What could a teacher expect out of National Education Policy 2020
While the country still grapples with a pandemic and the school-going children sitting at home, some learning online and the others not being able to afford it, India welcomed the National Education Policy in July 2020. One of the major problems that formal education in India faces is the quantity and quality of teachers. While the National Education Policy made some bold changes in school education, it has also kept in mind the teachers and strived to make their lives less miserable.
After suggesting structural and administrative reforms, it is clear that the students will now be experiencing something completely different than they used to. Naturally, India would need a workforce to be able to materialise it, and teachers would be on the fore. In this text, I would be wearing my optimistic lens and navigating NEP for the teachers.
The current situation of the teachers, both in private and public schools is to complete the curriculum and prepare students to score well, even the RTE Act of 2009 mentions in sub-section 1 of section 24 that the teachers should complete the syllabus. This might shift the focus of the teachers from teaching concepts for the child to understand rushing through the syllabus to complete it. In light of this prevalent situation, NEP suggests how teachers would now be focusing on teaching core concepts in the curriculum and teaching competencies that facilitate holistic development. For teachers to have the skills to teach all this, they would also need holistic learning, involving an understanding of sociology, philosophy, education, and the like; which is why stand-alone teacher education institutes will not have to convert into multidisciplinary institutes that would give teachers a better perspective of a learner and the curriculum. Multidisciplinary higher education institutes would also have faculty from a range of domains to be able to give a multidisciplinary understanding to the teachers. If we come to think of it after implementation B.Ed. could become more rigorous than it is and therefore, more qualified and competent teachers would be in the workforce.
When I applied for a teaching job immediately after graduating (in IT), without even having a degree yet, I got a job in a private school that asked me to complete my B.Ed. from some college that was around 300 km away, without having to go to the campus. And while the same may be the case for many teachers in India, with NEP the criterion would become more stringent. The minimum required degree for anybody would be a four-year integrated B.Ed. that would cover a multitude of subjects as before. Yet, it does give a breather for people with a previous Bachelor’s degree in a specializes subject. In such cases, the course could be reduced to two or one-year B.Ed. in case you have three or four years, Bachelor’s in specific subjects, respectively.
The degree could be a pre-requisite as one would also have to take exams for various specific subjects by the National Testing Agency (NTA) as well. Once done with that, the candidate will have to undergo an interview that the policy assumes will help the recruiters understand the teacher better with blending the theoretical and the pragmatic aspects better. Indians obsess over IITs and IIMs for how rigorous they are, this way they could also come to realise the hard work that puts into becoming a teacher.
Now once a teacher is into the workforce, motivation is imperative for them. Parameters for promotion and salary that have been documented in the policy involve peer reviews, attendance and commitment of the teacher, their service to the community and the school, and constantly working on the professional development (50 hours of Continuous Professional Development) will now become mandatory. Although peer reviews could be a great tool for assessing the teacher, it could also become an instrument of bullying or jealousy. One more factor that could also help would be learning outcomes based on which promotion and other important decisions could be based on.
Since early childhood education has gotten a lot of focus on the document, it would be interesting to see how teacher training would manifest in that domain, especially considering it a very important part of the foundational years of a child.
Gender-sensitisation has also been given great importance in the document, however, it could have also worked on training teachers to be gender-sensitive in classrooms since the inherent biases of the teachers could come in the way of teaching in a gender-inclusive classroom and one cannot do that without getting rid of their own biases. And this stays important at all the levels of formal education. To have inclusive educational spaces, it is imperative to have people directly or indirectly related to students be aware of their inhibitions and deliberately work on not affecting those when they are in the presence of the students.
To be able to teach quality content to the students in the best possible way to achieve the desired learning outcomes, the teachers need to get time to teach in the first place. It is no news that teachers, especially in government schools, spend a significant amount of time doing non-teaching things, even like counting cattle. States like Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand have seen majorly single-teacher schools. Teachers in these schools find it difficult just to handle students of all grades, let alone spend time teaching them. Some of their biggest time-consuming activities are administering the mid-day meal, going on election duty, and working on data collection. Very little attention (not sure if even that is undivided) is given to teaching in the classroom. With NEP, the government plans to create an environment for the teachers by reducing the burden of non-teaching activities off them. This could turn out to be a great change as now the teachers could focus most of their time, if not entire, on teaching and planning for the class.
We can now assume that the top priorities of NEP for the teachers are to hire the best of the lot, giving them appropriate training, and removing a lot of non-teaching work that is reducing their teaching productivity.
In conclusion, even though NEP 2020 looks very ambitious and idealistic, it does set some high standards for the stakeholders to achieve and work to get as close to the goal as possible. And we all know how the current situation is far from achieving those goals, given our past track record of achieving goals in education, all we can do as educators are to take this up as a challenge and rise to the occasion.
Originally published at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com on August 9, 2020.