By Anu Agarwal
Majority of India still lives in villages and so the topic of rural education in India is of utmost importance. A survey called the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) shows that even though the number of rural students attending schools is rising, more than half of the students in fifth grade are unable to read a second grade text book and are not able to solve simple mathematical problems. Not only this, the level of math and reading is further declining. Though efforts are being made, they are not in the right direction.
“Education should not be a business but it should be run like a business.” – Padma Shri Dr. D.B Pathak
Quality and access to education is the significant worry in provincial schools as there are less dedicated instructors, absence of legitimate course books and learning material in the schools. quality is a noteworthy issue when government schools are compared with the tuition based schools. In any case, Poverty becomes the sole reason that kids are not sent to tuition based schools and consequently rely on government schools for training.
The foundation to turn India into a strong nation has to be laid down at primary and rural levels and so the quality of education right from the beginning should be excellent The reasons behind so many drop-outs in spite of free education should be found out as this is a hurdle on the road to progress. Improvement in the condition of government schools, education quality, committed teachers and more salaries to these teachers should be part of development. There are many private teacher-training institutes in India, but the quality of the training they provide is unsatisfactory. Continuous professional development is a motivator for teachers, and enough attention is needed in this regard.
Teachers don’t have a voice and have no say about educational policy. The concept of motivated teacher is also a flawed one because most of them feel that a motivated teacher is one who is regular to school every day, follows official protocols blindly without questioning and if necessary provide information that management team wants! The real focus shifts from student learning outcomes to complying orders as fount fit by the administrative department relegating teachers to a mere stature of puppets who have no voice.
Ms. Seema Bansal of Boston Consulting Group mentioned in TED Talk that one of the issues faced by teachers in Haryana is not that they are incompetent but they were expected by supervisors to supervise the construction of classrooms, toilet, mid-day meal or depositing scholarship money in students account etc. Hence teachers were in schools but not in classrooms. As teachers have to comply rather than pitching in their ideas, the whole process seems like a mundane task leading to disheartened and demotivated teachers. To cope up with this, teacher end up teaching a class of say 40 to 80 students in government schools.
Sometimes teachers are thrust with grades and subjects that a teacher is
not equipped to handle or interested to teach. Most of all the blame game that
teachers have to suffer when management and even parents question them if a
student’s result is not up to the mark, even though the results are based on an
archaic examination system which stresses importance on textbook learning with
little to no scope of critical thinking. Hence, teachers are not motivated
because they are not empowered and there is no support.
Professional development and teacher’s needs:
Education sector is a very dynamic industry. A good teacher needs to be constantly updated with the best practices practiced across the world. This means revaluating and reflecting one’s pedagogical skills by adopting rigorous study, practice and self – improvement techniques.
The high performing countries keep professional development and training as the top most priority and they conduct in-house trainings every month in addition to regular classroom observations and feedback by peers and line managers.
Unfortunately, professional development and R&D cell in the elite private schools is starkly absent and even if there are such workshops they are numbered to say 10 or 15 PD sessions per year, leaving teachers unequipped to manage the rapidly changing milieu of education section.
Very few schools like Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad, Indus school Bangalore, TISB, etc., have their in-house professional development cell.
At the end of the day a teacher is just a human being who has studied in the same dysfunctional system which means most of the teaching practices stem from the belief and experiences acquired during their school days. To change or even transform her belief system requires redesigning of professional development modules to a cutting age quality.
For example, after the implementation of RTE (Right to education), which again many private schools have not wholeheartedly accepted, the classrooms have become more diverse and multi ethnic, and multi lingual.
Teachers lack the skills to manage such diversity in class. Training programmes are designed keeping in view the situation existing in urban schools and problems faced by teachers.
An elementary school teacher attends the same training programme as that of a senior school teacher leaving no scope for differentiation and discussion on age specific issues. Most of the sessions are nothing but heavy dose of theory with zero planning to implement those ideas.
Sessions like joyful learning and student-centric learning sounds hollow to teachers as they have to deal with social diversity and different levels of students. In general, there is no subject specific training for multi grade situations as most training programmes focus on generic skills. Hence, there is a complete mismatch between the problems faced by teachers inside the classroom and training programmes designed by administrators who have very little idea of challenges of a multi-grade class.
Even if a teacher takes the whole pain to educate herself, at the end she is supervised by department head or principal who themselves have stereotypes and mind-set that are even more outdated.
For example, if a language teacher is doing a listening task then she would be questioned by her coordinator as to why there is focus on listening and speaking skills rather than writing skills.
For the coordinator it is a Eureka moment if the teacher writes something on the board and students copy them like mute sheep increasing the volume of pages filled in the notebook which is a tangible product that can be shown to parents.
Or let’s say a Math teacher, who wants to implement an activity that they had learnt from one of the workshop session by asking the students to sing a rap while teaching statistics, would be promptly intervened by the management by scolding the teacher in front of the students for not maintaining discipline.
Lack of intellectual liberty and academic freedom is what teachers miss in this profession and this failure of implementing something new curtails their motivation to learn, innovate and update their practices.
Amidst all these evident challenges, there are initiatives taken by Prime Minister’s government which has helped satiate the desire of fair learning amongst rural children and youth.
- For instance, E-basta aims to make digital education via tablets and computers accessible to learners in rural areas. Digital learning can help develop critical thinking skills. The project aims not only to benefit learners in learning concepts, but also to make them comfortable with technology.
Steps are already being taken to introduce digital aids in preschools. Though digital aids can never really replace teachers, initiatives of these kinds can make quality content available to them.
- Again, RashtriyaMadhyamikShikshaAbhiyan (RMSA), in partnership with state governments, is dedicated to enhance the capacity of all teachers in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
Many teachers are not tech-savvy, and the teacher-training courses never really prepare them to handle digital aids in classrooms. Such schemes can go a long way in keeping them motivated besides improving their competence.
Under a fresh blueprint by the apex regulator, the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), a tight grip on dubious teacher education establishments is confirmed. This will actually bar 3000 teacher education colleges from admitting fresh students from the next academic year. Also, by January 2018, NCTE plans to declare a ranking of the top 100 teacher training institutes that will provide robust teacher training modules. Hopefully, this move will curb the growth of poor quality teaching institutions in India and bring about transparency in teacher training as well.