Elementary Teacher Education in India: An Exercise in Futility?

While I was going through the course material prepared for the Diploma in Elementary Education course of the DIETs of a particular Indian State, I got the following mail from a teacher educator who was also a member of the team which was developing course material for language papers. The topics were: “Understanding Language and Early Literacy”, “Proficiency in English and Pedagogy of English”. The mail written in Hindi says, “डाईट विजिट के दौरान मैंने/ हमारे कई साथियीं ने वहाँ के Teachers and Pupil teachers दोनों की ही स्थिति को देखा| वे अंग्रेज़ी तो दूर, हिंदी में भी उतने प्रवीण नहीं हैं| Pupil teachers के लिए दो से तीन पृष्ठों के हिंदी आलेख पढ़ना भी कठिन कार्य है|” ( While visiting the DIETS, we have observed the language proficiency of the teacher educators and the their trainees. Not to speak of English, the trainers as well as their trainees are not proficient in Hindi. For the ‘pupil teachers’, it is a very difficult task to read two or three pages of an article written in Hindi.”) This report made me sad. What will these would be teachers (the trainees of the DIETs) do after completing their Diploma in teacher Education! I wondered. If you can’t read a few pages written in your mother tongue, how will you teach that language to your pupils? I wonder if the development of course materials for a Diploma course in Teacher Education for the ‘would be teachers’ who are not proficient in any language will serve any practical purpose!
In nutrition, DIET is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism, in the Indian education system, DIET is an organization entrusted with the responsibility of teacher education at the elementary level. But go to a DIET (District Institutes of Education and Training) in any part of the country, you will be appalled by the lack of diets in these DIETs! Academically, they are the victims of malnutrition.
Right from the Kothari Commission 1964-66 to the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE 2009), the professional preparation of the teachers has been recognized to be crucial for the qualitative improvement of education, and keeping in view the paramount importance of the professional preparation of teachers, a number of teacher education institutes including the District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) have been established across the country over the years. As the teacher educators of these teacher education institutes are entrusted with the responsibility of facilitating and enhancing the professional competence of the teachers and the student-teachers at the various stages of school education, various commissions and policy statements have also stressed the need for enhancing the professional competence of these teacher educators. But, unfortunately, the teacher education institutes where these teacher educators are involved in both the pre-service as well as the in-service teacher education programmes, often take for granted the professional competence of these teacher educators. Far from being the centres for cultivating academic rigour and critical reflection for developing pedagogical practices, these teacher education institutes are often reduced to formal training institutes churning out would be teachers years after years.
Lamenting on the lack of academic rigour noticed in the existing teacher education programmes of various teacher training institutes, Chattopadhyaya Commission, 1983-85 remarked, “ Institutes of teacher education have become breeding grounds of academic stagnation and resistance to change. The training of teachers happens in insular, intellectually impoverished environments that are severed from ground realities as well as the aims of education they espouse. Such intellectual isolation actively discourages educational theorization and the growth of disciplinary and interdisciplinary enquiry.” The intellectually impoverished environments of many teacher training institutes discourage the urge for professional development lying dormant in the minds of many a teacher educators engaged in the pre-service and in-service training programmes. Emphasizing the urgent need for developing teacher educators, NCEFT, 2009 made a special reference to the systemic and academic overhauling of the DIETs which are expected to play a pivotal role in the field of teacher education at the grass root level. The NCEFT 2009 pointed out the present scenario prevailing in the DIETs in a very unambiguous manner. “Currently, DIETs find themselves under-equipped in required faculty capabilities, the faculty appointed do not possess basic experience in primary school teaching, insights into primary education problems and professional skills in teacher training and research.” The concern for the professional skill development of the teacher educators and the need for developing their knowledge-base for professional growth are the recurrent themes of NCEFT 2009 which comes down heavily on the absence of specially qualified teacher educators in elementary education and suggests that the “ preparation of teacher educators for the elementary stage needs the inclusion of a variety of scholarship from the sciences, social science, mathematics and the languages.”
Teacher training institutes of India need total overhauling and a pragmatic course of action. We cannot allow the under qualified teacher educators to ruin the future of millions of primary school children across the country. ” Some thing is rotten in the State of Denmark!” but we are afraid of calling a spade a spade. “sada satyam bruat, opriyam satyam ma bruat” . Always speak the truth, don’t speak the unpleasant truth!!!!

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