Nation wide K-12 educator participation has been requested as the state wise SOPs are being framed for the implementation of the National Education Policy 2020 in the next academic year – from webinars to round table conferences, to surveys – you name it, and there is feedback about each aspect of the document before policies are framed which is a welcome sign as it prevents this becoming another debate. Better to deliberate now and work out logistics including exception to the cases, and avoid this becoming another roadblock in time.
One of the key areas of discussions is centred around qualifications of teachers, their certification, the duration of the degrees etc. For me, the importance of recognising that qualifications are necessary from certified & recognised organisations is a good starting point (who is certifying and on what grounds is also something that needs complete transparency and clarity including governance). I worry however about the quality of content, the upgrade status of the syllabus keeping in mind the vision of the NEP and importantly, the quality of trainers.
I was in discussion with a senior trainer a few weeks back and she passionately spoke about the quantum of information available with the diploma and degree programs in the country. Everyone is aware, we love our ‘quantity’ in this country (if you are slogging days and nights over reams of paper, for some this is defined as hard work and assumed success), and to be honest, that does not bother me too much. More can be good for some, and it is a matter of how it is organised and managed, how often is it upgraded and honestly, who is facilitating this?
Well, that’s where this gets interesting and a bit complicated. Unfortunately, the teaching profession in this country is lower down the pecking order for most when all other bucket choices don’t work out. For some it is most definitely a matter of passion and for many, it is a safe, reliable alternative that provides flexibility (well these pandemic times will question this on all accounts!). While the past two decades have seen progress with private players stepping up and rewarding teachers, the truth is as a country, we know we have our challenges on this front which we have done very little to address over the years. ‘Teach for America’ if you recall was initiated to address a similar situation in the US – bring ‘talent’ into the education space as a starting point, to ensure those that learn from strong facilitators will emerge therefore more evolved!
As a nation, we need to start thinking about this. How can we make this profession enticing enough to attract the best in class. Not for a moment I am suggesting that the talent is not good, all I am simply saying is that teaching should be featured more in the top choices rather than the bottom ones. Make it a level playing field like it is for engineering, medicine, finance etc.
With this change in mindset, I believe we will start evaluating the quality of the diplomas and degrees from the perspective of syllabus and content, and if the vision is the future, these courses need a re-think immediately. The move away from rote to application as part of the NEP must also be applicable for the way we impart education to aspiring teachers. It has to be relevant, futuristic and implementable.
With my dissertation on the Capital Structure Theory – Optimum Debt-Equity ratio as part of my final submission on the MBA, as someone who values research, I know I have scanned every theorist from Miller and Modigliani and tried to validate my hypothesis with a dogged determination. After over a lac of words and using the hotel industry in India as a case study, all I can say is that, theory holds its place to explain rationale, a lot depends on the field experience.
Simply put – we need to pack in more internships with these qualifications, more time learning on the job, kind of like what the undergraduate programs in the US have – students working for a whole year before they are awarded their degree after a 4 year program completion.
This for me is crucial, as lecture hall knowledge about theorists and class room teaching are too much of a gap to bridge when one starts work especially if the candidate has never worked a day in his/her life and is thrust in front of a classroom of children with different learning abilities and the teacher is meant to get into the act and optimise. Some can. Some simply cannot, and for me, the biggest worry is the unsuspecting children who are assigned to the class.
Hopefully, decision makers will take a long hard look at the content being curated on these programs and internships and field experience to apply these ideas before teachers become teachers and give them the confidence as well to deliver what they are set out to! Regular revisions, upgrades, inclusion of technology skilling are some obvious decisions to be factored in. Currently, this is not as progressive as we would like it to be. With the pandemic if hindsight is permitted, I would say we have fallen short.
With that, I will focus on who is facilitating these courses? Back to my discussion with this senior lecturer and she was taken aback when I said how can someone who has never taught in a school at any age be able to facilitate with confidence because the ground realities are very different from creating a perfect lesson plan and walking into a classroom to find half the class absent, some disinterested, some unwell and some incident that occurs that needs more counselling than content delivery? What sounds perfect in a lecture does not fit into every classroom, every year and this will be stated openly by anyone who has ever taught. For me therefore the quality of the faculty teaching must also come from a place of experience to be able to give practical advice to students. This is an area that needs screening, review and also governance year on year.
And last but not the least, as a Trustee, I have hired a few teachers as interns for teacher-support to provide opportunities to them to learn on the job and hopefully inspire them to take on qualifications and teaching full time. These were stay-at-home mums who had given up rewarding banking or law careers to look after their children and I found in many cases, the out-of-box thinking, the creativity, the simplicity, and the patience these ladies had with children was as much or in some cases, far more impactful than perhaps the qualified and experienced teachers.
This brings me to the question I leave everyone with – will mandates warrant hiring so that we can tick the boxes, or will we start recognising talent for what it is? I do believe like the NEP has pointed out, the BED in its 4, 3, 2, 1 year versions allows those experienced in other fields that are qualified to also skill them up with a more flexible programs and shorter versions of it. Hope this is aligned to what the academic boards and States are factoring in when creating these SOPs. It is these minute details that need careful consideration for I know I have been forced to take on some teachers simply because the ‘rule’ stated it on paper.
Let’s broaden our mindset and ring some changes with an eye on the future.