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Teacher Education: Background

Teacher Education: Background
Introduction

"Education has continued to evolve, diversify and extend its coverage since the dawn of history. Every country develops its system of education to express and promote its unique socio-cultural identity and also to meet the challenges of time". These words of the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986 subsequently revised in 1992, give direction to Indian Education. The policy further emphasizes that “the Government of India will also review, every five years, the progress made and recommend guidelines for further development”. In the light of the aforesaid statements, the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), a statutory body, established by the Government of India for the maintenance of standards and improvement of the quality of teacher education in the country, came out with a Curriculum Framework for Quality Teacher Education (Curriculum Framework hereafter) in 1998 and placed it before the nation.

During these years, large scale and far reaching developments as well as changes have taken place on the national and international scenes in social, economic, cultural, scientific and technological spheres as well as in information and communication technologies. These developments have affected education, including teacher education necessitating review and reform of Indian teacher education. Taking a serious note of these developments, agencies responsible for education from nursery to tertiary and professional education have reviewed / revised their programmes and courses of study. The National Council for Teacher Education has to initiate suitable measures to make teacher education at various levels responsive to such developments as well as to quality concerns in future.

Education of teachers not only facilitates improvement of school education by preparing competent, committed and professionally well qualified teachers who can meet the demand of the system, but also functions as a bridge between schooling and higher education. It has to meet twin demands: (a) challenges of the education system including higher education, and (b) the ever-changing demands of the social system. The role of teacher education as a process of nation building is universally recognized. Its objective is man making and producing enlightened citizens. But teacher education in India, because of its history and also due to various factors beyond its control, has by and large been confined to school education only.

“In Indian thinking, a human being is a positive asset and a precious national resource, which needs to be cherished, nurtured and developed with tenderness and care, coupled with dynamism”. It hardly needs stressing that stereotyped instructional approaches are not conducive to realize this goal. “India’s political and social life is passing through a phase which poses the danger of erosion to long accepted values. The goals of secularism, socialism and professional ethics are coming under increasing strain”. To make teachers aware of this menace, teacher education needs to devise new strategies for enabling teachers to address this task. Teachers serve education, which is an effective instrument of man making. The teachers learn this art through pre-service teacher education programme. A weak programme of teacher education cannot serve this purpose. “The status of teachers reflects the socio-cultural ethos of a society; it is said that no people can rise above the level of its teachers”. It is with the objectives of raising the professional status of teachers, developing among them greater commitment to society, their students and their profession, increasing their professional competencies and performance skills and empowering them to face new challenges that the National Council for Teacher Education has brought forth this document.

Historical Perspective


Teacher education in India has a long past but a short history. Gurukul-centered tradition of the Vedic period was somewhat modified and enriched under the influence of Budhistic vihara-based system. This continued till the 11th century A.D. The arrival of the Muslims witnessed the rise of a parallel Maktab-based tradition and the two traditions thrived side by side till the coming of the British. Both the traditions underwent some modification during this period. Historical records of the decisions taken, the finances made available and their implementation and later evaluation became relatively more systematically organized because of the documentation by the British.

The independence of India on the 15th August 1947 marks a defining moment in the history of our nation. Our long-drawn struggle for independence that preceded it witnessed much strife and bloodshed. Over the years people became unified as never before. Indians wanted Swaraj and had plans about how the nation would develop after the departure of the British. Indian educational system including that of teacher education saw greater reflection of national aspirations and needs of the people during the post-independence period. Much of what happened during the next two decades (1948-68) is crucial to fuller understanding of what is happening now and in which direction(s) our education system is moving and ought to move.

Teacher Education in Independent India

India’s independence, division of the country and related disturbances took place almost simultaneously and drew the attention of national leaders. Transformation of the ‘economy of scarcity’ into the ‘economy of plenty’, and reducing unemployment of the youth and food shortage became their main priorities. The system of education and teacher education established by the Raj continued without substantial modification. It was feared that an abrupt departure from the existing system might bring about disruption and destabilization. But as the situation improved, greater attention was paid to education and teacher education. The first step in this direction was setting up of the University Education Commission (1948), which made valuable suggestions regarding pre-service and in-service education of teachers and linking the programme of teacher preparation with the university system.

Subsequently, the Secondary Education Commission (1953) appointed to examine the conditions of school education made specific suggestions about the preparation of teachers. Among its chief recommendations were: (a) two-year training programme for under graduates; (b) one year training for graduates; (c) affiliation of graduate training colleges to universities; (d) training for organizing curricular activities; (e) organization of refresher courses; (f) providing residential facilities; (g) emphasis on research; and (h) exchange of teachers from teachers colleges to schools and vice-versa. Many of the recommendations were accepted and implemented. The Committee on Higher Education for Rural Areas, (1954) and that on Women’s Education (1959) also made valuable suggestions for teacher education in their respective areas, but they did not attract national attention because of their limited scope.

The Review Committee on Education (1960) made major recommendations about post-graduate studies in education and research, education of administrators and qualifications of teacher educators. Most of these recommendations were accepted and implemented. Many other committees were appointed to look into teacher education from different perspectives. Only some of the suggestions were carried out because teacher education was no one's exclusive responsibility. The Center, the States, the universities, and public and private enterprise looked after teacher education. Besides, its problems were not examined in totality. The availability of resources for teacher education was also a problem. Further, teacher education was not accorded adequate importance in the agenda of education.

The Education Commission (1964-66) submitted a comprehensive report, which served as a basis for establishing a uniform national structure of education covering all stages and aspects of education. It emphasized the necessity of professional preparation of teachers for qualitative improvement of education. Recognizing teacher education as a distinct academic discipline of higher studies different from pedagogy, it suggested establishing schools of education in certain universities, starting of extension programmes, increase in the duration of training of teachers, opening of comprehensive colleges, exchange of teacher educators, and revision and revitalization of courses of study. It recommended that its isolation be removed and laid stress on the importance of practice teaching and in-service education. It recommended allocation of more funds for teacher preparation, better salaries and improved service conditions for teachers and their educators to attract competent people to the profession. On the whole, it was the first comprehensive and meaningful report on education in general and teacher education in particular. It is noteworthy that the Center and the State Governments implemented various recommendations of the Commission, which resulted in considerable improvement in the professional education of teachers. The attempts to bring about qualitative changes in teacher education continued thereafter. Based on the recommendations of the Commission, the National Policy on Education (1968) was formulated. The working of National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) was also reviewed. The NCERT and its Regional Colleges of education were expected to play a greater role in the education of teachers.

The non-statutory National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) was set up in 1974 by a resolution of the Government of India and was located in the NCERT. It brought out its curriculum framework in 1978. The statutory NCTE established by an Act of Parliament in 1993 further came out with a Curriculum Framework (1998) to provide guidelines in respect of the content and methodology of teacher education. As a result of this, many universities and state governments revised the courses of teacher education.

During this period, the National Commission on Teachers (1983) studied in depth the problems of teacher education and the status of teachers in society. Its main recommendations were directed at enhancing the period of training, change in selection procedure of teachers, making the pedagogy of teacher education meaningful leading to enrichment of the theory courses and practical work. It suggested changes in the structure of M.Ed. programme also. On the basis of these suggestions, another curriculum framework was issued in 1988 but it could not catch national attention because the work on NPE (1986) had already started, and which opened new vistas in teacher education.

It recognized continuity and inseparability of pre-and in-service teacher education and recommended permanent educational mechanisms for this purpose. As a consequence DIETs, CTEs and IASEs were established across the country. NPE (1986) was followed by a Programme of Action (1986), which provided details about the needed transformation of policy into action. Its emphasis was on the enrichment of both in-service and the pre-service teacher education programmes, computer education and new as well as alternative models of teacher preparation. It is hearting to discern that directions given in NPE (1986) and recommendations of the Programme of Action were largely implemented with encouraging results.

As a statutory body responsible for the coordination and maintenance of standards in teacher education, NCTE issued a Curriculum Framework for Quality Teacher Education in 1998. Before issuing it, the Council sought and ensured a national consensus in its favour. This is a comprehensive document that deals with almost all aspects of teacher education including its context, concerns and also the social philosophy of teacher education in Indian society which contemplates a synthesis between unity and diversity, freedom and compulsion, social planning and individual initiative. Its salient features were:

* Increased duration and multiple models of teacher education;
* Updating of theoretical and practical components of teacher education by giving new orientation and adding new inputs to the existing programmes
* Emphasis on developing professionalism, commitment, competencies and performance skills;
* Optimal utilization of the potentialities of community, university and information and communication technology for preparation of teachers;
* Making provisions for preparation of teachers for the neglected sections of society, and
* Suggesting alternative educational programmes for teachers of gifted children, teachers of senior secondary schools and specialized programme of education for teacher educators.

Besides, there were other suggestions too which were well received by the nation. Some of its recommendations were implemented. But all of them could not be put into practice due to various reasons.

In the meanwhile, many major changes in the policy of Indian state were effected. New developments in science and technology at national and international levels with far-reaching educational and cultural consequences, challenges of post modernity, counter- culture, consumerism, value crisis and post-industrial society became evident. India could not remain isolated in an interdependent world. New pressures brought about by liberalization, privatization, globalization, information and communication technology and market forces and even maladies like HIV/AIDS had to be faced. The nature, objectives, contents and pedagogy of subjects at the school stage were also transformed. Such a situation demands appropriate changes in teacher education as well. Teachers are now expected to educate students about ‘learning to learn’, ‘learning to do’, ‘learning to live together, and ‘learning to be'. In addition to these, international experiments in education, in the context of teacher education, need to be absorbed in teacher education programmes in India. All these demand a fresh look at teacher education.

The agenda, before the NCTE is thus twofold: to remove the existing deficiencies of teacher education and to meet the demand of new challenges before it. The Council is, therefore committed to achieve both, by highlighting the following functions of teacher education institutions (TEIs).

* To provide qualified faculty, adequate infrastructure and learning resources, including print material, off-line IT material and computers as per prevalent NCTE norms for quality transaction of its teacher education programme
* To promote corporate institutional life based on values and ideals enshrined in the preamble of Indian Constitution for all stakeholders in thee institution e.g. students, faculty, non-teaching staff etc;
* To provide and use all necessary inputs for promoting the development of competent and committed professionals to students, faculty and other staff;
* To create all necessary needed resource core and use these for institutional planning with mid-term appraisal for quality improvement of the TEI
* To function as the nodal agency for networking community and its schools with the TEI and use their resources for improving and enriching its teacher education programme(s);
* To promote and strengthen action research and faculty research projects
* To organize on-campus and off-campus professional development activities and programmes for its faculty, faculty of sister TEIs and school teachers in networked schools; and
* To make its teacher education programme(s) more and more school-based, vibrant and collaborative between schools and the TEI.
Teacher Education: Current Status

India has one of the largest systems of teacher education in the world. Besides the university departments of education and their affiliated colleges, government and government aided institutions; private and self-financing colleges and open universities are also engaged in teacher education. Though most teacher education programmes are nearly identical yet their standard varies across institutions and universities. In certain areas, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand while in others there are an acute shortage as qualified teachers which results in the appointment of under-qualified and unqualified persons. In the situation as it obtains manpower planning becomes an imperative.

Teacher education programmes are essentially institution-based. Their students need to be exposed more and more to the realities of school and community. Internship, practice of teaching, practical activities and supplementary educational activities need to be better planned and organized more systematically. The curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation of teacher education programmes need to be made more objective as well as comprehensive. Despite improvement of service conditions and perks, the profession is yet to attract the best talent.

For preparing teacher educators, the most popular programme is M.Ed, though a few universities provide M.A. (Education). The M.Ed. programme by and large is of general nature and does not train specialists in different areas. The same course meets the requirements of schools, teacher education institutions and administration, there being little differentiation. The standard of research, whether at M.Phil. Ph.D. or Project level deserves greater attention. It is distressing to observe that research in our universities and institutes is largely conducted for obtaining a degree and much of it is repetitive and incapable of improving theory or practice of teacher education or general education some times they are replicas of forum researches, the recent promotional rules of University Grants Commission have tended to have a considerable adverse impact on the level of research. The present system of teacher education needs to demonstrate greater sensitivity to its educational as well as social contexts.
Teacher Education Curricula at Present

During the last few decades’ teacher education curricula have come under severe criticism and their weaknesses have been highlighted. Some educationists feel that they do not fully address the needs of contemporary Indian schools and society and they do not prepare teachers who can impart quality education in schools. The principals of some public schools hold the view that there is hardly any difference between the performance of trained and untrained teachers because of outdated teacher education curricula. These charges may appear to be exaggerated but some of them compel us to rethink about the curricula and their transaction.

Professionalism requires knowledge, authority, skills, commitment, competency, mission, ability to provide the exclusive expert service and adherence to a professional ethical code. In the present curricula, a large number of activities - theoretical and practical, have to be carried out and assiduously practiced by prospective teachers for enhancing their professional competencies and commitments. Teacher education associations need to prescribe a professional code, the violation of which may debar a teacher from serving in school. It need not be emphasized that without increasing the duration of teacher education programmes, these targets cannot be achieved. Academic and professional skills are not independent of each other. Teacher education curricula have to integrate and blend them into a composite whole. The revamping of teacher education curricula has, thus, become a pressing need of the hour. The slant has to be towards a visible shift from information-based to experience- based and from the traditional instruction domination to newer constructiveness orientation.
Scenario of Teacher Education

India possesses one of the largest systems of teacher education. Besides, the university departments of education and their affiliated colleges, government and aided institutions, private and self-financing colleges and open universities are also engaged in this venture. The programmes are almost identical but the standard varies. Certain institutions are being run with motives other than educational. In certain areas, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand while in others there is acute shortage and unqualified teachers are working under different names. The manpower planning is practically absent in teacher education. The situation at the elementary level in certain states is comparable to international standards, where DIETs, CTEs and IASEs are making tangible impact on pre-and in-service teacher education. But the same cannot be said about the preparation of secondary, vocational and pre-school teachers.

The programme of teacher education is institution based. The students are not exposed to the realities of school and community. Internship, practice of teaching, practical activities and supplementary educational activities are not paid proper attention. The curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation of teacher education need improvement and radical transformation. Despite the commendable improvement in service conditions and perks, the profession is yet to attract best brains.
Teacher Education Curriculum at Present

During the last two decades, the teacher education curricula have received severe criticism and their weaknesses have been well exposed. Some educationists and social activists call it insipid, irrelevant because they do not address the needs of contemporary Indian schools and society. They do not prepare teachers who can impart quality education in our schools. One often hears that there is little difference between the performance of trained and that of untrained teachers because of the outdated and defective curriculum. To some extent, these charges may be somewhat; exaggerated often they seem to be correct.

Frequently criticized as being theoretical in its nature, the curriculum of teacher education is only partially theoretical. It is information loaded which are disconnected from each other. Information’s like this do not promote habit of thoughts and quality of mind. For disconnected information’s can neither be converted into ‘theory’ nor can they form mind. Utmost they can produce inert ideas, which cannot be transformed into action and wisdom. There is the burning need to integrate and synthesize them for giving a disciplinary shape and change into well connected segment of knowledge, with its own specific area of serious study with an impendent methodology. The curriculum framework of 1998 pointed out this weakness to an extent but the situation could not improve for reasons known to all. There is the pressing need to integrate scattered information’s for giving them the shape of a discipline capable of promoting educational theory and practice.

It has to be emphasized that without increasing the duration of teacher education programmes, these targets cannot be achieved. Academic and professional skills are not independent of each other. Teacher Education curricula have to integrate and blend them into a composite whole likes the curricula of medical sciences. The reconstruction of teacher education curricula has, thus, become a pressing need of the hour. It has to be transformed from information based to experience based.

 
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