Dialogue April-June, 2011, Volume 12 No. 4
Emerging Perspectives before Teachers
In the second decade of the 21st century, the debate on various aspects of education remains as intense as ever. If some sixty years ago it focused on access, expansion and bringing children, particularly girls, to schools, the dimensions are now entirely different. It, however, remains a fact that millions and millions of children world over are still outside the fold of education. Not only this, serious issues of varied inadequacies regarding those in schools have also manifested themselves in the shape of several prominent concerns. There have been several attitudinal changes regarding education amongst the parents and the communities. These do not only want education, they sincerely desire to give good education to their children at any cost! In a fiercely competitive world, education has no relevance if it does not prepare young people to compete with the best, acquire life skills and be mentally prepared to learn and acquire more knowledge and new skills as these are the essential requirements of the century which is the century of the pace of change. Schools must impart quality education and also ensure a comprehensive personality development that would be equipped to face the emerging challenges on one hand and make creative and innovative contributions on the other. The country and the world needs men and women that believe in leading a value-based life, who understand the criticality of man-nature mutuality and who have internalized the requirement of celebrating diversities of all types that have been gifted to mankind. All this would be possible only when Teacher Effectiveness is achieved by the teacher preparation systems on a countrywide scale.
The task before teachers is indeed huge. While the constitution of India had directed the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children till they attain fourteen years of age, it implemented its Right to Education Act (RTE) only in April 2010, including children in the age group of 6-14 years only. At that stage it was roughly estimated that the taking into account the existing vacancies and the additional posts of teachers required to implement the RTE, some thirteen lakh of teachers would be needed over a period of about five years. It may be recalled that at the time of Independence, the shortage of teachers was acutely felt when the expansion began and it continues even today. The only reason could be lack of pragmatic policies of teacher preparation and neglect of area specific requirements in diverse socio-cultural and economic contexts. While certain regions have unemployed teachers, there is perpetual shortage in rural, hilly and far-flung areas. Several state governments have employed unqualified and untrained teachers on the pittance of an honorarium, expecting many of them to run a full school from classes I-V! After over six decades, Indian school system still suffers from several bottlenecks in terms of non-availability of trained teachers, teacher vacancies and absenteeism, inadequate infrastructure support in schools, engagement of teachers in various non-teaching assignments, fear of transfers and poor response to redress the deficiencies under which the teachers function and to which they wish to draw the attention of the authorities. Politicization of teachers and political interference in various aspects also hinders the smooth functioning of the system as a whole. They need a thorough understanding of the components that constitute the quality of education. They need to understand the implications of change in expectations from ,education not only in general terms but also in terms of the requirements of specific sectors and particularly the new avenues emerging in the globalized and ICT-dominated world. Obviously that requires thorough pre-induction education of teachers in teacher education institutions. They also need functional dynamic systems of in-service education of teachers. It is the quality of teacher educators that determines the professional preparedness of teachers and that in turn determines the levels of efficiency and efficacy in various sectors of human endeavor meant for progress and development aimed at improving the quality of life. In order to fulfill the expectations and to discharging their role with commitment and dedication, teachers need a sensitive and responsive system of educational administration and management. They need a congenial environment to deliver the best of their performance.
Quality in Education
Quality of education is dynamic concept that keeps on evolving. It is no more simply acquiring just mere literacy, numeracy and the life skills. Peoples’ perceptions are no longer confined to mere teachers, content and certificates and degrees. It would be desirable to have an overview of the elements that determine quality in totality. It defines the world before the teachers and also helps in delineating their tasks, professional needs and performance strategies. “The quality of education must recognize the past, be relevant to the present, and have a view in the future. It must also relate to knowledge building and the skillful application of all forms of knowledge by unique individuals who function both independently and in relation to others. A high quality of education will always reflect the dynamic nature of culture and language, the value of the individual in relation to the larger context and the importance of living in a way that promotes equality in the present and fosters a sustainable future.”1 Education as a fundamental right requires that learners have to be sought after; no child, including those from deprived and deficient groups, girls; children in difficult conditions, in emergencies, with disabilities, with nomadic life styles and with any other possible deprivation must be brought to the fold of education. That would have a direct relationship to the way teachers are prepared and the manner in which they perform their functions. Every teacher needs to develop context specific competence and must ascertain the level and extent of the learning that the leaner brings once he/se joins the school. The content of education is generally determined by the systems and may often be only indicative and not necessarily context specific. That is the ingenuity of the teacher to give content in a manner that would serve as the basis for further learning and acquisitions when the leaner goes out in the world of work and is on his/her own. After all this come the processes which determine not only the levels of learning but also impact the levels of learner interest in furthering the learning and, as is most desirable, whether the much sought-after ‘enjoyable learning could really be achieved! Essentially it is the community of teachers in a school or any institution that creates a learning environment conducive to quality of education in its varied aspects. Thus the immediate system that matters in quality consists of understanding the learner's background, content, process and the learning environment. This immediate circle is invariably dependent on five other systemic factors: resources; supportive legislative systems; pragmatic policy formulation and their committed implementation, management and administration of the system and finally, the means to measure the outcomes. This may not be the only approach towards quality of education but the omnibus presence of these elements would rather remain universal in nature. Depending on the context and conditions, certain aspects could be reworded but the approach has to be guided by the efficacy of learning during the future life of the learner. Each of these has relevance for the teacher and teacher preparation. These also determine the width and depth of the role of teacher in the future world. Quality education, apart from other inputs, mainly and mostly depends on the competence, commitment and performance of the teachers. These teachers are supposed to know the meaning of quality, the import of learner centered education, the requisite pedagogy, learning methods in symphony with the teaching methods and are no longer confined only to the syllabus as translated in the textbook. They know that the responsibility is ‘to draw out the best out of body, mind and spirit’. These teachers must be confident on all of these aspects and quality must remain their target in the classroom, outside the class room and within school and also outside the school. Teachers of tomorrow have to remember that they are catering to a learning society which is now submerged in shared information and has every intention to move towards a knowledge society. If the knowledge society is to develop properly then information has to be structured in such a way that it fulfills some basic conditions of interactivity, mobility, convertibility, connectivity, ubiquity and globalization as was perceived by Toffler2 some two decades ago. Another prime consideration in this march towards the knowledge society is the emergence of islands of prosperity and progress for limited group of global population as against the presence of continents of ignorance, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, overpopulation, backwardness and ill health. The emerging world that the teachers shall prepare has to be conscious of their role in bringing about social justice and equity for one and all. The objectives of education shall change accordingly and from that the changing roles of teachers shall emerge. Husen 3 had listed these in the following terms:
* Education must prepare students to live in a pluralistic society.
* Education should not be confined to childhood or youth but should be a lifelong process.
* It should take more informal character.
* It should build and lay the groundwork for re-educability and ability to assimilate further knowledge.
* Schools must promote internationalism.
* Schools must build skills how to deal with the torrential flow of information,
The global society, and the globalized world has travelled a long distance in educational understanding and appreciation from 1972 when UNESCO made learning society the master concept in its well known report ‘Learning to Be’ 4 known as the Edgar Faure Report and then came to the much discussed Report “Learning: The Treasure Within5, which is called the Jacques Delors Report. The latter very precisely summarizes the change and states referring to Faure Report:” Its recommendations are still very relevant, for in the twenty first century everyone will need to exercise greater independence and judgment combined with a strong sense of personal responsibility for the attainment of common goals. Our report stresses a further imperative: none of talents which are hidden like buried treasure in every person must be left untapped These are, to name but a few: memory, reasoning power, imagination, physical ability, aesthetic sense, the aptitude to communicate with others and the natural charisma of the group leader, which again goes to prove the need for greater self knowledge.” The four pillars of education listed in the Delors Report are the key ingredients that determine the basis for the delineation of teachers’ role in specific contexts that also matches the global context. Out of these four pillars it lays very special emphasis on the first: Learning to Live Together. It includes understanding and respecting otherness, rejoice diversities, be aware of the cultures, faiths, civilizations practices and every other possible difference in: approach and attitude, faiths. The world of the 21 st century is interlinked and no-distance world in which everyone has to be in one way or the other linked to everyone else! The other three pillars are: Learning to Know; Learning to do; and; Learning to be. These present education in probably the totality that could not be described with such comprehension in any other manner. Teachers must be made aware of these developments and shall themselves delineate their roles relevant to the age and stage of learning of the child. It would be relevant to recall the definition of basic learning needs that emerged out of the World Conference on Education for All held in Jomtien, in March 19906: These needs comprise both essential learning tools (such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, and problem solving) and the basic learning content (such as knowledge, skill, values, and attitudes) required by human beings to be able to survive, to develop their full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions, and to continue learning.”
Let it be understood fully well that a stage has been reached in which universal education has practically universal acceptance which has now grown in eagerness and keenness to impart education to both boys and girls everywhere. The latest addition to this is: the desire amongst parents is not only for education but for good quality education that is imbued with skill orientation and still better, inculcation of intense desire within the learner to learn more. In India this phenomenon is best illustrated by the rush for private schools as compared to government schools. It also illustrates another big challenge that has emerged before the governments: their own schools are losing credibility at a fast pace and steps must be put in place to set the house in order. Apart from other needed inputs, it has serious implications for teachers’ orientation and preparation in terms of commitment and value internalization apart from understanding their changed role.
By the time one becomes a teacher, normal expectation is that he/she has undergone a programe of acquisition of knowledge and skills in the art and craft of teaching and learning. This process also acquaints the student teachers with the adequate content knowledge in the specific subjects they are supposed to teach as per the requirements of the existing system of education. The System that India follows consists of teacher education courses for young persons who pass out the examinations after twelve years of schooling, or are graduates or post-graduates from the universes and colleges. The training programmes consist of two years duration for elementary stage teachers and one year’s duration for the graduates who would be teaching at the secondary stage. Based on the recommendations of the Curriculum Framework for quality teacher education, two year B.Ed courses are also being conducted by Regional Institutes of Education of the NCERT7. Unfortunately, innovative teacher education programmes have not been taken up on a larger scale in the country till now. The Four integrated courses initiated by the NCERT in mid-sixties for preparing quality teachers for secondary schools still remain islands of isolation in spite of researches having proved that the products of these courses are far superior to those who undergo only one academic year of secondary teacher education courses. The introduction of the two-year Bachelor of Education in the Regional Institutes of Education was opposed by many, though not necessarily on academic grounds alone. It was a bold decision against the argument “why should anyone join a ‘two-year course’ when one year programmes are available in plenty”? The response from parents and student teachers proved it beyond doubt that quality is liked by every group and people are willing to walk an extra mile to acquire it. The problem at present is that the seriousness which teacher preparation requires is absent, particularly at the implementation stage. One of the major initiatives resulting out of the twenty years long efforts of concerned teachers, teacher educators and educationists resulted in the establishment of the National Council for Teacher Education; NCTE. It showed initial promises but unfortunately could not resist the art of functioning of other regulatory bodies. The only alternative now seems to be the establishment of a National Resource Centre for Teacher Education which should function as the professional and academic light house in the field8.
Even in an academic and professional discussion, the existence of certain anomalies in teacher preparation just cannot be overlooked as these seriously erode the credibility of the system and quality of the products. During the last decade, teacher preparation has been converted to an investment sector in which safe and lucrative returns are guaranteed. The mushrooming of teacher education colleges has been rather shocking not because these are not needed but the manner in which these are approved by the regulatory body and the way these function. The gap between the expectations from teacher education institutions and their real performance was never as wide and alarming as at present. The deterioration in the work culture and inadequacy of teacher-student teacher-school students is rampant. Not only this teachers also face huge distractions as the recruitment procedures are still archaic and generate little hope for a free and fair inclusion in the system. Recruitment of teachers on a small honorarium could be justified in certain extreme situations but it has been converted into regular practice by certain state governments just to ‘save resources’ though they may not admit it. These ‘para teachers’ are then regularized under various pressures and, obviously, contribute to the deterioration of the quality as most of them are untrained and under qualified.
It would be interesting to recall the teachers’ roles and corresponding students' roles as were identified by Weaver9
Table: Teachers’ Roles and Corresponding Students’ Roles and Outcomes
Teachers’ Roles Teaching/ Student’s Roles Likely Student
Learning Process Quality as
1. Appreciator As determined by 1. Searcher Self- Determination
students 2. Partner Participation
2. Partner Responsibility 3. Patron Making
3. Designer Creativeness 4. Guide Searching
4. Explorer Adventurousness 5. Questioner Experimentation
5. Searcher Investigation Skill 6. Tutor Reflection
6. Thinker Understanding
7. Counsellor Expression of feeling 7. Client Insight
8. Moulder Conditioning 8. Subject Habits
9. Instructor Transfer of 9. Memorizer Possession of
10. Exemplar Imitation 10. Trainee Skills
Let it be mentioned that in literature these roles are presented in different ways and it has its own justification. It must be made very explicit in the light of above ten roles that role of teachers as evaluator does not emerge as promptly as it should. This is one of the most important of the aspects of the teaching-learning process that impacts the growing up of the learner in all of its personality development and cognitive aspects. In India where teachers look after a large number of children from first and second generation families, this aspect becomes far more significant. India is still struggling with examination reforms and bringing in the continuous and comprehensive evaluation in its schools. Even the teacher preparation institutions are following the age old annual examination system.
Teachers also determine their task-delineation by properly understanding the expectations of all of the young learners. It emerged from several studies that pupils like teachers with the following attributes:10
Praise pupils’ ideas
Give less direction, command or orders
Are more indirect in their classroom behavior
Do less negative talk
Ask more questions while guiding the content-oriented transaction
Possess requisite skills to respond to pupils’ ideas, talk and queries
Integrate pupils’ ideas in to classroom discussions; and
Are involved in more creative models of teaching
In India, teachers’ priorities can certainly not be same throughout the country while their mission of course remains the same. Social cohesion and learning to live together are universally accepted as the most outstanding of the objectives of education in the present century. Teachers in rural areas have many additional tasks that may not be the priority for a well funded school in a metro. It is always possible to delineate the quality attributes that would be put to proper application in differing measures depending on the contextual factors11:
Love and affection
Openness to criticism
Sensitivity to students’ emotional needs
Humility and modesty
Tolerance for mistakes and mischiefs
Sense of social justice and equity
The Centrality of the role of teacher requires all of them to continuously ponder over their own personality traits and the refinements that they have achieved to ensure more comprehensive contribution to the process of growing up. This growing up is not only important for the learner but is equally ifnot more relevant to the teacher. It has been emphasized from time immemorial that only one who continues to learn throughout life is in fact eligible to be the teacher. In the contemporary context it is being highlighted as ‘lifelong learning’ for both the learner and the teacher. It is also clear that no teacher unwilling to acquire new knowledge and skills can survive in the esteem of his/her learners and also the parents and the community. Hence, the promotion of self-empowerment becomes one of the prime tasks of the teacher. An active and alert teacher shall always be ready to receive new ideas and willing to make attempts to incorporate the relevant ones in the process of teaching and learning. The process of self-learning and intellectual humility are organically linked and this could be best appreciated by recalling the immortal lines of T.S. Ellioe12
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless?
The teacher who internalizes the import of self-learning and humility is sure to succeed in building teacher-student rapport at the optimum level and extend it to parents and community as well. Such teachers are most suited for group performance and enhancing institutional quality levels. They ‘nourish and nurture each other’ and ‘empower each other’! ‘The skill and appreciation of ‘Learning to live together’ follow when such attributes are visible amongst teachers and impact the learners as well. While cognitive development and individual’s all round personality development are still important and essential, the focus also includes social and economic dimensions of education in the globalized world. In a world that is struggling to sustain itself in the unbridled pursuits of materialism and unchecked consumerism, it is education that is expected to bring back the balance between human needs and human greed! That requires priority focus on value inculcation. Obviously, this can be achieved only when every teacher is trained and educated to become a teacher and nurturer of human values also.
The task before the policy makers and the implementers responsible for teacher preparation is far more complex now than in the past. Dynamic, responsive, comprehensive and effective education primarily depends on the availability of ‘effective teachers’. All those who join the teacher preparation courses are neither necessarily motivated enough to become teachers nor have come because of their priority? As jobs are always scarce in the country, personal preference often takes a back seat as against financial security and related factors. It is a given condition. It becomes the responsibility of the system and the teacher educators to try and achieve an attitudinal transformation amongst these young boys and girls who could be teaching in the system for the next four to five decades and impacting the life of thousands and thousands. This paper discusses only some of the aspects that according to the author are relevant for individual teacher to delineate his/her own objectives in life and in profession. The roles, within the broad frame work of educational excellence, also vary depending on the specific expertise and interest that a particular teacher may excel in. However, the individual excellence and interests must merge into the identified institutional goals that are determined within broad policy framework. The teacher performance could also be seen in terms of technical effectiveness and competencies acquired for subject matter transaction that would include planning and developing curricular materials. classroom organization, and management.l3 The Human component in building relationships shall augment technical efforts. No teacher can escape situations in which conflict management techniques come to the rescue and there are occasions when social power has to come in to play. The cultural effectiveness of the teacher shall be evidenced by the manner, in which students are motivated to develop shared goals and imbibe values including respect for diversity. No teacher can ignore the value of renewal as it emanates from continuous striving for learning new and more. Systems of teacher preparation have no other alternative but to wake up14. It requires specific future oriented overhauling of the institutions preparing teachers and teacher educators.
No people, it is universally admitted, can rise above the level of their teachers. The nation must never ignore this truth as it alone promises a bright future for generations ahead.
1. UNESCO, 2006, Cross-national studies of the quality of education; edited by Kenneth N. Ross and Ilona Jurgens Genevois; International Institute for Educational Planning, 7-9 Eugene Delacroix, 75116, Paris
2. Toffler, Alvin. 1990. Power Shift, New York, Bantam Books.
3. Husen, Torsten, 1974; The Learning Society, Penguin Books.
4. UNESCO, 1972; Learning to Be; UNESCO: Paris.
5. Delors, J. 1996. Learning: the Treasure within. Paris: UNWSCO
6. UNESCO. 1990. World Declaration on Education for All: meeting basic learning needs. New York: UNESCO.
7. National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE); 1998, Curriculum Framework for Quality Teacher Education; New Delhi
8. Singh R.P.; 2010;Dialogue with Teacher Educators; Teaching Content, Modes and its Nature; pp 78-79; Shipra Publications, Delhi
9. Weaver, T.R. (1970).Unity and diversity in education.UK, London: Department of Education and Science
10. Rajput J.S.; 1994; Experiences and Expectations in Elementary Education;pp104-5; Anamika Publications, New Delhi
11. Rajput J.S. and Walia; K.; 2002;Teacher Education in India; pp132-133; Starling Publishers Private Limited; New Delhi
12. Eliot T.S.;1954;Selected Poems; Baber and Faber; London
13. Yin Cheong Cheng;2005; New paradigm for Re-engineering Education; Globalization, Localization and Individualization; Springer;
14. Rajput J.S.; Contemporary Concerns in Education; 2009; Yash Publications; Delhi