The school year is well under way and our calendars are already set, with the build-up toward unit tests and examinations, school days and sports events. And in the middle of all this are those debatable things called training programmes. In government schools, they are a part of the regimented year for teachers; promotions and increments do not happen without a requisite number of ‘refresher’ courses at recognised training institutes. Such courses are offered by institutions like SCERTs and NCERT, as well as specialized institutes like the Central Institute for English and Foreign Languages and the Regional Institutes of English.
And then of course there are the growing number of courses and workshops offered by private organisations designated as ‘education consultants’, publishing houses and non-governmental organisations trying to effect change in teaching/learning systems.
There is as yet no clarity on what exactly is the long-term (or even short-term) impact of such training on the individual teacher, on the school, and ultimately, on the context of classroom learning for the child. In the absence of any external standard or regulatory authority for teacher ‘retraining’, schools need to think carefully about whether and how they should use these programmes, and what they really want their teachers to gain from them – and also whether the school is willing to follow through on the expectations emerging from such re-training.
While individual professional excellence is achieved and maintained through continuous learning, it is important that the contexts in which this learning is applied are also friendly to change. All too often teachers go through training programmes with enthusiasm and come back to school bursting with ideas for change, only to find that the rigidity of the school structure does not allow for the exercise of these new ideas. Just as schools expect teachers to be open to learning and growth, so must they be willing to offer environments in which this can happen. Otherwise, the training becomes no more than a brief holiday away from the classroom (sometimes not even that) and one more certificate on the road to continued mediocrity.