The ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is in a state of cri­sis. Chang­ing it and al­ter­ing the des­tinies of the 260 mil­lion chil­dren is pos­si­ble only if the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the teach­ers teach­ing them are reimag­ined.

India Today - - IN FOCUS - SAN­DEEP RAI

Few would ar­gue that In­dia’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is not in a per­pet­ual state of cri­sis. The sta­tis­tics have not only in­un­dated us each year, they’ve numbed us. These are datasets telling us that only 27 per cent of Class 3 stu­dents can read a sec­ond-grade text. They’re num­bers in­di­cat­ing that a stag­ger­ing 67 per cent of chil­dren drop out be­fore Class 12. They’re re­ports sug­gest­ing that the av­er­age In­dian Class 8 stu­dent is on par, math­e­mat­i­cally, with a Class 3 stu­dent from South Korea.

Few would ar­gue that In­dia’s teach­ers are not in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to our state of ed­u­ca­tion. A 2009 McKin­sey study on ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems con­cluded that a high-per­form­ing teacher, over time, can im­prove stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tional out­comes by 53 per cent. Ac­cord­ing to a num­ber of stud­ies since then, ex­perts ar­gue that the sin­gle great­est in­vest­ment in a child’s ed­u­ca­tion is the qual­ity of teach­ers they re­ceive. It’s an in­vest­ment that, ac­cord­ing to the num­bers, is ex­po­nen­tially smarter than ex­pen­di­tures in in­fra­struc­ture, cur­ricu­lum, or even tech­nol­ogy.

And fi­nally, few would ar­gue that pol­i­cy­mak­ers haven’t tried to rec­tify this mess. It’s a twopronged so­lu­tion that’s seem­ingly sim­ple. Get more teach­ers. Im­prove their train­ing. Give it time, and you’ll see the ef­fect.

We now have 8.5 mil­lion teach­ers in the sys­tem. The coun­try has the ca­pac­ity and fund­ing to train more than 3.5 mil­lion teach­ers, ev­ery year. Train­ings in­clude pre-ser­vice de­grees, on­board­ing and in­duc­tion for new teach­ers, re-ori­en­ta­tions, and much more. De­spite all of that, most as­sess­ments in­di­cate that learn­ing lev­els have ei­ther stayed stag­nant or, in many cases, have de­clined.

It’s time to step back and ac­cept that, per­haps, we’re go­ing about this all wrong. Teach­ers are linked to solv­ing our state of ed­u­ca­tion. We need to get In­dia’s best tal­ent to choose teach­ing over ev­ery other ca­reer. Once they’re in class­rooms, we need to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to max­imise their tal­ents. Get­ting the coun­try’s best tal­ent to teach and then get­ting the most out of them im­plies a mas­sive re­struc­tur­ing in how we think about teacher re­cruit­ment and train­ing. It’s a process cen­tered on two cen­tral pil­lars.


Re­vamp how we re­cruit and se­lect our teach­ers

We have to ac­knowl­edge that teach­ing is far from an as­pi­ra­tional pro­fes­sion in In­dia. Young In­di­ans to­day are choos­ing ev­ery ca­reer but teach­ing. The salaries in gov­ern­ment schools are quite re­spectable (be­tween `30,000 and `50,000 per month), but most ap­pli­cants shy away from the oner­ous re­cruit­ment prac­tices which, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple stud­ies, are rife with en­trance bar­ri­ers and even bribes. Their coun­ter­parts in pri­vate schools aren’t far­ing much bet­ter. Fur­ther, killing the as­pi­ra­tional value is the low bar we place on in­com­ing teach­ers. To ap­pear for the na­tional B. Ed exam, can­di­dates only need a 50 per cent on their univer­sity de­gree. Once teach­ers are in the sys­tem, they face a pro­mo­tion sys­tem that’s lengthy and rooted in ar­chaic cri­te­ria that are far from mer­i­to­cratic. If we’re go­ing to make teach­ing as­pi­ra­tional again, we’re have to change the con­ver­sa­tion. A lit­tle more than two decades ago, Sin­ga­pore acted on a sim­i­lar les­son. Prospec­tive teach­ers are se­lected from the top third of a high school grad­u­at­ing class, and only one out of eight ap­pli­cants is even­tu­ally ac­cepted. Of ac­cepted ap­pli­cants, 80 per cent have al­ready com­pleted a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in the sub­ject they will teach. Since com­pen­sa­tion of­ten plays a role in at­tract­ing the best and bright­est, the Sin­ga­porean Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion ag­gres­sively mon­i­tors teacher salaries to en­sure they’re com­pet­i­tive. In In­dia, we’ve seen the start­ing ef­fects of such ef­forts but small in scale. A five-year study in Andhra Pradesh tested the ef­fects of per­for­mance-based pay on teach­ers in 300 gov­ern­ment schools. Teach­ers within the study were paid ex­tra if stu­dent learn­ing in­creased.

Re­think school and teacher sup­port

In 2011, the gov­ern­ment be­gan im­ple­ment­ing the Cen­tral Teacher El­i­gi­bil­ity Test. The an­nual as­sess­ment tests ped­a­gog­i­cal and con­tent skills and a general un­der­stand­ing of child de­vel­op­ment. Both are es­sen­tial skills for any suc­cess­ful teacher. In its first year, only one per cent passed the ex­am­i­na­tion. Four years later, that num­ber in­creased to 17 per cent. It means that 83 per cent of our coun­try’s teach­ers don’t have the foun­da­tional skills needed to be suc­cess­ful.

Max­imis­ing the teach­ers’ tal­ent means pro­vid­ing them with best train­ing. It also means en­sur­ing they’re able to fo­cus their en­er­gies on one thing—stu­dent out­comes. Stud­ies from across the world are telling us that teacher de­vel­op­ment is sub­stan­tially more ef­fec­tive when it’s de­liv­ered by peo­ple close to the ground and when it’s de­liv­ered by peo­ple within our schools.

We cur­rently have 17,000 in­sti­tu­tions re­spon­si­ble for teacher ed­u­ca­tion. Many are un­reg­u­lated and, as a re­sult, are churn­ing out de­grees. Most lack ex­pe­ri­enced or ac­com­plished faculty. We have to en­sure our in­sti­tu­tions are equipped to pro­vide teach­ers with the train­ing and sup­port they need to be suc­cess­ful. If we can’t, pay­ing them more is fu­tile.

Chief of City Op­er­a­tions, Teach for In­dia, Mum­bai

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