Representational Image (Photo by Sneha Srivastava/Mint via Getty Images).
Snapshot
  • Anand Kumar of Super 30 fame is not a ‘qualified’ teacher in the documentational sense.

    But he is revered globally for his impressive ability to shape young minds and hearts.

    Isn’t it time we moved beyond the letter of education and looked to its spirit?

As the Super 30 movie galloped past the Rs 100-crore mark in just 10 days, I scrambled to find the qualification of this change-maker – Anand Kumar – a simply great teacher. Did he have a B.Ed degree? He didn’t. Then, how was he ever qualified to teach? If he had applied for the job of say, a Grade 7 mathematics teacher in a school, he would have been outrightly disqualified.

I then quickly decided to check the qualification of thousands of teachers at various coaching institutes that have sprung up across the country to which parents dole out lakhs of rupees to have their children (Grade VI – XII) go for advanced level classes in subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology among others.

Do they have a B.Ed, I wondered?

In most cases, ‘No’. They are typically young graduates picked up from high-quality engineering colleges (IITs, NITs et cetera) to teach. Once again, none of these bright teachers would be qualified to teach in a school – government or private.

So, what is so special about this B.Ed degree that the government has mandated as a ‘minimum qualification’ for a teacher to teach? Has it really helped India produce great teachers?

Well, the Justice J S Verma Commission (2012) constituted by the Supreme Court literally put us to shame. It clearly remarks that a majority of teaching institutes — over 17,000 in number — are not even attempting serious teacher education, but are essentially selling degrees for a price.

As per rough estimates, about 85 per cent of the approximately 90 lakh teachers in the country have chosen teaching as a ‘profession’ because they had no compelling alternative career choice.

They have sub-optimal work ethics, are unable to motivate their students and can hardly be called ‘teachers’.

One then starts wondering about the high pedestal on which our scriptures places the Guru.

The ray of hope for India lies with the remaining 15 per cent teachers, who, with sound subject knowledge and communication skills, have opted out of an alternative career because they truly have the passion to teach – they build lives.

Therefore, there is a serious need to question some of our fundamental assumptions regarding teacher training to ensure that we make meaningful progress on this front.

An important question we need to ask ourselves is — What makes a good teacher? Is it the mandated B.Ed degree or is a good teacher anyone who has sound subject knowledge, flair for teaching and can empathise with students.

What is the approach taken by the proposed National Education Policy in this regard?

The NEP continues to overly emphasise on the need for a B.Ed degree while hoping against hope that the quality of inputs given during the B.Ed programme will transform itself over the next few years.

It suggests:

(i) A four-year Integrated B.Ed degree for students immediately after Class XII

(ii) A two-year B.Ed for those who those who have obtained Bachelor’s degrees (Graduates)

(iii) A one-year B.Ed for those who have obtained a Master’s degree (Post-graduates)

Interestingly, on the other hand, the policy talks about a National Tutor Programme (NTP) rightly advocating that we follow the ancient ‘Gurukul’ system, wherein senior students are identified to tutor their fellow (generally younger) students who need help.

So, when the bright kids who have not even finished schooling can tutor their junior friends, why can’t a bright young graduate be allowed to teach in a school?

Let us also look at what is happening globally — Companies like Google, Apple, IBM among others no longer even require their employees to have a basic college degree.

They rather evaluate the skills of the applicants through a multitude of assessments as part of their hiring process. And, none would dispute that they hire some of the best talent globally.

Considering NEP will determine the education framework in the country for the next 20-30 years, what are some of the additional aspects that it can possibly incorporate?

First, Limited B.Ed exemption — Graduates and Post-graduates from the top 100 colleges of the country should be exempted from having a B.Ed degree to teach in schools. These graduates should indeed be highly encouraged to spend a minimum of one year teaching in either government or private schools, before they take up regular employment.

Alternatively, they can take a sabbatical during their work life to spend a year teaching at a school. They may be remunerated during this period at the same pay scale as is applicable to the regular school teachers.

These are highly qualified people and will be able to truly motivate children as they have themselves cleared highly competitive exams. Children will also be able to better relate to them.

Second, One year B.Ed for graduates. It will be best for policymakers to restrict B.Ed to a one-year degree for all graduates and post-graduates and emphasise on intense practical training during the period.

The B.Ed course is primarily supposed to help future teachers learn about ‘teaching methods’ i.e. general principles, pedagogy and management strategies used for classroom instruction. A one-year, intense training with high-quality classroom exposure is sufficient.

There is no necessity to differentiate between a graduate and a post-graduate, in terms of the B.Ed course duration. Indeed, until a few years back, B.Ed was a one-year course for everyone.

A two-year B.Ed programme is a strong deterrent for graduates who want to enter the teaching profession because it increases the cost of the program and the candidate loses out on a year’s salary - the year that is spent in the B.Ed course.

Third, One-year Education Diploma. It will be a very forward-looking step to extend the scope of institutions that can provide teacher training.

Private schools, especially those run by genuine philanthropic organisations, should be allowed to offer one-year Education diplomas for graduates/post-graduates, on completion of which the candidates can be allowed to at least join private schools.

Considering the low quality of existing teacher talent and over 10 lakh teacher vacancies in the country, we are staring at a national crisis.

It is absolutely important that we adopt multi-pronged, innovative approaches in the teacher training space to truly build tomorrow’s India.

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