Putting teacher training on track

Ashish Dhawan, The Financial Express on November 9, 2014

Less than 6% of the 6.6 lakh teacher education programme graduates who appeared for the recent Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) conducted by CBSE were able to clear it. Our current teacher preparation system is failing those who choose this profession and is in urgent need of reform. We need to honour the commitment of those entering the teaching profession by taking steps to create high-performing teacher education institutes (TEIs) that are building effective and motivated teachers.

Currently, we have 13 lakh seats spread across 16,000 TEIs in the country. A majority of TEIs came into existence between 2004 and 2008 when their number quadrupled from 3,000 institutions with 2.7 lakh seats to 12,000 institutions with over 10.7 lakh seats. This growth occurred mainly through the expansion of privately-run TEIs, which today account for 93% of total institutions. This expansion was not based on any projected demand for teachers and was without any stringent quality standards, resulting in excess capacity being created in some states, with little or none in others.

Many committees over the years have made numerous well-thought recommendations for raising the standard of TEIs, including the 2012 Justice Verma Committee. But few recommendations have been implemented and the system continues to languish. What our country needs is fewer, high quality institutes with an intake capacity of a few thousand seats each, and a strong accreditation and monitoring framework that helps raise the bar of quality for TEIs and creates meaningful checks on their performance. We need to move from paralysis to action.

Define vision and quality standards for teacher education institutes: Currently, TEIs only require one-time recognition from the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). Another significant quality assurance measure that exists is an opt-in accreditation by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). However, only 2% of TEIs have volunteered for such an accreditation. At the state level, joint review missions monitor the overall performance of TEIs through random sampling.

Each of these processes is operated independently with few linkages and coordination. There is a need to create an overarching vision and define quality standards for TEIs to ensure alignment and strong linkages across these processes and process owners. Accreditation of TEIs must be mandatory to make this quality assurance measure meaningful.

Strengthen TEI accreditation framework and process: The current NAAC framework focuses on inputs such as curriculum, infrastructure, teaching-learning, student support, management and innovation. We need to include outcome parameters such as TET performance of students, placement percentage, pass percentage of students, etc, as part of the TEI rating framework.

As we increase the number of TEIs that need to be accredited, we have to ensure that the process is fair, transparent and easily accessible. We have to take the outdated paper-intensive process to an online one that speeds up data collection and processing, and enables the results to be posted in the public domain in real time. TEIs have three months to prepare for inspection—this is excessive and should be reduced. Finally, TEIs are expected to directly sponsor and plan the travel/stay arrangements for assessors when they visit them for inspection. There is an inherent conflict of interest in this. Building in assessor travel and stay expenses into the overall fee to be paid to the accreditation agency by the TEI can be one way to minimise corruption in the process.

Rationalise and consolidate existing TEI capacity: States such as Maharashtra and Karnataka have excess TEI capacity with 4-5 times the number of seats as their demand for teachers. Others, such as Bihar, are starved for capacity—the demand for teachers in Bihar is more than 30 times the current TEI capacity. We have to rationalise TEI capacity so that it is in line with the demand for teachers in a particular state.

We should also identify good TEIs through the outcomes-oriented accreditation framework and consolidate teacher education in these. Here we can learn valuable lessons from China—it relies on 100 large-scale normal universities to train teachers as against India’s 16,000 TEIs.

Set up flagship centres of excellence in teacher education: Unlike professional training institutes such as IITs, IIMs and AIIMS, currently there is no institute for teacher education that is highly aspirational and that sets the gold standard for the ecosystem. As we look at consolidating our existing capacity, we also need to build centres of excellence in teacher education within our best central universities. Teaching being a practice-based profession, these centres of excellence must be integrated with model lab schools (just as medical institutes such as AIIMS are integrated with a hospital) to enable continuous pedagogical research that can then be made available to the rest of the ecosystem.

The quality of our teachers is the most basic determinant of the quality of our education system. We hope that the soon-to-be-launched Madan Mohan Malviya Teachers Training programme will take the requisite steps to ensure that our teachers receive the required direction and guidance that can develop them into great educators.

Read the entire article in The Financial Express.

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