A two-day international conference on teacher education was organised in Delhi last weekend. It was attended by leading educationists and scholars, who deliberated over ways to improve Indian pedagogy.
A two-day international conference on teacher education, organised by the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) in Delhi, proposed a renewed focus on access and quality in the education sector.
The international conference, titled “Journey of Teacher Education: Local to Global”, was held on 17 and 18 August. Participants stressed on the need for a more inclusive school education system in India. They also spoke of creating a support system for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and for students with special needs.
Forty renowned educationists from India and overseas deliberated for two days on key areas related to teacher education in India. The global event, attended by 1,300 delegates, also marked the silver jubilee celebration of the NCTE, which was established in 1995.
Speaking at the valedictory session, R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Dept. of Higher Education, MHRD, Government of India, talked about the huge investment the education sector has been attracting from all over the world. He said, “While problems today are interlinked and global in scale, the solutions have to be local and rooted in one’s own ethos and on ground realities. The same is true for education, too. While education is globalising rapidly, it has to be in conformity with local needs, and challenges have to be considered as opportunities. India is today undergoing a unique demographic transition. While the proportion of dependent population is going down, that of working population is increasing. Families are getting smaller and have more surplus income that is being invested into the education of children. This is a big opportunity for the education sector and for education technology companies to grow. It is up to us to use or lose this unique virtuous cycle. It is estimated that one-third of the growth of East Asian countries was accounted for by investments into education, technology and skills. India needs to learn lessons from such global success stories.
“A study has found that the cognitive ability of Indian students lags behind by 2.5 standard deviation from the global average. This proves the need for a major change in pedagogical system in our schools.”
Stressing on the importance of inclusive education, Dr. T. Vijaya Kumar, Head, Centre for Equity and Social Development, National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Telangana, said, “The UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 mandates inclusive and equitable education for all by 2030. India in the last 20 years has managed to create a physical access to education for most children, but social access is still lacking. Many children are still out of school. Even those who are in school suffer from out-of-class situation. India is facing the challenge of schooling without learning. The focus now needs to shift from access to quality of education in schools through better teacher training. Education of children with special needs does not seem to be a priority for the government. For example, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has spent only 3% of its budget on this issue in the last 18 years. We need funds, resources and a huge attitudinal change among stakeholders, education officers and governing bodies for overcoming barriers facing inclusive education in India.”
Inclusivity in education, according to Professor Sudesh Mukhopadhaya, former Chairperson, Rehabilitation Council of India, is not just about giving equal opportunities to special-needs students, but it is also about equipping teachers with the right tools to handle and empower the students.
Deploying special educators is only the first step towards achieving this inclusivity. The process can only be completed by training regular teachers and ensuring that the specialised resources are able to percolate down to the local administration.
Dr. Simmi Mahajan, Project Head (Inclusion), Sri Aurobindo Society, said, “There are many schools that are not equipped with the kind of tools teachers need for effective inclusion. While government schools are mandated to have inclusive programmes, private schools are still shrugging off their responsibility to establish an all-inclusive model.”
Dan Alluf, Counsellor, Embassy of Israel, suggested that inclusion programme must be implemented for children from early childhood. “While kindergarten education should be restricted to integrating children with special needs with activities of regular children, primary and high-school education should focus more on personal programmes created by therapists imparting life skills,” he said.
Talking about the internationalisation of teacher education in India, Dr. Baby Sam Samuel, Chairman, Indian Schools of Oman, said, “The best route for teachers to go from local to global, especially in pre-service training phase, is to enroll in skill development programmes such as global best practices, research, international curriculum, and performance measurements. They also need to acquire bi-lingual proficiency, especially in a foreign language. The government needs to introduce tests such as the CAT, harmonised across the country at national and state levels, as well as familiarise teachers with international cultures and cultural sensitivities training.”
Professor Craig Kissock, Emeritus Professor, University of Minnesota, USA, said, “Our educators create the future, hence they should think and act globally and implement and learn locally. I suggest the creation of a virtual international (global) teacher education centre in India, which will solve the problem of reaching out to the many teachers who want to teach in other nations.”
The NCTE was established on 17 August 1995 and was tasked with achieving planned and coordinated development of teacher education system across the country and the maintenance of norms and standards in this sector. The NCTE also serves as an advisory body to central and state governments, ensuring the maintenance of standards and quality in teacher education. The mandate of NCTE is very broad and covers the entire gamut of teacher education programmes, including research and training of persons to equip them to teach at pre-primary, primary, secondary and senior secondary stages in schools, as well as non-formal education, part-time education, adult education and distance education courses. In India, there are currently 17 NCTE-recognised teacher education programmes on offer.