' principles and methods.
All three programs have a strong 'ICT' component. However the use of ICTs is driven by strong pedagogic principles / approaches and is not technology centred. Educationists and practitioners have designed these programs, not technology professionals. The program designs emphasise elements such as independent, need based, self directed and self paced learning with continuous mentoring; pioneering new models of teacher professional development (TPD), which are essential to enable the priorities and principles discussed in the RTE, NCF, NCFTE a reality in the Indian school system.
Thus there is need to re-look the TE policy and programs for elementary education, covering both pre-service and in-service education and develop new approaches that adapt ICTs, based on educational contexts and priorities and designed by people working in education to further aims of education, including those discussed in the landmark RTE Act.
1All citations from NCF TE 2009 document unless stated otherwise
2The Regional Resource Centre in Education (RRCE), established in the Central Institue of Education (CIE) is an important hub of this network, providing support to network participants in knowledge access, collaborative construction and sharing.