Monday, August 15th, 2022 06:33:28

Commerce Of Teacher Education

Updated: May 19, 2012 4:02 pm

In the 21st century, the path to progress and development of every country invariably passes through the corridors of its elementary schools. No nation can afford to neglect its education and hence, all of its schools. No nation genuinely interested in reducing the gap between the haves and have-nots can tolerate the existence of a system that promotes good education for few at the cost of poor or no education the far larger segment of society. Quality education for all requires professionally prepared and competent and committed teachers in each and every school of India. This was precisely the logic behind the establishment of the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) as a statutory body by an Act of the Parliament in December 1993. The Ministry of Human Resource Development is now ‘fed up’ with the NCTE. It is reported (the pioneer, May 26) that the NCTE Act is to be repealed. There was a “review committee” which realized the difficulties being faced by the state governments and the universities vis-à-vis the recognition given by the NCTE. One wonders why such logic could not be applied or shall be applied to other bodies like the AICTE, the Bar Council of India, or the Medical Council of India? Their public perception on the efficacy of these bodies is not much different than that about the NCTE.

It is no secret that decisions in the governments, which focus more on votes and vote banks, are taken only on political considerations. Before these are put on paper, a committee of the ‘trusted ones’ is appointed and the ‘justificatory ‘volume is put on the file for the sake of formalities. The verdict to slaughter the statutory national level professional organization of teachers shall be based on the report of three officers serving under/in the ministry under the chairmanship of a freshly retired bureaucrat. There are no indications of any national level professional consultations. The teacher’s organizations, school principals, heads of teacher education institutions, deans of faculties of education in the state and central universities are nowhere in the picture. Parent teacher associations stand totally forgotten. What about National Award winner teachers who are remembered once in lifetime on September 5 every year? No value to their views as against a convenient committee of ‘like minded officers’. That’s how the government takes decision on professional autonomous organizations established by an Act of the Parliament of India! It is time to refresh memories about the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE) the non-consultation on school curriculum framework with which was made a great issue in the times of the previous government. Consisting of only like-minded nominated experts, CABE would only be too willing to be ‘helpful’. Even that formality stands thrown aside.

The NCTE was established as a non-statutory body in 1973 with the Union Minister of Education as its president and the Director NCERT as the member secretary. It was supposed to set the norms and standards in teacher education and ensure that the quality is maintained at the desired level. It remained located in the NCERT for two decades but could not persuade universities and the state level bodies to follow its directions in matters of curriculum, research and pedagogy. Persistent demand for statutory status to the NCTE came from all quarters, including the NCERT. It found endorsement in the National policy on education in 1986/92. The reasons were simple, visible and explicit. NCERT is only an advisory body and universities can ignore its advice, which they do without any hesitation. Even UGC could not check the dilution of quality in teacher education. Suddenly to expect that the NCERT and universities will be able to perform that very function in which they failed earlier is simply unrealistic and impractical approach to an issue which has for reaching consequences for the quality of education in India for decades ahead. The sufferers shall mostly be the children studying in schools run on public funds and not those in Public Schools. The downtrodden, the deprived, the SC/ST’s and the minorities will be at the receiving end. Abolition of the NCTE will be the biggest blow to the aspirations of the children on the wrong side of the economic divide. A sharp reduction in the quality of teacher education is inevitable. Commercialization shall flourish unchecked.

Let the facts be faced squarely. The NCTE has suffered a grievous loss of credibility during the last couple of years. Its functioning has shocked teachers and teacher educators alike. The number of teacher training institutions has doubled over the last three years. The provision of manpower planning contained prominently in the Act has been totally forgotten by the NCTE. The Council is reported to have totally ignored the presence of the state governments and the universities, which was never the intention when the Act was formulated. Obviously, the central government cannot claim total unfamiliarity with the changing public perceptions on the NCTE. The MHRD must accept its own inaction and lack of direction to the NCTE, thus creating conditions for the present chaos.

For nearly two years, the central government has been working hard to remove the NCTE Chairperson. He was appointed in January 2004 and was possibly amongst those targeted for persecution in the name of the much-hyped detoxification drive. The government lost the case against him on a couple of occasions in courts, including the Supreme Court of India. The hapless Chairperson is back in the saddle. Obviously, the MHRD is uncomfortable and his further continuance in NCTE can just be anything but comfortable. The MHRD cannot disown its share and contribution in the demoralization of the NCTE, which resulting in laxity and unacceptable practices in it’s functioning. The NCTE Act very clearly indicates the role and responsibility of the central government in ensuring proper functioning of the NCTE.

So much was expected of the NCTE and it did show sufficient promise in the earlier years. It got tremendous support from the community of teacher educators and the teachers. Its role in controlling the commercialization of teacher education by regulating the low quality correspondence courses conducted by the universities was greatly appreciated and supported. The teaching learning materials it produced for professionally empowering teachers are still receiving commendations.

NCTE has a great role to play in future developments in education. No learning society can entrust its children to poorly trained or under trained teachers. No nation can afford the downward slide of its teacher education institutions as these alone are the generators of quality improvement in schools through the teachers trained by them. Improvement in functioning is needed urgently and it should be accepted as a challenge. That is the opportunity the nation must avail of. Any attempt to act otherwise would be disastrous.

By JS Rajput

(The author is a former Director of NCERT)

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