In March 2012, the results of a test conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) showed that only seven per cent of the 7.85 lakh examinees had passed. The result was worse than the performance in the test a year before when nine per cent cleared the examination. And who were the people taking the test? Not school students but teachers aspiring for jobs in government schools.
The CBSE-conducted Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET), instituted in 2011, is mandatory under the Right to Education Act for teachers if they want to apply for jobs in central or state government schools, the Kendriya Vidyalayas, and the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas. There are more than 13,800 teacher education institutes in India churning out about 1.1 million new teachers every year. These institutes provide either a diploma or a bachelor's degree in education (B.Ed.). But the results of CTET tests are evidence enough that the quality of teacher training is far from satisfactory.
1.1 million number of new teachers trained in India every year but with little focus on quality.
Why is the state of affairs so dismal? "There's a general perception that many teacher training programmes are bogus and run by corrupt institutions," says Padma Sarangapani, Dean, School of Education, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. "Recruiters feel that B.Ed. candidates are no better than non-B. Ed ones." Is there any institute that stands out? "Except B.El.Ed., there's hardly any course that fulfils the demands of teacher education," she says. Sarangapani is referring to Delhi University's four-year Bachelor of Elementary Education course.
Launched in 1994/95, the Bachelor of Elementary Education course has become a benchmark for teacher training programmes
. Currently, eight DU colleges offer it. These colleges have a dozen faculty members each for the programme and a total of 350 seats, indicating a healthy teacher-to-student ratio. A few more colleges plan to start the course too.
The programme has a healthy mix of practical sessions and theory, and also teaches behavioural sciences. Over a four-year-long course, the prospective teachers acquire a wide range of skills such as in dramatics, different crafts, classroom management, documentation, and evaluation. Almost 60 per cent of the course content consists of field activities. For example, in the final year, the students go through four months of internship at a school. In contrast, a typical B.Ed. student, takes just 40 classes of 30 to 35 minutes each during her one-year course. "By providing such limited practical exposure, the other courses restrict students from getting the sense of a real classroom and school environment," says Poonam Batra, Professor of Education at the Central Institute of Education, Delhi University.
Batra says there is little difference in the methods taught to B.Ed. students for teaching different subjects. "B.El.Ed. students get the opportunity to study the subject matter and enquire into it to develop appropriate pedagogic approaches," she says. Sarangapani agrees that the dominant teaching models are outdated. "B.El.Ed. has a contemporary approach to teaching. The entire course is developed indigenously, which makes it easy for students to understand and relate with," she says. Its students endorse her view.
"Besides pedagogical training, the course allows a variety of work experience with children within and outside elementary schools," says Kanishka, who uses only one name and is a final-year student at Miranda House in Delhi University's North campus.
Ashtami Rajan, a 2011 graduate who now teaches at Delhi Public School in Raj Nagar, Ghaziabad, says B. El. Ed students are not required to mug up facts or theories developed by educationists. "Students develop their own perspectives on education," she says. That, perhaps, is the need of the hour. Manu Kaushik