I spent six weeks with CSF working on a seemingly wordy project, “Accreditation and Monitoring & Evaluation of Teacher Education Institutes”. I also spent six weeks with CSF having one of the most intensive learning experiences of my life.
For my project, I had to study the existing quality assurance system of teacher education in the country. The research my teammate and I did was twofold; we started with secondary research to understand the existing national and international models of quality assurance in education and in other domains. The second phase of our work included interviewing multiple stakeholders to understand the situation on the ground. Based on our findings, we listed key discussion points which were suggestive of the strategic and operational shifts that could strengthen the system. Our discussion points were the premise for a lot of internal and external debates. We gathered all our learnings and arrived at a vision for pre service teacher education and listed the long term and short goals and interventions to achieve the same.
Each stage of the process listed above came with its own unique challenges. I didn’t appreciate the significance of secondary research at the outset of the project. It didn’t have the charm of “going out there and getting real information”. However, I realised fairly quickly that strong secondary research built the foundation of any project. Getting meaningful information out of existing resources in a quick and efficient manner, is something I got better at with time. Primary research, with all its charm had its own hurdles. Before making calls to stakeholders, I would wonder why someone so senior and busy would take time out to talk with me. But more often than not, I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of people to help out and share their knowledge. Times like these made me realise the power of research and the absolute dearth of it in our country. Appeasing to the stakeholder’s view point and still extracting relevant information from them was an exciting task! Establishing an open, trusting atmosphere and asking seemingly controversial questions, all in a span of 30 minutes was particularly challenging. The debates and discussions that followed all the research were invigorating. My thinking and reasoning was pushed at each stage, and I had to make sure that every idea I committed to had hard data backing it. Nothing else would suffice.
The support system at CSF helped me work through the million (in my opinion) earth shattering obstacles I faced. I was guided, but not spoon fed. I was given space to explore on my own, but not allowed to derail. I was encouraged to ask questions, but I was also pushed to look for my own answers. At the end of each day, I invariably had more questions than answers. But I also had a friendly and patient mentor ready to hear me out.
Through this journey I had many internal conflicts regarding some pertinent questions: Am I the right person to be making recommendations? Isn’t my exposure and vision limited? Is the research I have done enough? How much research is enough? Will my work have any impact? I still don’t have the right answer to most of these questions (perhaps I never will). However, what I got at CSF was a chance to explore these questions with some very well intentioned, experienced and smart people. The summer made me learn incredible amounts about what it takes to actually work in education in India and I owe this experience to CSF. Thank you guys!