In a move to dismantle the roaring industry of producing very low-quality teachers who cannot be called teachers in any way because they do not possess the necessary skills to teach anyone anything worthwhile, the HRD Ministry, in its new draft national educational policy, has recommended urgent closure of private teachers training institutes and replacing them with a four-year integrated BEd programme to be offered by universities. The policy, prepared by a government-appointed panel headed by renowned space scientist K Kasturirangan, says that the closure of such institutes should be done on a “mission mode” because “the future of the nation is at stake” and the teachers education sector has been beleaguered with “mediocrity as well as rampant corruption due to commercialization”. It further underscores another fact of life: that “most institutions today providing teacher education are small colleges in the private sector that offer only a single narrow programme, and where there is a general lack of commitment to the need for rigour and quality in teacher preparation”. Once the new policy is in place, the Centre will create two bodies – National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) and Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) – to review the progress of the mission to do away with the business of low-quality private teachers training institutes. By 2030, the four-year integrated BEd programme will become the minimal degree qualification for school teachers. This is a welcome augury for a nation of over 1.3 billion people, of whom a huge bulk comprises the younger generation who ought to have the privilege of being groomed by teachers who are teachers by choice and who are competent and have the necessary skills to educate students keeping in mind the needs of the time.
Take the case of Assam, whose quality education exigency by way of having well-trained and competent teachers cannot be overemphasized. The State is home to a large number – it is only swelling by the day – of private institutes offering so-called teachers ‘training’ programmes that are anything but any training programme. Most of these are notorious for offering courses at exorbitant rates to those who are misfits anywhere else and who, therefore, find a convenient way to land in the domain of such an intellectually skill-driven profession as teaching by coughing up huge amounts so that they no longer have to endure the ignominy of them being labelled unemployable. This has to be reversed. For, we cannot play with the future of a whole new generation who ought to be an employable, quality work force in the first place in the highly competitive 21st century. This apart, the quality of the teaching-learning methodologies in the State has been miserable all along. However, as and when the four-year integrated BEd programme – which is supposed to be multi-disciplinary to cater to the modern requirements of the teaching profession – comes up, the universities offering the programme cannot remain content with their own system of teaching and learning. An evolution towards modern education, which is still missing, must happen there too. After all, has not the acclaimed thought leader and Infosys founder Nandan Nilekani, in his bestseller Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century, called our universities “institutions of sand” with a rationale that cannot be countered?