Rediscovering educators in the changed classroom and teaching environment
For years, we have grown on the images of Guru-shishya engaged in teaching-learning under the learning tree. From times immemorial, from Dronacharya to Radhakrishnan, we have revered and romanticised the superhero status of a great teacher. Their students in turn made the teachers proud, giving the mentor-mentee relationships an alluring charm.
Today India has 320 million students in over 1 million schools, 30,000 colleges and 500 universities. The gross enrollment ratio in colleges is a measly 12.4 per cent. Employability rate is estimated at 25 per cent. 25 per cent of teachers are absent from work. Only 50 per cent of teachers are actually engaged in the act of teaching while at work. India faces a shortage of 1.2 million teachers. We have 30,000 institutes of higher learning and not one in Top 100 globally. Something has going horribly wrong. To break the vicious cycle, we will need to start with the gardener, who must sow the virtuous seed—the teacher.
The classroom has evolved tremendously. After arrival of various writing systems in ancient time, hornbooks came in 1400 in England and US. The blackboards invaded classrooms only in 1801. Instructional TV and Radio ruled the roost from 194090 when personal computers and internet took over. What next?
The classroom of the future will be wireless. Students may choose not to carry books; they won’t leave home without the tablets. Yes, the tablets will be all-pervasive. From KG to PG, a student will be connected real-time to his teacher. The content delivery will be automated. The assessments will be online and the classroom will often be outside the four walls of the institute. The good news is that we can produce the rockstar teachers of the future.
Confucius rightly said, I hear and I forget. I see and I believe. I do and I understand. We need to bring back learning experiences to the classroom. This requires as, Michael Bridges from icarnegie, says, seven principles of learning; prior knowledge, organisation of knowledge, motivation, mastery, practice and feedback, student development and classroom climate and metacognition. All of this boils down to a student-centric learning. This transition from teachercentric teaching is not just imminent but an unstoppable reality.
A teacher is trainable. The future does not need fountain- heads of knowledge and super-hero teachers of yore. The knowledge will be digitised on the tablet, available on call. But synthesising and organising that knowledge will not be easy. For effective and purposeful synthesising, the good-old teacher will always be required. Only the teacher can start the virtuous cycle with an inspired student wanting to be like his teacher, leading to better student outcomes. Better life skills and employability skills will lead to greater success of these students leading to more children inside schools and colleges, more fees and revenues and eventually higher wages and growing teachers. The search for excellence in the Indian Education system must start inside the classrooms—with the teacher.