Millennium Post

Teaching India for a better tomorrow

It is true that school education plays a key role in nurturing the minds of children at the initial levels and it is the teachers who are to credited with giving appropriate guidance at the right time to students. The authority responsible for formulating policies for teachers, National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), has recently released the new regulations, norms,  and standards for 15 programmes through Government of India Gazette notification. Following the recommendations of Justice Verma Commission and under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court, the NCTE has brought about drastic changes in teacher education with a focus on improving the quality of education and teachers in the country.

The 15 programmes cover pre-school, primary, elementary, secondary, senior secondary, art education, physical education, and open and distance learning, etc. The new regulations have the approval of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), and this is probably the first major policy announcement in the area of education by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government at the centre.

Notably, HRD Ministry, headed by Smriti Irani, has been at the centre of controversy soon after Irani took over the charge of the coveted ministry.

This change has taken more than two years to happen; and it has not been easy for the NCTE to finally come up with such a complete overhaul. There have been long and stiff debates in the NCTE Council which is dominated by scholars that are inclined to the Left wing. Therefore, there have been compromises especially with regard to the qualifications of a teacher educator. While MEd or MA (Education) with BEd has been largely retained as the essential qualification, there have been compromises to have  degrees in social science and science without BEd as a qualification for a few positions.

In spite of strong pressure from academicians, PhD in Science or Mathematics, without any background in teacher education, could not be considered as primary qualification. This is a victory for the teacher educator community. The NCTE has succeeded in preserving the sanctity of grounding in teacher education as essential to become a teacher educator. If the original Poonam Batra Committee report, constituted by the Left-dominated NCTE Council, was accepted, wherein MEd was not an essential qualification to be a teacher educator in above 17,000 Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) in the country, the MEd colleges and University Education Departments would have been closed down. Fortunately, this has not been the case with the new regulations.

For the first time, the NCTE has succeeded in centralising the database of visiting teams (not allowing the regional committees to manipulate, at times leading to corruption) to be followed by regional committees through a process of transparent random computerised selection process. Also, that each TEI has to compulsorily go through assessment and accreditation within five years by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) or any other accrediting agency approved by the NCTE. Now, NCTE provides a wider array of options by introducing 15 teacher education programmes.

To ensure quality, the duration of BEd, MEd, BPEd and MPEd have been increased to two years; an integrated 3-year BEd-MEd has been introduced for the first time; and also a four-year programme each in elementary education and secondary education have been developed. There is also a BEd (part time) for the in-service untrained teachers. Each institution now has to be a composite in nature (unlike the earlier stand-alone body), and the existing TEIs need to change to composite institution gradually. There have been drastic changes in the curriculum of all 15 programmes – the change has gone beyond the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE) 2009, and more blended learning has been introduced along with compulsory school attachment for about six months. ICT, yoga education, gender and disability education have been made compulsory for all the 15 programmes.

Teacher educators will have more options though the two-year MEd and three-year BEd-MEd course systems; and even a BEd qualified teacher can directly enter to do MEd which has two specialisations in elementary and secondary education. The NCTE plans to bring in more teacher education programmes into its fold – and regulate pre-school education, yoga education, and special education in the future.

Transparency has been brought to the forefront – hence, applications and payments shall be made online; an applicant institution needs to have no objection certificate (NOC) from affiliating university before submitting the application; the reports of all visiting teams shall be put in public domain to make the process transparent. The recommendation-response time of state governments have been increased; and state governments/affiliating bodies are at liberty to determine the terms and conditions of service of faculty of their teacher education institutions.

The NCTE has a gigantic task ahead to educate all the existing 17,000 institutions to switch over to the new system of teacher education and adopt the new curriculum. Also, nearly one lakh teacher educators in the country need to go through continual professional development from time to time. This has been the major flaw in the operation of the NCTE, as academicians believe. The NCTE has already signed an MoU with NAAC on accreditation, and has negotiated with University Grants Commission (UGC) to start a blended refresher programme in teacher education through the existing academic staff colleges.

So far the NCTE has shown leadership to make reforms happen. It has to be seen how the NCTE is going to implement this massive change in teacher education in the country which is marred by lethargy, corruption, lack of research, and reluctance to use information and communication technology in its operation. Quality teacher educator and quality teachers is the need of the hour.

The NCTE, in its previous status since 1973, was an advisory body for the central and state governments on all matters pertaining to teacher education, with its secretariat in the Department of Teacher Education of the National Council of Educational Research and Training. Despite its commendable work in the academic fields, it could not perform essential regulatory functions, to ensure maintenance of standards in teacher education and preventing proliferation of substandard teacher education institutions. The National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 and the Programme of Action thereunder, envisaged a National Council for Teacher Education with statutory status and necessary resources as a first step for overhauling the system of teacher education.

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