Educating Educators

One of my favorite rants is that “you cannot educate teachers using the same methods you use to educate your students“. Teachers are going through no different a process than their students. The National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education document states (quoting the National Curriculum Framework 2005 document):

Experiences in the practice of teacher education indicate that knowledge is treated as ‘given’, embedded in the curriculum and accepted without question; there is no engagement with the curriculum. Curriculum, syllabi and textbooks are never critically examined by the student teacher or the regular teacher.

The NCF 2005 document also calls for:

Reformulated teacher education programmes that place thrust on the active involvement of learners in the process of knowledge construction, shared context of learning, teacher as a facilitator of knowledge construction, multidisciplinary nature of knowledge of teacher education, integration theory and practice dimensions, and engagement with issues and concerns of contemporary Indian society from a critical perspective.

According to this press release, the NCF2005 document was built by the following process.

  • Prof. Yashpal managed a steering committee of 35 members “including scholars from different discipline, principals and teachers, CBSE Chairman, representatives of well known NGOs and members of the NCERT faculty”.
  • 21 National Focus Groups, chaired by renowned scholars and practitioners, built position papers on areas of curricular concern, areas for system reform, and national concerns. (Published here).
  • “Each National Focus Group has had several consultations in which they have interacted with other scholars and classroom practioners in different parts of the country. In addition to the above NCERT has had consultations with (a)  Rural Teachers, (b) Education Secretaries and Directors of NCERTs, (c) principals of Delhi-based private schools and KVS Schools. Regional Seminars were also held at NCERTs Regional Institutes of Education in Ajmer, Bhopal, Bhuvaneshwar, Mysore and Shillong.  Advertisements were placed in 28 national and regional dailies to invite suggestions from parents and other concerned members of the public. More than 1500 responses were received.”

Of special interest in the position paper of the National Focus Group on Educational Technology. Members of this focus group include Kiran Karnik, Prof. MM Pant, Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Vasudha Kamat among others and invitees included Sugata Mitra.

In reading this paper and correlating it with what finally transpired as the NCF 2005, it seems that a pattern was repeating itself – that committees have not done a good job of representing the work done by sub-committees and taking some major recommendations into the policy documents. Perhaps it is more driven by individual proclivities than the mission itself. For example, the word Internet is used superficially in the NCF 2005 (you may not find more than a few occurrences of the term itself in that document!).

This focus group looked at Educational Technology (and much has happened since 2005 in ET) and states:

The Internet can be a sound investment for continuous on-demand teacher training and support, research and content repositories, value-added distance education, and online campuses aimed at increasing the access, equity, and quality of education.

It came to some important conclusions.

  • Firstly, we must look at revitalizing what we already have. We should take our existing resources and network them into a potent driving force in education. This scale that we have can be brought to bear on the challenges that we have, if we have the intention to invest in capability building.
  • Secondly, the Focus Group exhorts us to encourage system reform. It asks us to “(C)ounter the tendency to centralise; promote plurality and diversity” and “Ensure opportunities for autonomous content generation by diverse communities.”
  • Thirdly, we must look at ways of creating a system of lifelong professional development and support, especially for education leaders, as a focus in in-service training.
  • Fourthly, for pre-service training, it demands that we “introduce teachers to flexible models of reaching curriculum goals”. It demands that we “(I)ntroduce use of media and technology-enabled methods of learning, making them inherent and embedded in the teaching-learning process of teachers.”
  • Fifthly, in K12, we must “(M)ove from a predetermined set of outcomes and skill sets to one that enables students to develop explanatory reasoning and other higher-order skills.” and “(P)romote flexible models of curriculum transaction.”
  • Sixthly, in research, focus on adaptive learning, mobile learning and building capabilities for core research.

The position paper is worth a read. And it is useful to see how much of it really translated into the NCF2005. My sense so far, and I could be inaccurate here, is that for the NCF2005 committee, the position paper could be summarized as an “appropriate use of ICT in education”. It would be useful to get inputs from the Focus Group members on how their recommendations were amalgamated into the NCF2005. Alas, there is no online forum where they are visibly present where I could raise this.

What would a position paper look like in 2012? And what would it look like if we future-casted it to 2020 and beyond? And is it at all useful to create such position papers if their recommendations do not see the light of day?

In my opinion, this should be an annual participatory affair. Each year, experts and interested stakeholders should come online and generate an open (un)consensus on what Educational Theory, Research and Technology augurs for our mission to democratize education. If not anything else, the network of interested people can be built, with potential future impacts on the way education systems progress. Interested?

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