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Imagine a situation where a teacher graduates from a District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) centre, earns her B.Ed or M.Ed degree and enters the classroom. Let’s assume she’s teaching at a low-cost government school. She’s excited and genuinely believes that she has the tools to help her students learn.
However, on entering the classroom, the teacher realises that the students in her class are at completely different academic levels and she has no idea how to teach in such a situation. Many of them are first-generation learners who may not get any academic support at home. Absenteeism is quite high and socio-economic circumstances like low income levels and a lack of proper nutrition affect the performance of many able students. To help her cope with these issues, she attends different types of training but there is no professional development programme which helps to better her knowledge and skills. The lack of proper training affects her teaching and consequently, her student’s ability to learn and perform well.
While this may be an extreme example, many teachers in India, especially those in low-income schools, have to cope with such issues every single day.
A study on ‘Primary education in India,’ states that a teacher’s ability, knowledge and her pedagogy, (i.e. her method of delivery) is one of the most critical factors that affect the learning outcomes of children. The education system in India, while having made significant progress in many aspects (like access and reach), has left a lot to be desired. Unless there is significant improvement in governance and teachers are properly trained, things are unlikely to change.1
Teacher education in India can be divided into two broad areas - pre-service education which is focussed on preparing students for a career in teaching and in-service teacher-training that is provided by the government through the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) or NGOs and social enterprises. Both these models have fundamental problems in the way that they are implemented.
Pre-service teacher education Pre-service teacher education in India hasn’t been given the importance it deserves. As pointed out by the NCERT, degree programmes for aspiring teachers do not spend enough time preparing them for the realities of the classroom. The short duration of the programme also limits a candidate’s ability to learn through self-reflection, understanding social realities, engaging in shared learning and gaining practical experience.2
Curriculum: The Verma Commission (2012) and the NCERT have criticised the curriculum and programme structure, saying that it only provides teachers with basic skills and assumes that they will be able to apply their learning to any context. The curriculum also fails to address how children learn, i.e. the psychological aspects that contribute to better comprehension.
Field experience and mentorships: There is a pressing need to restructure the ‘field experience’ component and expose teachers to the ground realities of teaching. The short duration of the course does not provide a space for trainee-teachers to contextualise their learning and the field experience is not always adequate.3 For example, there is no mentorship programme for student-teachers which could be critical to help guide them on how to prepare lessons, manage a class and deal with common problems in the classroom. It also provides a much-needed network of support to trainee-teachers.
Such shortfalls in pre-service training ultimately affect the learning outcomes of students. A study conducted in Andhra Pradesh highlighted the fact that there was very little difference in the performance of students taught by teachers with a professional teaching degree vis-à-vis those taught by teachers with any other undergraduate degree.4 If a course designed to train teachers isn’t improving teaching methods, then what value does it add?
DIETs also lack the human resources to train the vast number of teachers that are required, begging the question - ‘Who will train the teachers?’5
In-service teacher education
In-service teacher education on the other hand, suffers from other issues. Contrary to popular perception, teachers undergo training throughout the academic year. The SSA has a provision for 20 days of in-service teacher training a year.6 However, it appears that little thought goes into the outcomes that these trainings are expected to achieve and given the variety of training, there is also very limited standardisation.7 Variation may be required to address diverse contexts but there is a need to set at least some parameters in order to compare success and failure in different situations and locations.
The lack of attention given to training is also reflected in both government and private investment in these areas. The 2012 Verma Commission report8 pointed out that 90 percent of teacher education bodies were in fact private, arguably reflecting the priorities of the government – at least with respect to pre-service education. Despite the SSA allocating the highest proportion of funds (64 percent) to funding teachers in 2013-2014,9 teacher performance has not significantly improved – stressing the need for greater investment in and the redesigning of in-service teacher training programmes.
CSR spending in education also reflects this trend. A 2014 CSR in Education report by Samhita clearly shows a significant skew in the priorities of the 100 companies with the largest CSR budgets in India. Only 15 percent of these companies had a programme for the capacity building of providers. This could have happened for three reasons. Firstly, companies seem to be prioritising areas of intervention emphasised by the government through the Right to Education Act (RTE), which has been criticised for focusing heavily on infrastructure and not enough on learning outcomes and pedagogy.10 Samhita’s research also shows that companies are responding to a demand for infrastructure-based support made by the schools themselves as they believe that this will increase enrolment numbers and help them become RTE compliant. Thirdly, training teachers is a medium-to- long-term investment which companies may be reluctant to support as it is perceived as being more expensive.
But effective models that companies can invest in do exist.
One such example is Muktangan which follows an ‘integrated teacher education’ approach. It runs a three-year (pre-service) programme aligned to NCTE norms which are similar to the first year of a Diploma in Education (D.Ed) programme11. The programme ensures that teachers are prepared for the classroom through theoretical and practical training12, as well as regular in-service teacher training. The programme focuses on skills such as school leadership, IT skills, English proficiency and also covers pedagogy requirements for each subject.13
Investing in a teacher’s capabilities is probably the most sustainable way of bringing about a much-needed improvement in student learning and needs active support from the private sector. According to Samhita’s CSR in Education report, 75 percent of companies with the largest CSR budgets invested in creating infrastructure and scholarships in the education space. While this is critical, it is equally important to support other aspects of education, like teacher training, and work to fill in these gaps. Implementing programmes that tackle multiple issues within the sector will enhance the value of a company’s CSR programmes and significantly improve the current state of education in India.
-By Poorvaja Prakash, Assistant Manager, Research
2Teacher Education for Curriculum Revival, National Focus Group, NCERT, Position Paper 2.4. New Delhi
3INTERNSHIP IN PRE-SERVICE TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMME: A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
4Professional Development of Teachers: The Need of the Hour, Young Lives, INDIA Policy Brief 4, New Delhi.
5R. Sujatha, (2015), Move to extend teacher education duration, The Hindu, February 18th 2015, Chennai.
6Progress in Teacher Education under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, SSA, Government of India; http://126.96.36.199/LssNew/psearch/QResult16.aspx?qref=13449
7Vijaysimha, I. (2013), Teachers as Professionals: Accountable and Autonomous?
Review of the Report of the Justice Verma Commission on Teacher Education, August 2012, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Contemporary Education Dialogue 10(2) 293–299. Sage Publications.
8Vijaysimha, I. (2013), Teachers as Professionals: Accountable and Autonomous?
Review of the Report of the Justice Verma Commission on Teacher Education, August 2012, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Contemporary Education Dialogue 10(2) 293–299. Sage Publications