Quality Education Hinges On Quality Teachers
A remarkable event in the 70- year history of the United Nations (UN) occurred on September 25, 2015. In a historical adoption, 193 member states agreed on a common goal to transform planet earth and make it sustainable. The resolution identified 17 goals christened as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) premised on 5 P’s — people, planet, partnership, peace, and prosperity. What lies at the
heart of SDGs is the acknowledgement that the whole planet and its inhabitants are one unit and the recognition that the future of the globe depends upon how the 5 P’s interplay with each other.
Human beings are the microchips that make the integrated universe. Even if one of these building blocks malfunctions, the circuit collapses. Mahatma Gandhi said, “When a person dies, a whole universe dies with him.” If the individual goal of prosperity is a strong aspiration, so should be the harmonious development of all inhabitants of this planet. If we ignore this crucial aspect, the inequality itself will consume all prospects of sustainability. It is imperative,
therefore, that active people partnerships are built to ensure that the world attains freedom from
subhuman conditions. Seen in this light, the UN’s enunciation of these goals to be achieved by 2030 is a revolutionary intent.
The goal, No 4 of the SDGs, calls for quality education for all and lifelong learning opportunities. India is a signatory to the SDGs, and therefore India is under obligation to ensure quality education for all by 2030. We have made great strides in the universalisation of primary education, widening the access to education, improving gross enrolment ratio and in revamping Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a flagship programme of the Govt. to promote education for all. However, the enrolment in the higher education remains low at twenty-three per cent. Ensuring quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning opportunities remain a distant dream.
Mr Arun Jaitley, the finance minister, in his budget speech in Feb’2018, reiterated that improvement in the quality of teachers could improve the quality of education in the country. The question is how individuals entering the teaching profession reluctantly and only to make a livelihood with no motivation or conviction can be the agents of change? The answer may not fall within the purview of the union budget, but the country has to reflect on it. In the 1.5 million schools, 9 million teachers are estimated to be employed. Of these, 20% are not trained. In the next five years, the current student enrolment at 253 million will swell by a 100 million more. The increased enrollment would necessitate five hundred thousand additional schools to accommodate the children to ensure access to schooling for every child. India is a teacher-deficient country, right from the early childhood to the University level, a bit odd considering that we have a large pool of employable youth. The goals of imparting quality education can be driven only by a dedicated and committed team of teachers. India deserves a long pool of teachers voluntarily entering the profession as their first career option.
Recruitment of teachers of the quality, competence and calibre that one requires is rather a tricky one. It is a well-known fact that the best college graduates do not take up teaching as a preferable career option. Our teacher training colleges do not do justice in preparing teachers either. Having said that I must add, those who are passionate about teaching and wish to commit to teaching look forward to an institution known for right environment, growth opportunity and pleasant working conditions, which is sadly missing. The government and the School management should be encouraged to provide the best opportunities to prospective candidates. Once a teacher is in, their growth, learning and n-service education is the responsibility of the organisation. Every teacher has her first day. Only school leaders and mentors can help them be the first-rate teachers through their career.
More than three decades ago when I chose to engage with young children, I disappointed many in my family and friend’s circle. The trend was to go in for the civil services or at least a secured government job in a good position. Today most of my friends in different fields are willing to swap position with me. The difference lies in how fulfilling your experiences are? Are you prepared to tread the path relatively unknown? Do you have the gumption to follow your passion rather than perceived notions of money, position, name and fame? Today’s youth is more risk-oriented than the previous generation. They are bold and confident. They do not face the same constraints as their counterpart did years ago. Ability to resolving social issues affecting millions, managing emotions and relationship, should draw more attention than the cognitive achievements which seem to enjoy maximum attention at the moment.
The consequences of teacher shortage are many. The purpose of schooling and educational governance suffers, class-size increases, teachers outside their domain are deployed, affecting the quality of teaching-learning adversely. Policy makers, educationists and the top leadership of educational institutions must endeavour to create a cohort of
teachers and professionals. Incentivising the teachers by offering them a platform to share their expertise and experience both within and outside the school environment will add to the existing efforts of professional development.
(The writer is an educationist and SDGs enthusiast)
By Ashok Pandey