What is wrong with the Indian education system?

Rajesh Kumar Thakur

The history of teacher education in India is as old as the history of Indian education itself. Under the British rule, the first teacher training institute was established in Calcutta by Danish missionaries. In Madras, Dr Andrew Bell experimented with the Monitorial system٭, which formed the basis of a teacher training programme. The Wood’s Despatch (1854), Lord Stanley’s Despatch (1859), Resolution on Education Policy (1904), The Hartog committee (1929) were some of the official policies that focussed on teachers’ training in India.

After independence, it was clear that we needed professional teachers who could take up the challenge of teaching the downtrodden, the economically backward, and women/girls who, until then, were not a part of mainstream education. Commissions were constituted to address the needs of education. NPE 1986 recommended that teacher education be a continuous process and that its pre-service and in-service components be inseparable. The Acharya Ramamurti Committee (1990) in its review of NPE 1986 recommended the internship model for teacher training. The RTE Act 2009 was historical in its recommendation of the Teacher Eligibility Test to determine a candidate’s eligibility to be appointed as a teacher in central and state schools.

Why teacher education is the need of the hour

The American Commission on Teacher Education rightly observes, “The quality of a nation depends upon the quality of its citizens. The quality of its citizens depends not exclusively, but in critical measure upon the quality of their education, the quality of their education depends more, than upon any single factor, on the quality of their teacher.”

Teacher training is one of the most effective ways to train would-be teachers and give them practical training to assume responsibilities when they are inducted into the school system. Teacher training institutes were set up to bring into the system professionally qualified teachers who understand the content, teaching methodologies, have professional ethics and pedagogical skills, but with so many teacher training institutes, set up with the sole purpose of making money, allowing students to skip classes and practise sessions, the situation of student teachers is pathetic. Even those institutes that were set up to actually train teachers are more focused on theoretical aspects than on the practical. I know many students who are doing courses in DIETs and other reputed B.Ed. Colleges, but their content knowledge is abysmal.

Imagine you learnt how to operate from a book or a YouTube video. Does this qualify you to actually perform operations in hospitals?

If your answer is no, then how can you expect a trainee teacher who has good theoretical knowledge, but no practical exposure to teach in the classroom?

W. H. Kilpatric (American pedagogue) says, “Training is given to animals and circus performers, while education is to human beings.” Teacher education encompasses teaching skills, sound pedagogical theory and professional skills. Teaching skills include providing training and practice in the different techniques, approaches and strategies to help teachers plan and impart instruction, provide appropriate reinforcement and conduct effective assessment.

Meaning of teacher education

Teacher education is dependent on the quality of teacher educators. Teacher is the backbone of the society. It is the primary duty of the teacher educator to equip the trainee with basic concepts so that when the trainee becomes a teacher, he/she can share the right knowledge with the next generation. A few years ago, I met a teacher who was working in a corporate school; she did not know how to calculate percentages to fill in the attendance register. In the last two years, I have interacted with thousands of D.El.Ed trainees who failed to differentiate between

  1. Simple and compound interest
  2. Face value and place value
  3. Vertex, edges and faces of three-dimensional objects
  4. Addition and subtraction of fractions
  5. Word problems on HCF and LCM

If such trainees are inducted into the education system, will they not paralyze the entire next generation? In 2009٭٭, India participated in the PISA test and came 72nd out of the 73 participating countries outranking only Kyrgyzstan. The 2021 ASER report states that above 60 per cent students in class 3 can’t do subtraction or single digit division. The situation is more alarming in the context of literature where more than 54 per cent students of standard III are not able to read a standard I textbook.

CBSE conducts the CTET (Central Teacher Eligibility Test) where trainee teachers are evaluated on their pedagogical skill, subject knowledge, and knowledge of professional ethics. The CTET 2022 results show that only 16 per cent students passed Paper 2 (for Trained Graduate Teachers) and 29 per cent students passed Paper 1 (meant for primary teachers). Now here are two questions-

  1. What about the rest that failed the test?
  2. Will they not join any school as teachers?

How can we improve the teaching standard?

In India, teaching is not the first choice of profession for the majority; very few join this noble profession by choice. Primary teachers who are to teach all subjects in classes 1-5 may or may not be proficient enough to handle all the subjects thus causing a huge loss to the students. I have seen many students passing out class 12 with 90 – 95 per cent marks from English medium schools, enrolling to train as primary teachers. Such teachers when appointed in municipal schools where teaching is done in the local language, find themselves unfit to communicate.

In order to make good teachers, bogus teacher training institutes where students are enrolled for examination purposes only should be banned. DIETs and B.Ed. training colleges should not only train their trainees in theory but should also give them practical exposure. The content knowledge of subjects along with pedagogical skill should be tested. For being a good teacher (primary) the only criteria of admission should not be the 12th marks but an interview should be conducted so as to allow only those really interested in teaching to enrol in the course. Schools should also come forward to groom the newly recruited teachers by training them rigorously before inducting them into mainstream teaching.

If the abysmal PISA ranking has to improve, if we want our governments to think beyond bridge courses (like the Delhi government’s Mission Buniyad) to fill in learning gaps, we need to employ quality teachers who are exposed to new technologies, have good subject knowledge, and pedagogical skills. Unless teachers in service are capable and committed, the education system cannot become a suitable and potential instrument of national development. Also, teaching skills don’t always have to come from training institutes, even those who are not trained enough but have a natural flair for teaching should be given the chance to teach. In 2021, 297 candidates with 0 or negative marks were selected to be teachers. Will they do justice with the students?

The government should come up with a scheme where individuals with a natural flair for teaching are invited to train as student teachers. If the educational level is to improve, teacher training should be a continuous process and teacher evaluation after a certain number of years should be mandatory, so that teachers never stop learning and can teach and train students using emerging tools, new development, new strategies, etc.,and make India a country where knowledge knows no boundaries and students can explore their ability under the guidance of able and professionally trained teachers.

٭ A system where the more able students helped the teacher teach those students that were weak.

٭٭ India has not participated in PISA since then.

The author is an assistant professor at DIET Daryaganj (SCERT, Delhi). He has so far written 60 books, 700 articles, and 500 blogs. He can be reached at @R_K_THAKUR on twitter or rkthakur1974@gmail.com.

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