India@75: A nation in the making

Dileep Ranjekar: Our Biggest Challenge is to Improve Teaching competence

While we have taken the school to children in over 99 percent of our villages, the quality and equity of education has remained elusive

Published: Aug 21, 2013 06:44:11 AM IST
Updated: Aug 16, 2013 12:03:05 PM IST
Dileep Ranjekar: Our Biggest Challenge is to Improve Teaching competence
Image: Sudhanva Atri for Forbes India

Dileep Ranjekar
Profile:
Dileep Ranjekar (Co-CEO) has been an integral part of the Azim Premji Foundation, right from its inception in 2001. Ranjekar joined Wipro from campus in 1976 and played an important role in its transformation from a vegetable oil maker to a global IT company.


In 1950, we as a nation made a constitutional commitment to build a socialistic, secular and democratic society to secure justice, liberty and equality on several attributes. We committed to be a nation where the poorest feel ownership towards the country, all communities live in perfect harmony, there is no untouchability and women enjoy the same rights as men. After 66 years of independence, we have hardly progressed on our constitutional promise. Our performance across various economic, developmental and social indicators is abysmal. More importantly, there are serious challenges on equity, justice and care for human beings.

It is well accepted that education is probably the most non-violent medium for bringing about social change. In our country, the state has a constitutional responsibility to ensure quality education for all. While we have made significant progress in the last 20 years to take the school to children in over 99 percent of our villages, quality and equity of education has remained elusive.  

In 1986, through an act of Parliament, the state brought out the National Policy for Education, defining goals that were consistent with our constitutional promise. The policy has been supported by the National Curricular Framework, revised from time to time, elaborating the purpose, process and assessment of education. Unfortunately, neither the policy nor the curricular framework has reached the seven million people deployed by the government in 1.4 million schools across the country.

There are several issues involved in the non-delivery of quality education for all, such as the lack of political will, absence of accountability in the delivery system, poor-quality teacher education and inadequate budgets. However, among the most critical actions required is enhancing the competence of people engaged in education.

Pre-service Teacher Education
Given our diverse complexities and the socio-economic matrix, it is absurd to expect that we can prepare a high-quality teacher through a 10-month Bachelor’s in Education (B.Ed) programme after a poor-quality graduation process. What is worse, even the given framework is not delivered with integrity by over 70 percent of the private teacher education institutions. The fact that less than 10 percent of the teachers cleared the national teacher eligibility tests is evidence of that.
 
We have to strengthen the B.Ed degree, making it at least a two-year programme and simultaneously design a five-year programme to be entered after Standard XII. This would help improve aspects such as subject matter knowledge, education perspective, reflective teaching and learning practices, and meaningful student assessment.

Prepare School Principals

World over, research has established that a ‘school leader’ has the highest influence on the quality and culture of the school. However, we do not have a formal process of developing school leaders. It seems absurd that while teachers cannot be appointed without a B.Ed degree, there is no such separate certification required for principals. We need to launch a programme for the preparation and development of school leaders to deal with academic, administrative, cultural and community issues with far greater effectiveness.

The National Centre for School Leadership Development, recently launched under the auspices of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, needs to make this happen in collaboration with several governmental and non-governmental bodies that have the capacity to contribute to such a process.

Dileep Ranjekar: Our Biggest Challenge is to Improve Teaching competence
Image:Pawel Kopcznski / Reuters
We are dealing with the development of 250 mln children, the future of our nation, and we need a highly competent cadre of people to manage the same

Enhance Competence of Education Functionaries
We also have about one million education functionaries across the country. Their responsibilities include ensuring appropriate teacher-pupil ratio, incentives for children, infrastructure, mid-day meal programmes, consistent supply of text books, conducting examinations and providing academic support to schools. Practically no formal training or development is designed for them.

Strengthen Institutions
The government has created institutions at the state, district, block and cluster level to ensure administrative and academic support to schools. They need to have a synergistic vision and a shared strategy to realise their vision. Elaborate criteria must be evolved for selecting personnel for these institutions along with a continuous process of their development. There has to be a periodic review of performance and effectiveness of such institutions.

Indian Education Services
Among the various challenges that we face at the leadership level is the absence of a consistent vision and continuity in the service of bureaucrats in charge of the education department. The National Policy for Education elaborated several points on how to make quality education possible for all children. One of the critical recommendations is the creation of the Indian Education Service to ensure that the education system is managed by professionals who have an in-depth understanding of the subject. We are dealing with the learning and development of 250 million children, the future of our nation, and we need a highly competent cadre of people who are specially trained to manage the same.

Tail-piece
India, the largest democratic system in the world, can achieve its constitutional and societal goals only if our educational system is dramatically reformed to meet the mammoth task before us. And for this, we need committed and highly competent people and institutions. Developing such competence is our number one priority.

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(This story appears in the 23 August, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Amit Kathpalia

    All your comments are valid. However , what are the practical solutions? Some recommendations which I can offer are:- 1. Improve pay scales of teachers. Teaching is one of the highest paid profession in Finland and Sweden -and both the countries have the best standards of school education. In India , teachers are paid as per equivalent of PB2 scales which is applicable to clerks! Indeed , one of the biggest lacunas in indian system is that all our payscales are correlated to payscales of bureaucracy . Thus a professor has payscales of Jt Secy and so on. 2.Give autonomy to school principals and then take accountability Why is it that teachers of Private schools , despite having same or at times even less salary than Govt school teachers are more responsive? 3. Have practical tests for eligibility and promotion. While the pass % of CTET test may be 10% , but the structure of the test and qs are absolutely theoretical and have very little bearing on the skills and knowledge levels required of a teacher. 4. Involve parents in teacher selection and promotions. Thus selection committee may consist of Principal , senior teachers and parent reps. 5. Involve students in taking feedback of teachers(akin to 360 deg appraisal). 6. Have practical skills training for teachers in B.Ed course-eg backwrrd or upside down reading. handling difficult situation, handling diverse students etc . Workshops should be mandatory part of B.Ed. We need to improve our school education -both in Govt and Private school drastically and urgently. While our infrastructure has improved -the weakest link-the teaching staff - has gone down. The focus need to be on this now.

    on Jan 26, 2015
  • Anita Acharya

    Sir a very good inspiring article as i too think and work in the same line. Anita

    on Feb 4, 2014
  • Ajit Jhangiani

    Spot on Dileep. Fabulous and accurate summary. Now comes the execution. Hopefully all stakeholders, including government, can and will sit at the same table, share the vision, and act congruently. All the best. Thank you and Azimji in doing what you are doing. Cheers!

    on Jan 25, 2014
  • Brig J C Kushalappa

    Cannot give a readymade solution, but if we can re-establish the ethos and trust that existed in the system till @ late seventies between the teacher, student and the management, I think it would do a lot better in enhancing the quality of education in the country

    on Oct 18, 2013
  • Sara

    thanks for providing this information really it is helpful

    on Oct 17, 2013
  • Rajiv Bhole

    It was nice to note Dr Ranjekar admitting at the end of this insightful article that they need highly competent cadre of people to improve our children\'s ability to learn. As children are finding it difficult to learn, we need to look into the causes that are making it difficult. And my research has shown that the causes are primarily physiological. In order to improve the ability to learn, educators ought to be looking into the physiology of learning, understand which particular physiological needs are getting thwarted, and find means to address these needs. I had addressed this physiological problem in the paper \'How Yogic Science can Transform Education\' that I had presented at the June 2012 Indian Academy of Applied Psychology (IAAP) Conference, Ernakulam Kerala. \'Education leaders\' can go through the paper, or contact me (Google-search for my contact details) if they need my assistance. It would be my pleasure to work for this challenging task of improving the quality of education in India.

    on Aug 22, 2013
  • Dr.a.jagadeesh

    Outstanding article. Yes. There is a crisis in education especially in the Primary education. In our school days there used to be classes for craft,scouts and guides,Moral Inspection etc., where skills and knowledge were gained. Thanks to the Corporate School structure these disappeared and so are sports and games. Here Mahatma Gandhiji’s Thoughts on Basic Education are still relevant. “Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisites for acquiring learning of any kind. Inquisitiveness should be tempered by humility and respectful regard for the teacher. It must not degenerate into impudence. The latter is the enemy of the receptivity of mind. There can be no knowledge without humility and the will to learn. Education must be of a new type for the sake of the creation of a new world. Everyone of us has good inherent in the soul. It needs to be drawn out by the teachers, and only those teachers can perform this sacred function whose own character is unsullied, who are always ready to learn and to grow from perfection to perfection. Useful manual labour, intelligently performed is the means par excellence for developing the intellect....A balanced intellect presupposes a harmonious growth of body, mind and soul....An intellect that is developed through the medium of socially useful labour will be an instrument for service and will not easily be led astray or fall into devious paths. Craft, Art, Health and education should all be integrated into one scheme. Nai Talim is a beautiful blend of all the four and covers the whole education of the individual from the time of conception to the moment of death....Instead of regarding craft

    on Aug 21, 2013
  • Girish Kargadde

    Well written article. I agree with the author\'s view. But I do not agree with authors idea of having IES similar to IAS to provide the leadership to the system. Its again make the whole system very decentralized. If you see carefully centralized way of governance is root cause to the most of the problems faced today. IES officer from one corner of the country working in other state definitely cannot read the pulse of that locality. Instead we need very decentralized and loosely coupled education system which is very federal in nature and should adopt the local language as the medium of instruction. All the competitive nations of the world are those who has adopted this kind of education system. Even UNICEF advocates the importance of mother tongue based education.

    on Aug 21, 2013
  • Priyank

    Mr. Ranjekar has very well articulated the problems plaguing the education system of India. The idea of having an IES on the lines of IAS is a step towards centralizing the education system. A more decentralized approach to education is what leads to innovation and provides room for solutions to isolated problems. Secondly, India\'s obsession with English-medium education is leading to incompetency in education. Glad that Azim Premji foundation is building schools that provide education in people\'s language.

    on Aug 21, 2013
  • Babu Ajay Kumar

    While i agree with the author for most of the points, the author misses out the need for education in mother tongue too. Currently education being in concurrent list, have to be moved to state list so that a state can form its own policies without the intervention of the center. The points highlighted by the author needs to be considered quite seriously and serious actions needs to be taken w.r.to design,infrastructure, quality, management,teacher competence etc. But when we refer developed countries like Germany,Japan,Israel etc their model is successful because along with above said points they have made sure that everything i.e starting from primary education till advanced studies is available in mother tongue(aka their offical language of the land). While many might argue that even english speaking countries have been very successful, but what we are missing is even India has done the same and adopted english at all levels,and the current economical crisis is a live example, that getting everything in english will not solve the problem. We need to have such an education system (along with above said qualities and more stress should be given to provide education in mother tongue which will help reaching the ultimate goal of education for all) which can bring innovative skills to play , which helps students/teachers to bring out world class products which helps in creating jobs more locally, and which in turn helps reduce dependency on jobs that are created by other countries.

    on Aug 21, 2013
  • Pras

    Good insights. One aspect worthy dwelling upon, however, i) Of concern to society is the minimum level of educational attainment, ie, read, write, communicate and know where to seek resources for self-improvement - imbibe an ability to self-learn ii) trying to achieve a \"one suit\" fits all process is fundamentally difficult and in many senses flawed. The way a good coach employs different methods to teach young children swimming. Enshrining process (which is what happens under the banner of large scale) in hard rules turns anything into a bureaucracy. BRAC\'s Bangladesh experiment suggests high qualifications are less important than commitment to helping the children learn. Just some angles to consider (no one-suit answer or criticism fits either!).

    on Aug 21, 2013
  • Vasant Shetty

    I think the biggest reform in Education is the center should move education back to state list. The one size fits all approach will never work in India. The learning challenges of India\'s diverse population needs a decentralised approach than a centralised approach what India is trying to implement. The emergency days of Indira Gandhi put the education from state list to concurrent and since then the center has been meddling with education leading to disastrous consequences. The big and fat Centrally Sponsored Schemes like SSA, RSMA have very little elbow room for States although they have significant administrative and financial implications for the State. The top down push is making the states unaccountable. The second point is India treats it\'s languages very badly although 80% of India still studies in a Govt or Govt aided mother tongue based schools. There is a difference between learning English as a language and learning everything in English. The later is surely proving to be disastrous across India with students churned out like robots with a bit of English skills but severe gap of conceptual thinking. India needs to invest in improving and raising the bar of mother tongue based education while teaching good quality English as a language.

    on Aug 21, 2013
  • Jokers

    Jokers - reading and rehashing various education commissions

    on Aug 21, 2013
  • Priyanka

    While the private institution are making the studies interesting and modernized for the students ... in Govt. Schools students prefer class bunking ...there should be something to make the education by the Govt. education interesting to the students.Because without these we are losing those handful of students also who however are able to access the schools.

    on Aug 21, 2013