New Delhi: Every author writes about the heroes in his/her book. S Giridhar, Chief Operating Officer of Azim Premji University has offering “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Teachers” by Westland Publication.
He tells News18.com, “There is an overriding narrative where the negative aspects of government school are highlighted, what we need is people to appreciate that hundreds of government school teachers overcome the very difficult circumstances they operate in. They’ve been so committed to their roles, doing their best for children, and people must recognize the heroes in our government schools – the teachers.”
For his book, he has selected one hundred and ten from six hundred schools and from March 2017 until November 2018, he visited these schools in Uttarkashi and Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand, Sirohi and Tonk in Rajasthan, and Yadgir in Karnataka to stitch this chronicle of strength of government school teachers.
On his tours he found what connects the stories from Hemmadagi in Karnataka to Gangani in Uttarakhand is the “proud refrain of the teachers,” ‘Idhu bari sarkari kelsa alla’ or ‘Yeh sarkari naukri nahi hai,’ (Teaching is not just a government job).”
The entrepreneurial spirit of the government school teachers has been likened to the role of CEOs by the author. Goal oriented and ownership towards the schools they have improved the pupil teacher ratio, girl boy ratio and have on occasions put their foot down if there was no safe filtered drinking water unit installed in school. The book has named these heroes who have spent from their pockets with their sheer will against the paucity of conveniences and funds at their disposal transformed schools with fourteen students to a model school.
He found that the impact of such pedagogy and classroom processes on children’s learning brings life-changing changing opportunity “as the children from very disadvantaged backgrounds, get admission to the government’s Navodaya, Morarji, Adarsh or Rani Channamma schools.”
The government school teachers have been awarded at district, block and as well as national level – but they need much more appreciation and support than that.
“Teacher preparedness is crucial”
Having worked on the ground with rural government schools for years, the author thinks the recognition being given to centrality of the teacher and the need to invest in their professional preparedness is crucial and “is also a welcome validation of the criticality of teacher education.” Giridhar roots for sustained improvement in school quality, which will not come through fixing few specific aspects but by addressing the core issue which is to create well-equipped, well-prepared teachers.
In his book he said, “There are no shortcuts, the path to a complete revamp of teacher education in the country will be long and arduous. How well we can reform teacher education, implement high quality four-year integrated teacher education programmes and create excellent institutions for teacher education will determine the fate of three hundred and seventy million children who will, in a few years, join India’s adult population.”
He pointed out in his book that perhaps one of the most crucial aspects that needs to be fixed “is our very weak undergraduate education system that fails to equip teachers with subject-matter proficiency. For our teachers to be truly competent in their subjects, our Bachelor programmes ought to provide them with depth and breadth in their chosen disciplines. One cannot discuss quality in school education without acknowledging that the root cause is the abysmal quality of our undergraduate programmes.”
“NEP: The four-year integrated program for teachers training”
The New Education Policy must provide clear recommendations on teacher education, the emphasis must be on the need to invest in teacher preparation and the accompanying systemic and structural reforms, which the author thinks will go a long way in strengthening our public education system.
In the past, we have had Kothari Commission report of 1966, the National Education Policy of 1986, and the National Curriculum Framework of 2005 to ensure equitable quality in education.
The policy should keep in mind the reality of our country, which is that “for at least 60 per cent of our children, the government school is the only lifeline,” he reiterated in the interview to News18.com that it very important for education to reach the children who are completely dependent on public schools.
He said, “The centrality of the teacher receives due recognition in the Draft NEP as it states clear guidelines on teacher qualification, transparent recruitment processes, quality and accreditation. By 2030, the four-year integrated stage-specific, subject-specific teacher degree would be the main route to becoming a teacher.”
In his opinion “the policy states that substandard and dysfunctional teacher education institutes will be shut down and teacher preparation programmes will be rigorous and take place in vibrant, multidisciplinary higher education institutions.”
The author believes “radical reforms in teacher education are central to improvement in our education like the Justice Verma Commission report on teacher education, which should be acknowledged as an important beginning in that direction.”
It identified the critical shortcomings and pointed us towards some essential steps to reform teacher education. “The four-year integrated teacher education degree, the recommendation that teacher education colleges function best when they are integrated within a multi-disciplinary university structure and environment and so on,” he said.
Teachers suggest measures for authorities in showing support
The author has conveyed in the book few suggestions from the teachers and the head teachers on the ways in which Block Education Officers and District Education Officers (DEOs) can demonstrate support.
From the teachers’ point of view there are “Many of these schools desperately need more teachers so that teaching and attention to children’s learning can be better. Also they should not be made to plead for such resources especially if they have proven to be ‘performing’ schools.’”
Further suggested,“In many villages, the head teachers are strained beyond their capacity in trying to get disparate community elements to come together for the common cause of their school. A supervising functionary should help the head teachers in these situations.”
“Good schools are often the result of a dynamic head teacher’s leadership so when that leader is transferred and a less effective person steps in, the BEO can guide and enable the new person to ensure that the school’s quality does not slip.”
All teachers spoke of the importance of winning the community’s trust and confidence, and of increasing enrolment by winning back students from private schools — “the biggest affirmation of the community’s endorsement of their quality.”
The teachers suggested that BEOs can create teams for communication campaign as “only one in five good schools are adept at communicating their attributes effectively to the community, the others need help with this.”
On the Annual Day and Independence Day programmes, “supervising officers can be seen by the community at these gatherings, it would motivate parents to enrol their children in these schools. Instead of leaving good schools to their own devices, government functionaries and NGOs working on the ground must support them with information, collaterals and ideas that they could use to create campaigns for enrolments,” were some suggestions mentioned in the book.
The author hopes that the teachers will get the support and reform due to them.