Preparation and progression: teachers in the NEP

Sushama Yermal

The draft New Education Policy of India (NEP) 2019, presented by a committee of eminent scholars, chaired by Dr. K. Kasturirangan, proposes to bring in a system that caters to children of ages 3 to 18 years to replace the current system of ages 5 to 17 years. Further, in accordance with developmental stages of children, the first 5 years of school will be considered foundational, the next 3 years preparatory, further 3 years middle and finally 4 years of secondary education. The ideal scenario in school education would be when the curriculum as well as the teaching-learning process are child-centred, alongside providing a teacher-centred support system. Interestingly, at the same time as focusing on the needs of the students, the NEP has placed the teacher also at the centre of its deliberations, and this article looks into the teacher-specific issues it has addressed. Refreshingly, the policy document declares that all walks of learning will be embedded into the ‘curriculum’, hence eliminating the need for youngsters to spend out-of-school hours in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Teacher Education
The NEP attends to the topic of teacher education in two chapters. In chapter 5 on ‘Teachers’, it takes a cursory glance at the proposed programme for teacher preparation, then spells out novel plans to introduce professional standards that will inform teacher appraisal as well as career progression. In chapter 15, on ‘Teacher Education’, the need for professionally better equipped teachers is elaborated, the current status of teacher preparation/professional support are analyzed and possible solutions are proposed. It goes into details of (a) restoring integrity and credibility to the teacher education system and (b) bringing efficacy and high quality to the teacher education system through strong education departments in multidisciplinary colleges and universities.

The National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE, 2010) had recommended a 4 year integrated programme of teacher education, which has come into practice at a few chosen locations across the country. These courses at present mainly cater to the preparation of two categories of teachers: (1) primary/elementary, (2) middle and high school. The NEP proposes new, level-specific programmes of teacher education in accordance with the 5+3+3+4 system of schooling to be unrolled.

Teacher education for all levels – Foundational, Preparatory, Middle, and Secondary – will take place within large multidisciplinary universities or colleges as a stage-specific, four-year integrated B.Ed. programme, combining content, pedagogy, and practical training. Teachers-in-training would thereby be able to interact with peers from other disciplines and be taught by faculty in allied disciplines of education such as psychology, child development, and social sciences, making them that much stronger as teachers when they graduate.

For students who have completed regular bachelors degrees in another discipline and wish to take up teacher training, the duration of ‘lateral entry’ B.Ed. programme will be of two years.

The policy deals a heavy hand to substandard, stand-alone teacher education institutes and recommends identifying and closing them all down in the next five years. This is a welcome move to ensure that the required quality of teacher training is maintained all over the country.

Continuous professional development (CPD)
By definition, PD refers to the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that you gain both formally and informally as you work, beyond any initial training.

In the teaching profession, this refers to observing, identifying and documenting the changes and improvements in the skills and experience of a teacher. This would involve several aspects of routine activities and interactions of the teaching profession. For example – the ability to convey concepts effectively to students, winning the confidence of students and colleagues, ability to make a difference in students’ understanding and application of concepts, providing better learning experience inside as well as outside the classroom, ability to pick up and utilize new skills, etc. In fact, NCFTE has stated six clear aims of CPD for Indian teachers.

Section 5.3 of the NEP elaborates on some new steps to make CPD accessible and effective for every teacher in the country. The main features that are special to the NEP are (1) introduction of veritable professional standards for teachers (2) a performance dependent scheme of promotions/salary rises, (3) modular, accredited courses and other PD options to be made available to all teachers in a decentralized fashion.

(1) National and State professional standards for teachers (NPST and SPST): “Such standards for performance appraisal would include both hard indicators which are non-negotiable (e.g. attendance regularity and punctuality, financial propriety, not using corporal punishment, participating in any mandatory school functions and meetings, etc.) and soft indicators (such as effective pedagogy and classroom practices, effective developmental assessment of progress of students, effective use of teaching-learning material, quality of engagement and interaction with parents and students, organization of quality school events, etc.) which are related to professional practice and competencies. The NPST and SPST will also inform the design of the pre-service teacher education programmes.”

“The professional standards will be reviewed and revised nationally and then at the State level in 2030, and thereafter every ten years, on the basis of rigorous empirical analysis of the efficacy of the system. All appraisals will be based on carefully recorded multiple sources of evidence, comprising minimally of school visits, school records and classroom observations, peer review, and feedback on the progress of students. The appraisal must be endorsed by the SMC. The details of this process will be delineated by the SCERTs by 2022 for each State.”

Setting up of these professional standards, instead of just generically stating ‘teachers must improve’, is certainly a welcome move. The choice of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ indicators though appears odd, if not off the mark themselves! Attendance, punctuality, etc., are important in any profession, but teaching depends more heavily on relevant practices, effective assessment and so on. Therefore it may be advisable to revise this scheme suitably. While the scheme sounds thorough on paper, it clearly threatens to allow a lot of room for malpractice at all stages. I do hope there will be sufficient care taken to monitor and streamline the process.

(2) Regarding salary and promotions, the NEP recommends that “there will be at least five promotional levels as a teacher in each stage, which may be labelled Early Teacher (without tenure), Early Teacher (with tenure), Proficient Teacher, Expert Teacher, and Master Teacher. Within each promotional level/rank, there would be a preset range of salary levels through which teachers could progress based on merit and performance in that rank.” Phased transition from the current system is also proposed to be completed by the year 2030. The aim will be to have a clearly-defined promotion-and-salary ladder to mark milestones in professional development and accomplishment, and therefore continuous incentives for conducting outstanding work as a teacher. In the context of appraisal along the lines of NPST and SPST, the policy states in no uncertain terms that “Promotions and salary increases will not occur based on the length of tenure or seniority, but only on the basis of such appraisal.” It is important to remember here that providing customised support to those who have not performed better with years is also necessary, similar to how we wish to provide better learning experiences to lagging students instead of leaving them behind. Additionally, there appears to be an unstated assumption that administrative jobs might be somehow of a higher cadre than mere teaching – this angle of view is certainly unwelcome! While I agree that it is necessary for experienced teachers to take up administrative responsibilities, it may be even more useful to think of ways to practically rotate this role with that of regular teaching once in three years or so, so that good teachers are not taken away from schools forever. Currently, teachers function as resource persons on rotation basis alongside their teaching requirements, a different model could be invoked for administrative positions.

One guideline for quantifying teacher performance has been available in the form of “Performance Indicators (PINDICS)” for elementary school teachers, published by the NCERT in the year 2013. NEP refers to this as an example. While several points in this guideline are useful, it does not appear to consider the teacher an empowered professional as she rightly deserves to be. There are many lists of points to be noted as self-report by the teacher or observations by others, but the initiative of and suggestions made by the teachers are nowhere to be seen. In order to get a well-rounded view of the teacher’s performance, PINDICS hopes to collect data from many sources. But it is unclear as to what the points to be specifically noted from talking to students/colleagues/parents and others are. Amongst all the angles of forming an opinion ON the performance of the teacher, there does not seem to be any room for feedback BY the teacher on how rewarding or not various aspects of teaching/working have been, what additional resources/support they would like to have/use, etc. It would be nice if the upcoming guidelines would include it, along with asking what motivates a teacher and how they would like to share their expertise with others. We ought to steer clear of a mindset that even remotely suggests a teacher to be someone waiting to be told where she stands and how she must proceed!

(3) In its deliberations regarding CPD for teachers, the NEP wishes to develop “a culture of self/peer learning rather than a “command and control” – type of directed learning. … there will be no centralised determination of the curriculum, no cascade-model training and no rigid norms.” At the same time, it also wants to make available modular, accredited courses to teachers which they can access on their own.

There are a number of aspects of CPD other than taking course modules. They need to be focused upon and emphasized too! Ready modules are not suited to the necessary levels of customization, whereas each teacher’s needs and strengths vary widely, and for the same teacher for different parts of student curriculum. Elaborating on the specifications of who will offer the courses by what modality and so on, there is a need to develop a system for assessing the actual requirements at present.

While most of the above discussion has been about school teachers, Section 13.1 of the NEP also states that “higher education faculty must be valued and supported with excellent preparation and conducive working environments.” This of course is much needed too. It also mentions that opportunities and support for CPD will be provided to school leaders as well, but the nature of such provisions or details of how this will be supported are not explained.

I wish to conclude with a quote from the NEP that makes very good sense. “It will always be important to remember that empowerment and autonomy are preconditions for true accountability – a threatening environment is the nemesis of sustainable quality. An accountability mechanism that has clear non-negotiables and supports teachers in effecting improvements will tend to work the most effectively.”

References

  1. Draft of National Education Policy, India, 2019: https://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/Draft_NEP_2019_EN_Revised.pdf
  2. Performance indicators for elementary teachers, 2013: http://www.ncert.nic.in/pdf_files/PINDICS.pdf
  3. National framework for teacher education, NCTE 2009/10: NCFTE http://ncte-india.org/ncte_new/pdf/NCFTE_2010.pdf

A version of this article appeared on ‘Conflunce’ at http://confluence.ias.ac.in/teacher-preparation-and-professional-development-in-draft-nep-india-2019/

The author has been a researcher in biology and an educator, taught at the undergraduate programme of IISc from its beginning; now freelancing as an independent advisor to academic institutes and teaching faculty. She can be reached at [email protected].

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