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Shyamal Majumdar: Who will teach the teachers?

The issue of poor teaching standards must be urgently addressed

Shyamal Majumdar  |  Mumbai 

has studied up to class V in a government-aided school in West Bengal’s She is now one of the caretakers in an orphanage in Mumbai’s area, courtesy her father who knew one of the office-bearers of the orphanage.

The class V education notwithstanding, the 18-year-old can’t recognise numbers 11 to 99 and can’t go beyond single-digit subtractions. “My teachers were better than me in studies — but only slightly,” says. Her comment about the quality of her teachers at the school may be an exaggeration — but only just.

Are teachers of elementary government or government-aided schools in urban centres much better off than their counterparts in rural areas? Not quite. A mathematics test conducted on teachers showed that most of them could not even do simple math; and 64 per cent could not give a correct title to a paragraph in a language comprehension test.

The most worrying part is the pipeline looks dry. A report in The Times of India on Wednesday said over 99 per cent of Bachelor of Education (BEd) graduates failed to clear the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET), 2012. Under the Right to Education Act, a certification is mandatory to become a teacher for classes I to VIII in any Central government school. The papers featured basic objective questions that test the aspirant’s knowledge of English, mathematics and environmental science.

What makes it appalling is that quite a high percentage of the graduates who applied for the test are already elementary school teachers with a two-year (DEd) in District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET) or their equivalent. This only goes on to show how the DIETs have no systemic linkages with institutes of higher education, and how the mushrooming 10-month courses in the country are just good for nothing.

There is enough evidence to show what educationists like Dilip Ranjekar, CEO of the Azim Premji Foundation, has been talking about for a while — how a majority of these colleges are resorting to malpractices such as allowing students to register for the programme at a fee and collecting certificates at the end of the year without attending classes.

A study among 25,000 teachers in Karnataka showed that 60 per cent of them at the elementary level and 15 per cent at the high school level do not have a college degree. The study, Teacher Needs Analysis, done by the Karnataka Knowledge Commission and the showed that one out of 10 teachers had only a basic school-level degree.

What’s worse is over 20 per cent of elementary school teachers and half of high school ones didn’t attend any training in the past two years. Experts say while the is laudable since it aims to ensure that elementary education of acceptable quality reaches all children, the purpose will be defeated in the absence of a commitment to providing quality pre-service education and training. This is evident from the fact that many state governments have sought exemption from fulfiling their legally binding teacher qualification norms.

The results of poor quality teachers are as follows: A study on the status of education in India’s rural areas by Pratham, a non-governmental organisation, showed that while enrolment in schools is higher, the quality of education continues to decline. Children in class V cannot read text meant for children in class II; more than three of five children cannot solve simple mathematical problems; and overall, after five years of schooling, almost half the children are at the class II level. Only 12 per cent went on to complete 10 years of education. belongs to the 88 per cent of dropouts.

The study found that the national figure for the proportion of children in class V being able to read class II level text has dropped from 53.7 per cent to 48.2 per cent. Similarly, basic arithmetic levels have also declined. Only 29.9 per cent of standard III children can solve a two-digit subtraction problem as against 36.3 per cent in 2010. 

In this context, India needs more initiatives like the one initiated by the Karnataka government. Under a memorandum of understanding signed on Monday between the state’s department of primary and secondary education and the Azim Premji Foundation, one of the important agenda is to improve the quality of teachers in schools through providing leadership and management skills among their educators in and DEd courses. A change in the curriculum of BEd and DEd is also being planned.

Tailpiece: If this is of any consolation, here is the experience in the UK, one of the most developed counties in the field of education. Only one-third of the teachers tested for a documentary were able to calculate that 1.4 divided by 0.1 is 14. The results of the test, conducted on 155 teachers in 18 schools, added to growing concerns about numeracy standards and teaching in the UK where almost one quarter of children are leaving primary school with a poor grasp of maths.

First Published: Fri, January 04 2013. 00:41 IST