Saving School Education: The Verma Commission

Bijoy *

Justice Verma Commission on  (JVC) Teacher Education
Justice Verma Commission on (JVC) Teacher Education
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"Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrap every stone to gather wealth and so little care for your children to whom one day must you relinquish it all ?" thus wondered the Greek philosopher Socrates on the state of education of our children many centuries ago. The preface to the Report of the Commission on Teacher Education Report (2012) popularly known as the Verma Commission also starts with this perennial question. It was a high powered commission on teacher education constituted by the Supreme Court of India.

The report is going to have a big impact on teacher training programmes in the country and the government is rushing to implement the recommendations of the report as best as it can. Teacher education plays a significant role in making Education a potent tool for development. The quality of the people also is closely associated with the quality of education which in turn largely depends on the quality of teachers. Though everyone would agree that the destiny of India is being shaped in her classrooms, as the national education report 1964 stated, precious little has been done in terms of appreciation of this profound statement.

Today school education system has many unattended issues which question our commitment to quality education at all levels. How can we have quality higher education when school education is neglected so much? Gandhiji considered the teacher the true textbook for the pupil. A teacher should teach by practice, not merely by precept. Just as education, according to Swami Vivekananda, is the manifestation of the perfection already in us, the role of a teacher is to trigger the thought process for facilitating this manifestation.

Thus teacher education is a serious business because the quality of education is inseparable from quality of teacher. The NDA government has taken it very seriously. Teachers' day had not been observed for many years in such a scale and the Guru diwas this year was indeed a break from the past.

Teachers in Manipur were indeed surprised at its observance on September 5. As a result the National Council for Teacher Education ( NCTE) and University Grants Commission have come together to improve the quality of teachers at school level to begin with. Vice Chancellors of more than two hundred Universities and State Education Secretaries met in Delhi on 15 September to discuss the roadmap for such convergence.

The HRD, the UGC and the NCTE sat together with the policy implementers. The issue was not to discuss whether this was the best option available, it was to discuss how best it could be implemented. The quality of teacher education also depends on the quality of entrants to the teacher education programme. The quality of teacher educator in terms of his competence, capability and scholarship is also equally important. That is where the university enters.

According to the education Commission (1966) " of all the different factors which influence the quality of education and its contribution to national development, the quality, competence and character of teachers are undoubtedly the most significant". Yet improving teacher education programmes used to have a low priority .This time the university system is going to be involved in the teacher education sector.

Five themes were taken up in the consultative meeting viz bringing entire teacher education under the university system, curriculum and quality of teacher education in the context of NCFTE 2009, enhancing the duration of B.Ed. and M.Ed. programmes, strengthening research in teacher education and finally coordination amongst universities and state boards for recognition of vocational courses for ensuring vertical mobility to vocational stream students who would like to earn higher degrees instead of entering the job market immediately on completion of the course.

All teacher education programmes such as early childhood care and Education (ECCE), teacher education at Elementary level, teacher education at secondary level will be made a part of higher education. It will now be the responsibility of the university to develop the curriculum, conduct examinations and certification for ECCE and elementary level also. The DIETs will become redundant. The additional work will be handled by the School of Education, a separate school in every university.

The UGC will be providing fund to every eligible university to introduce this change in policy. In Manipur University, the department of Physical education, the department of Education, the department of Adult, continuing and extension education and the newly established department of Teacher Education will constitute the School of education. In response to suggestions from NCTE and UGC to renew the curriculum out of 239 universities with teacher education programmes only 73 which include Manipur University have revised their curriculum in the light of NCFTE 2009.

Implementing the curriculum framework is not the end, the norms and standards of NCTE should be strictly enforced in affiliated teacher training institutions and teacher education institutions should go through Accreditation process for quality control. NCTE approval needs to be renewed following an inspection as rigorous as the initial recognition.

The new approach to teacher education has several important dimensions .Reflective practice is to be the central aim of teacher education. Teacher trainees should be provided with opportunities for self learning, reflection, assimilation and articulation of new ideas. There should be opportunities for developing capacities for self-directed learning and ability to think, be critical and working in groups. They should have opportunities to observe and engage with children, communicate with and relate to children.

Such skills can only be imparted to trainees by making the currently one year B.Ed. and M.Ed. programmes into two year programmes or integrated course. We have the option to go either for a two year B.ED. programme after graduation or a four year B.A., B.Sc., B.Ed programme after plus two. There is also an option for either a six year MSc. Ed programme or a two year M.Sc.Ed programme after B.Ed.

School teaching is a low status profession and teacher training is a low rated academic field. The outcome of the inadequate research in teacher education in India manifested in the huge gap between the inputs provided in teacher training institutes and the reality of our schools has continued to overawe a fresh teacher. That calls for some introspection in the university academic circle whose research should be critical and authentic inputs for policy. UGC will be funding a number of research projects through NCTE to make our knowledge base more authentic and broad based. Teacher educators would be given opportunities for pursuing higher levels of research.

Let us look at the implications for our system. School teacher used to be a residual profession with almost zero accountability. One becomes a school teacher by compulsion, not by choice. There are indeed a few exceptions but their commitment and sincerity get drowned in the noise all around.

Who would question the commitment of Ojha Shitoljit in Ram Lal Paul High School and Prof Kaul in DM College? Schools and colleges used to have dedicated teachers who really deserved to address as Ojha. Both my grandfather and father took teaching very seriously and earned the title. Today the term ojha is bereft of its respect.

In the consultative meeting Shri Rajarshi Bhattacharya, Secretary, Deptt. Of School education & Literacy, MHRD made such a passionate plea for saving school education that prompted Shri Ashok Thakur, the Secretary (Higher education) MHRD to comment that only the hurt could feel the pain. Smt Smrity Zubin Irani, Minister of Human resource development stressed on the Swachhta mission and said that it was not only cleansing the school toilets but about a holistic cleansing of the school education system.

Had there been accountability in school education system, most of our schools would have been closed and teachers shown the door. The incidents in RIMS would have been nothing in comparison. Now teaching need no longer be a profession by default. The longer time period, the expected skill matrix and the opportunities for rising higher will make it a profession of choice. The teacher educators will be given a social status commensurate with their responsibility. The involvement of the university will help in standardising the teacher training programmes at all levels.

* Bijoy wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
The writer is with Economics Department of Manipur University.
This article was posted on September 22, 2014.

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