Review of the book ' Curriculum Framework for Quality Teacher Education'
(published by the National Council for Teacher Education, NCTE,
New Delhi,1998. Pp. 137)
The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) was established as a statutory body in 1995. The curriculum framework developed by the NCTE was released in 1998 as a publication. It is expected to function as a catalytic input in revamping teacher education by restructuring its curriculum . The task has come to the NCTE fifty years too late. Had an all out effort been made to indigenise education soon after the country became independent, the legacy of colonial education could have been easily replaced by an education system relevant to the new nation. But the pre-independence model of education, in spite of interventions of several education commissions, seems to have continued practically undiluted at all levels of education and the system has expandeded by several folds . Consequently a task that was relatively easy when the educational system was a fraction of its present size has assumed colossal proportions. There are now 5.98 lakh primary schools, 1.76 lakh elementary schools and 98 thousand high/higher secondary schools in the country. About 1300 elementary teacher education institutions and about 700 colleges of education/ university departments of education perform the primary responsibility of pre-service education of teachers.
School teaching is the single largest professional activity in the country. There are 4.52 million teachers in the country out of whom nearly 3 million teach in primary/elementary schools. Because of its size the teaching community has acquired high inertia. They resist change and prefer status quo. Now only some innovative ideas may be able to overcome the inertia of the system.
The NCTE has chosen a pragmatic approach for influencing the teacher education system. It has developed a curriculum framework instead of fixing curricula for different categories of teacher education programmes. The expectation of the NCTE is that by offering flexible suggestions the organisations and institutions responsible for deciding teacher education curriculum may be able to select from the curriculum framework what would meet their specific needs within the constraints of their resoures. Accordingly, the NCTE has prepared the curriculum framework keeping in mind the diversity of the school system and those of the teacher education institutions that train teachers for it. It has evolved a curriculum framework through the process of intensive national level consultations with teachers, teacher educators and thinkers in education. In the book under review curriculum frameworks for designing teacher education courses for the different stages of education beginning from early childhood stage to the senior secondary stage have been separately given.
The phrases such as teacher education for building a learning society, for developing the ability of learning to learn, and for developing competencies required for using information and communication technology in teaching-learning, which are some of the new ideas in the framework, may remain as mere rhetoric unless they get appropriately reflected both in letter and spirit in the new teacher education programmes. Therefore, the teacher education will become futuristic and dynamic only when the existing programmes can be changed as per the NCTE's vision. The new type of teacher, who would be forward-looking, who would be able to adapt appropriate pedagogy, who would be able to prepare suitable instructional materials to suit the needs of the teaching-learning and who would be able to carry out the other tasks envisaged for him/her , the NCTE hopes, will be produced when courses of theory, practice teaching and practical work in the teacher education programmes are restructured as per the framework.
The NCTE has recognised that the characteristics of learners of the senior secondary stage, the level of subject disciplines studied at this stage and the academic qualifications of the prospective teachers for teaching at this stage make it imperative that the pre-service course for preparing senior secondary school teachers may have to be different from the conventional B.Ed. course. Another important recommendation is that the duration of the present B.Ed. programme may be increased from one year to two years, and wherever feasible the B.Ed. model of teacher education may be replaced by long duration integrated courses. The NCERT's four- year B.A.Ed. and B.Sc.Ed. courses combine content and professional education. These courses are models of integrated teacher education that have withstood the test of time.
The concluding chapter of the book entitled 'Managing the System' leaves a disquieting feeling that these recommendations are likely to remain unimplemented for some time. The NCTE has not fixed the time frame for replacing the existing courses by designing new courses as per the curriculum framework. Also, a major challenge in introducing the teacher education programmes envisaged by the NCTE will be in making available teacher educators who can teach the new courses. The weakest link in implementing the new scheme may turn out to be the teacher educators as they generally possess limited professional competencies.
The teacher education has to be tuned to the tasks that teachers perform when they join the profession. Therefore, the teacher education has to be intimately matched with the school curriculum. But the teacher educators themselves do not have the experience of school teaching. They teach to pupil-teachers mainly the theoretical courses and seldom try to equip the would be teachers with skills essential for dealing with real issues of school teaching such as strategies for handling large classes, coping with multi-grade and multi-level teaching etc. The NCTE has therefore suggested that appropriate M.Ed. courses be designed for preparing stage specific teacher educators.
Over and above what has been said, major impediment in reforming teacher education will be the financial interests of the organisations that run teacher education courses. Many of these institutions earn revenue from their teacher education courses. This is done by adopting shortcuts such as offering their programme with poor infrastructure, by enrolling more students than what the system can handle and even by offering teacher education by distance mode. The tasks before the NCTE are, therefore, daunting, to say the least. The curriculum framework for quality teacher education prepared by the NCTE is one of the crucial inputs for indigenising teaching profession and for its adaptation within the constraints in which the schools function in the country.
It has been acknowledged in the book that for the implementation of its recommendations a favourable climate will have to be created first. It is hoped that before long the NCTE will organise regional seminars and meetings of teachers, teacher educators and administrative functionaries for working out the follow up tasks so that the curriculum frame work for teacher education could be put into actual practice. To sum up this book is a landmark in teacher education and should be studied by both experts and lay public interested in school education.