IntroductionIt is commonly observed that Government teachers of schools resist any change that is brought about. The reason is simple. They have a powerful lobby that protects and promotes their interests. The politicians of various parties do not touch this vital and vocal group for one reason -- it is the same group that gets to work during election time in various places and they can "help" in some way or the other, to influence voters. Moreover, they form influential opinion-makers at all levels. They can help in maintaining the status quo.
Mindset changes are required to exactly break this status-quo. Mindset changes do not happen in a day. They take months and years. However, they need to happen for the much wider changes that they can easily bring to the educational System. In the main, these are the steps needed to reform the system and bring about mindset changes. These are:- a) Introduce compulsory IT skills training for all teachers b) Increase portions out of syllabus to forty percent c) Enable out-of-the-box solutions d) Foster continuous life-long learning and e) Enable networking between teachers at all levels.
Introduce compulsory IT skills training for all teachersUnless the change is made compulsory, nothing will happen. The corporate companies should be approached to spend some money from their Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) funds to get the required IT infrastructure in place in all Government schools. The training should be on a continuous basis and the teachers should be made to teach through the various IT-enabled applications now available in local languages too. Wherever the apps are not available, the local entrepreneurs can be made to come up with such apps in all Indian languages.
Once the training is introduced, there should also be an assessment of such learning among teachers, through examinations. Passing this examination should be made compulsory for all teachers. Similar training and examinations should also be conducted for all teachers in the private and Government-aided schools. Once the training is in place, some mindset changes are bound to occur. Even if it takes years to take some shape, this mindset is absolutely essential. The State and Central Government should also simultaneously improve the internet facilities in all rural areas where it is now extremely weak.
Increase portions out of syllabus to forty percentThe biggest bane of the educational system in both schools and colleges is the emphasis given to just cramming. There are YouTube videos on how to score 100% in all core subjects. In Tamil Nadu, this is a big craze. The print media in Tamil joins the game and there are "practice" sessions. Even if there is one question "from outside" syllabus the loud voices would be heard all over. The Opposition parties will immediately scream that it is a conspiracy against the poor and the backward classes. They would point out that just by one mark, the children belonging to such classes will miss an engineering seat in a good college.
The game is perfected to absurd levels. The only meaningful way is to enlist the support of this vocal group and explain the need to make the students study everything far beyond the syllabus. For example, it is commonly observed that only CBSE students, who have always been taught to expand their horizons of knowledge outside the syllabus, are more successful in cracking the IIT-JEE examination. The State Board students who study through the local or even English medium in all schools do not qualify in the examination> Their minds and knowledge are always taught to answer something straight. They cannot just think about any concept and understand the larger picture. The key is communication. If they are convinced of the need for change, they will embrace it.
Enable out-of-the-box solutionsMentoring of teachers is the key solution. If there are excellent schools and colleges that have innovated with teaching the same subjects in different ways, the teachers of these schools should be supported by the Government and the CBSE to impart these skills to those teachers who need them on a mass scale.
For example, the SBOA and the DAV group of schools, in Chennai, are reportedly doing a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. The teachers of such schools can impart the same to even Government school teachers in the same city and in the suburbs. Similarly, the teachers of prestigious colleges like the Loyola College, Chennai, or Christ University, Bangalore should be authorized by the UGC and the Government of India to conduct special training programs for other Arts and Science Colleges. The colleges mentioned are just a few. There are quite a number of similar good colleges in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, and even cities like Ranchi. The key is to involve them in the change process. Mindset changes can only happen when teachers feel the need for change. A little bit of compulsion is necessary. For, without this compulsion, every attempt will be made by the teachers to preserve the status quo and the desired changes will not happen at all.
Foster continuous life-long learningFacts about Indian history, the role of Mahatma Gandhi in getting Independence for India, his core ideas, sociological perspectives on Indian cultural heritage and so on, are not things that can be safely learned in schools and colleges and then forgotten for a lifetime. This is exactly the sad truth. We need to reverse this. In each of these subjects, there should be electives. Compulsory learning through these electives, followed by an open book examination, will facilitate larger debate and discussion in our society and make India a far better place to live in.
By doing so, we also minimize the dangers of an entire mass of millions of people being indoctrinated on the wrong lines through some narratives that aim to undo all that our leaders and the Indian Constitution makers sought to build in the first place. The scope of such life-long learning, particularly in social sciences, cannot be overemphasized in these times. To get the electives taught as part of the syllabus would need a massive cultural and social change of so many thousands of teachers. It should also become imperative that several social organizations are active in organizing, on a regular basis, free online seminars and workshops to keep the spirit of these courses alive. The services of eminent sociologists and historians like Shri Ramachandra Guha will be central to this process.
Enable networking between teachers at all levelsIf not anything else, the present COVID crisis has brought to the central focus, the possibility and feasibility of online learning. This can be taken to the next levels. Through State Government initiatives, a lot more interaction can happen between the teachers in every small town, on an online basis. This need not be only about teaching. It could even be light-hearted conversations on how someone managed a multi-tasking solution. In every small town of India, we have CBSE schools, the State Government schools, and the International Schools. If teachers of these different schools can get to know each other and learn from each other, mindset changes can occur that much faster. For instance, when someone talks about some little achievement and the recognition he got from his school, this will automatically trigger some good thought patterns in other teachers. The motivation to achieve something better can really take off.
This will be reflected in changed attitudes at work in the respective school or the college. What needs to be done is to foster such learning on a seamless basis and then facilitate a little face-to-face conversation as well. Contrary to public opinion, there are some teachers who are essentially innovative but do not change at all, due to peer pressure. When there is a bigger discussion on a wide-ranging of issues from and between teachers at the town level, there is bound to be change happening in one way or the other. Even if some change happens over a sixty month period, no issues. Let the change happen.,
Mindset changes are all about emotions and feelings. When feelings are channelized in the right direction, a certain amount of mindset change can really occur and this will obviously trigger positive changes in the entire ecosystem. One is obviously in it for the long haul.
ConclusionWe are at cross-roads, as far as our educational system is concerned. Though some welcome changes are noticed at various levels, there are grossly inadequate to bring about meaningful changes in the wider ecosystem. The changes are largely institutional. Some methods, based on a number of observations and interactions of mine with several teachers, have been discussed in some detail. Some baby steps, it is hoped, will bring about some mind-set changes in teachers of schools and colleges.
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In our country, we feel the teacher job is like any other job. We will never give importance to a teacher. The other day I came to know that the AP government is using teachers as supervisors for liquor selling and traffic monitoring. That is the respect we give them.
Actually, in some countries, teachers are highly qualified and they will be respected by society as they are considered as the makers of society. They are the sculptors of tomorrow's citizens. Because of that teachers work there with an open mind and they work very hard.
In India also if we give more importance to teachers of primary classes and appoint well-qualified people there will be a very good development. To change the mindset of a teacher we have to infuse confidence in them. Giving small financial perks or other incentives may not have a big impact on their mindset. But making them feel that they are very important and giving them a free hand in deciding on the subject syllabus for each class and allowing them to interact with the industries in deciding the syllabus may give them self confidence and their morale will get boosted and their mindset will change.