Four-Year Teacher Training: The Need of the Hour?
On 8 July 2019, the Ministry of Human Resource Development declared that a four-year Integrated Teacher Education Programme (ITEP) will be introduced from the next academic year to boost the teaching profession. It is a pre-service training programme that offers graduation in primary and secondary education in India. The revamped syllabus would integrate the BA–BEd and BSc–BEd courses.
The plans for this programme have been in motion for more than a year since Arun Jaitley’s announcement about it in his Budget 2018 speech on 1 February 2018. Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal announced that the ITEP will be conducted across India through the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA).
The teacher-training situation in India is in need of a serious overhaul in terms of teaching methodologies and development of new-age skills. Technology is influencing the current generation of learners to a great deal, setting moods and trends. Therefore, teachers need to be proficient in ICT tools so as to help young minds blossom.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Let us see why.
Teaching: A profession of choice, not a leftover
Teachers should ideally be the best minds in any discipline, for they inspire the future generations of learners to do better. However, the mentality towards teaching in India goes along the lines of, ‘Those who can, do; and those who cannot, teach’, that is those who don’t possess adequate skills go on to become teachers in those fields.
Some of the reasons for such an understanding of this profession include poor remunerations and extremely skewed teacher-student ratios in government schools. If teaching is treated as the profession of the last choice, teacher quality, especially in government schools, is not likely to improve. The government intends to bring the teaching profession on par with medicine, engineering or other similar courses, and that is why an integrated course with a focus on core subject knowledge as well as executive skills – as in BTech or MBBS programmes – is being embarked upon.
E-learning: Easy but not the feasible solution
The 2017–18 NCERT report on education in India says that less than 50% of teacher trainees are comfortable with using word processor, graphic software, blogs, podcasts and e-learning applications, and social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn etc, 34% of trainees never use PPT for teaching, and the majority of the trainees do not communicate with students regarding lessons during internship. On top of that, about 70% of the population in rural areas lack basic technical equipment to avail tech-integrated training programmes.
Therefore, non-formal modes of teacher professional development such as e-learning courses are not really the solution to the problem.
ITEP: Advantages outweigh the disadvantages
Some educators feel that a career choice as a teacher is difficult to make immediately after completing the higher secondary course. They are of the opinion that once a student studies a subject in greater detail, it is easier for them to determine if they are passionate enough to teach it in the future. So they feel that students of this age may find it difficult to make the right decision right after passing out from school.
However, the advantages of this initiative certainly outweigh the disadvantages. First of all, if teacher education receives the seriousness that it deserves through the initiative, the profession will be looked at with the same level of respect as any other. Secondly, since ITEP gives equal importance to pre-primary, primary and secondary teaching, it will help teachers of all grades facilitate learning with equal effectiveness. Last but not the least, this change from a two-year course to a four-year one gives a professional edge to the aspirants like any other professional course including BE (four years), MBBS (five and a half years) and CA (five years).
It is satisfying to see the efforts of the government towards the professional development of teachers because it has been one of the most neglected aspects of the education sector. With such strong policies in place, both government and private institutions can work towards making the profession revered and desired, with an emphasis on the improvement of pupil-teacher dynamics and individualised monitoring of performance.