Assessment and Accreditation in Determination and Maintenance of Norms and Standards for Teacher Education
Education is a fundamental right of each human being. In the constitution of the Republic of India it was envisaged that the State would provide, within 10 years from its commencement, free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 years. Recently, by an act of constitutional amendment the Parliament has made universal elementary education compulsory. Many countries of the world have gone a step beyond and made ten years of general education compulsory. In our country there are 300 million children in the school age group. The challenge now is to provide educational access for universal elementary education to 200 million children and to follow it by universal secondary education. Even achieving universal primary education has been an uphill task, as because of budgetary constraints the State has not been able to invest in this sector at the desired level and education as an effective instrument for national development could not be fully realised. For setting up a school funds are needed for putting in place the required physical and instructional infrastructure that make a school a school. Physical infrastructure comprises a school building suitable for holding instructional activities, classrooms and playground, and instructional infrastructure comprises learning resources, textbooks, teaching aids and most crucial of all professionally competent teachers. If for making a rule of thumb estimate of number of teachers that are required for arranging schooling of 300 million children it is assumed that for taking care of education of 30 children at least one teacher is required, then the country would need 10 million teachers. There are 5 million teachers in service now. Therefore, at least another 5 million teachers are needed if compulsory general education is to be provided to all children.
Children of different age groups learn differently. Therefore, role of teachers for taking care of teaching-learning at different stages of education vary correspondingly. For teaching pre-schoolers competencies required in a teacher are different from those that are required by an elementary school teacher, which are different from those required by a secondary school teacher, which are different from those required by a senior secondary school teacher and which are different from those required for teaching at the tertiary stage. For each stage of education specialised teachers are required for teaching different school subjects such as languages, mathematics, science, social science, humanities, physical education, fine arts etc. In addition, for taking care of education of children with special needs in an inclusive environment teacher requires special skills, particularly, the ability of identifying the learning need of each child and selection of learning aids appropriate for that child. There are many tasks that a teacher performs which go beyond imparting the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, commonly associated with what a teacher normally does in a primary school. Teachers are expected to teach as per the curriculum, take care of all round development of children, develop abilities such as learning how to learn, problem solving, creative thinking, which are crucial for living effectively in the world rapidly changing with the developments in science and technology. A person who does not possess the skills and competencies required for the tasks expected of the teacher cannot be called a teacher. Therefore, in the present context of schooling it would be counterproductive to the objective of education to reject that teaching is a profession and teacher is a professional.
It would be considered atrocious to accept that persons are born as medical doctors or to allow persons who have not undergone medical education to practise medicine. But there is a divided opinion on whether persons are born teachers. It is not questioned when persons are entrusted with the responsibility of imparting education to children, without insisting on pre-service teacher education. In the academic qualifications laid down by the University Grants Commission for appointment of teachers for teaching students of higher education there is no requirement of professional skills for teaching. When qualified medical practitioners are not available even for meeting exigencies unqualified persons are not appointed for performing tasks of a qualified medical professional. Diagnosis of patients and prescribing medication to them by an unauthorised person is a legally punishable offence. But it is not considered unreasonable to entrust the responsibility of teaching innocent children to persons without insisting on their possessing the required academic background and/or relevant pre-service teacher education. The justification given for appointing untrained or unqualified persons as teachers or giving them names such as Shiksha Karmi, one of the many nomenclatures for para-teachers, is the lack of availability of qualified teachers for working in schools in villages and in remote habitations. Perhaps, for changing this type of mindset, from time to time, several Education Commissions have stressed the importance of teacher education and professionalisation of teacher education programmes.
The Parliament appreciated the role of quality teacher education in providing quality teachers for quality school education and passed an Act in 1993 for setting up of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) as a statutory body. The broad mandate given to the NCTE is to achieve planned and co-ordinated development of the teacher education system throughout the country, the regulation and proper maintenance of norms and standards in the teacher education system and for matters connected therewith. The Act has given to the Council statutory powers for framing regulations required for planned and co-ordinated development of teacher education and issues connected with the professional role of teachers. Since the inception of the NCTE Regulations have been framed from time to time for carrying out the functions assigned to it in the Act. The regulations that have been issued broadly cover qualifications for appointment of teachers for different stages of school education, the norms and standards for professional development of teachers and teacher educators through teacher education programmes, procedure for grant of recognition to institutions by the Regional Committees for conducting teacher education programmes through face-to-face and distance education modes, fixation of fees for teacher education programmes etc.
The responsibility of regulating quality of teacher education through norms and standards came to the NCTE when teacher education system had already seen its mushroom growth. Teacher education underwent expansion in different parts of the country that too in heterogeneous conditions and was even used by some institutions as a money spinner programme, as surplus of income over expenses could be ensured by running it in a diluted form. Role of NCTE was generally perceived as a threat, as it involved conflict of interests, and was opposed as it curbed unfettered freedom for exploiting teacher education for commercial purposes. It is to the credit of the NCTE that the principal stakeholders in the quality of teacher education, the state governments, the universities and the school system, have appreciated the importance of the role of the NCTE in determining the norms and standards of the teacher education programmes and putting in place a structured system for regulating programmes of teacher education as per regulations on norms and standards. Teacher education programmes basically comprise of three components, theoretical foundations, content-cum-pedagogy and school experience (teaching practice and internship). The NCTE has laid down the norms and standards for each programme.
The professional profiles of teachers are based on the tasks to be performed by them. The curriculum of professional programme is a road map available to teacher education institutions for transforming students having the required entry qualifications into the teachers as per the profile. The norms and standards of pre-service teacher education programmes lay down the guidelines for setting up an institution with the minimum facilities required for transacting the curriculum of that programme effectively. In operational terms NCTE recognition process ensures that an institution, which wants to start a programme in teacher education, possess the essential physical and instructional infrastructure for developing skills and competencies through effective transaction of the curriculum of that programme. Broadly, the regulations lay down the admission eligibility, calendar of instructional activities to be arranged during the course, qualifications of teachers for the course and the instructional facilities such as the classrooms, laboratories, library, hardware and software required for using online and offline learning resources etc. It may be appreciated that the NCTE norms and standards ensure that the necessary conditions required for transaction of the programme, but whether a recognised institution is effectively transacting the programme can be best assessed by the potential employers of the products of that institution and the examining body of that course. The employers would look for the competencies and skills, which the professional programme is expected to develop and the examining body ensures through a system of assessment the level of attainment of the curricular objectives. One of the reliable indicators of the quality of pre-service teacher education imparted by any institution is that of the acceptance of its products by the school system, as it would employ only those students of that institution as teachers who meet its requirements. Thus, the quality of performance of its alumni establishes the reputation of a teacher education institution. It may be appreciated that the NCTE determines the norms and standards for a programme by consulting experts and the existing institutions running that programme. It has evolved a system of self-appraisal by its recognised institutions. Feedback received from the institutions through their annual self-appraisal reports reveals the ground realities of implementation of the conditions of recognition and is used as input for making the norms and standards for raising the quality of the programme realistically. All the same it was felt that a system of rating recognised teacher education institutions by an independent autonomous body will bring credibility in functioning of the institutions and the quality of the programme.
Assessment and accreditation of institutions, licensing for practising a profession have been institutionalised in other professional programmes such as those of medicine, engineering, architecture etc. Teaching being a profession and teacher being a professional, the system of assessment and accreditation of teacher education institutions by an independent body such as NAAC is being made an effective instrument for raising of quality of teacher education programmes and for enabling institutions in using their physical and instructional infrastructure optimally and professionally. For achieving these professional objectives an MOU was signed on 16th August 2002 by the National Council for Teacher Education and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). As follow up activities to the MOU, the NCTE and the NAAC have developed a manual for self-assessment of teacher education institutions, constituted a steering group for planning and monitoring assessment and accreditation of teacher education institutions and planned the Pune Conference on the theme ‘Self-appraisal and Accreditation of Teacher Education Institutions as a Development-oriented Process’. The sub-themes being addressed by the experts in this conference have been selected carefully for a holistic teacher education. Some of these are ‘Role of Norms and Standards for Quality Teacher Education’, ‘School Experience and quality in Teacher Education’, ‘Curriculum Transaction for Quality Teacher Education’, ‘Professional Development of Teacher Educators and Quality Teacher Education’, ‘Curbing Commercialisation in Teacher Education’, ‘Consumer Perspective in Quality Teacher Education’. The Conference is expected to clarify issues that would contribute in effective implementation of the assessment and accreditation in the teacher education system.
The scheme of assessment and accreditation will help institutions to carry out their strength, weakness, opportunity and threat analysis, and in making their programmes more attractive to the students and to their potential employers. The norms and standards evolve with strengthening of the capacity of the system and commitment for raising the quality of the programme, which will be revealed by the system of assessment and accreditation. It is in this context it will be used by the NCTE as an instrument for determination of norms and standards for teacher education.