Learning to teach

Jan 22 2013, 12:23 IST
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SummaryASER’s findings highlight the dismal state of school education. Improving teacher training programmes could lead to better outcomes

these critical levers and then stick to them.

The first priority is a complete revamp of teacher education. The government has identified this as a key item in the 12th Five Year Plan. The Justice Verma Commission on teacher education appointed by the Supreme Court has come out with recommendations, incorporating suggestions from knowledgeable people in the country. The key is to implement well, for we have a history of excellent policies and poor execution. We cannot afford to miss this time. Good pedagogical training can never be built on a poor disciplinary foundation. The complexity of this exercise becomes clear when we realise that we need to simultaneously address our undergraduate programmes too.

Research has shown that the head teacher, the pivot in a school, is the second-most important determinant of school performance. It is good that there is a visible urgency to institute an appropriate development and certification programme for head teachers. Institutions such as the National University of Education Planning and Administration, Azim Premji University and others will have to play a serious part in this journey.

But while long-term measures like the overhaul of teacher education and school leadership are being taken, state education leaders can also take some immediate steps. I will list a few that require only strong will, commitment to good governance and empathy for the rank and file. One, the state education secretary can personally ensure that the best candidates are appointed as the principals of the District Institutes of Education Training, the apex body in districts for pre-service diplomas and training of serving teachers. Two, create a strong academic resource cadre from among the best teachers and teacher trainers of the state, and create a career path that works as a clear incentive for them. Third, rationalise the pupil-teacher ratio. The fact is that although the average pupil-teacher ratio seems to be close to what the Right to Education Act stipulates, many rural schools have adverse ratios. We have empirical evidence to show that such schools have little chance of achieving any kind of learning. To move teachers against their will to remote rural locations, the state leadership can institute a good strategy of supportive incentives. And finally, it is necessary to ensure the active participation of parents and community representatives in monitoring and publicly declaring the attendance and punctuality of teachers, so that it is the community that enforces accountability. These steps will

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