Teacher Education at Crossroads
Teacher education in India has been following the same road for over one hundred and fifty years. That road has reached dead-end from several points of view. Teachers coming out of the system are finding themselves inadequate in taking care of learning how to learn, value-oriented education, development of higher mental abilities such as problem solving, critical thinking, analysis and synthesis that are essential for a learning society. For meeting the varying learning needs, teacher has to recognise the sovereignty of the learner, which has not been a concern of teachers so far, as the certification of the learning is carried out by external examining bodies through public examinations. In addition recent developments in information and communication technologies require that teachers be ICT literate for using with facility digital learning resources and are able to integrate use of ICT in classroom learning activities. Employment opportunities are now increasingly shifting to the private schools and even foreign governments are looking for teachers for their schools from India. Therefore, the question is whether there is something beyond the dead-end, which we must still pursue, or whether we should design and engineer a new road.
We do not have to look far for finding the direction for re-engineering education in general and teacher education in particular. In the last half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries there was a spurt of thinking on the educational system in ancient India and rediscovery of its relevance for meeting the challenge of the present. Sri Aurobindo in his great book A National System of Education emphasised that purpose of education is not mastery of subject alone but development and chiselling of mental faculties. The integral development of faculties based on Aurobindo's concept of education has been experimented since 1943 when a school came to be established at Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry. This experiment is based on three principles of teaching laid down by Sri Aurobindo. The first principle is that nothing can be taught; that the teacher is not an instructor or taskmaster but he is a helper and a guide, and that his business is to suggest and not to impose. The second principle is that the mind has to be consulted in its growth. The third principle is to work form near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be. In other words, education must proceed from direct experience and that even that which is abstract and remote from experience should brought to the ken of experience. There are other thoughts on education, which were experimented and found relevant to our conditions. Basic education formulated by Gandhi and Tagore's Shantiniketan experiment provide other perspectives for a national education system.
The need of the hour is to open up the road of education from its dead-end and clear the path that will lead to a learning society. If this is to happen a new orientation in teacher education programmes has become inevitable. Consequently upon the explosion of information, increasing relevance of education to all domains of the world of work, increasing stress on the themes of unity and integration, international understanding and peace, individual and collective excellence new demands are being made on the teacher. The role of the teacher as a taskmaster is fading out of the educational scene and the teacher is being increasingly looked upon as a guide and an inspirer. In addition teacher is expected to contribute to integrating education with development, be an innovator and inventor of dynamic methods of education, be able to impart value-oriented education and be a leading agent of change in the fashioning of a learning society. It is against this background that major changes need to be introduced in the aims, methods and contents of programmes of teacher education, both pre-service and in-service.
Kireet Joshi has suggested in his book Education at Crossroads a three-pronged strategy for making curriculum for teacher education for preparing teachers who can with confidence shoulder the responsibility of school education for meeting the challenges of the 21st century. Firstly, the teacher education programmes (TEP) must be made so inspiring that teacher looks upon the task of teaching as sacred. Secondly, the curriculum of TEP should have the component of the theory of value education, both in terms of the foundations of fundamental duties and of the values that lie beyond the domain of duties. It should also have a component of practical art of the practice of exploration of values in real life situations. And thirdly, the duration that is normally assigned to teacher education programmes should be appropriately enlarged.
Since its inception the NCTE has been providing resource support to teacher educators for making curricula of TEP relevant to the needs of teachers in the changed context of school education. It has published a large number of books, which recently have also been put in the public domain of the World Wide Web. For helping teacher educators in becoming ICT literate CD-ROM have been developed by it and awareness camps have been held and are being held in the country. A series of regional seminars have been organised by it and initiatives for framing state-wide curriculum for teacher education courses at secondary level have been supported by it. The NCTE in addition to its regulatory functions will continue to play its catalytic role in bringing about this process of change in the content and methods of teacher education programmes in the emerging context of school education.
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