Monday, April 4, 2011

Training, why?

Another front page story in Free Press Journal's Knowledge on April 4, 2011... I am beginning to think of myself as an education writer!


Eisha Sarkar listens to Professor Dr Vivienne Baumfield, International Dean Eurasia and South Asia Chair of Pedagogy, Innovation and Policy, University of Glasgow, talking about the challenges and opportunities for professional learning that teachers of the 21st century face, even in India

Schooled but untrained
“People feel they know about teaching because they have been to school. No one seems to feel they’re doctors simply because they have been to a hospital. Also, people fail to understand that teaching requires little formal studying. It’s not about all the degrees you have. We need to be trained to become teachers. Unfortunately, teachers’ professional training lags behind. Society values education but not teachers!”

Theory to practice  
“I think teachers and engineers are very similar. They have a body of thoughts or theory, which they have to practice. They have to change, modify, rethink, relocate and redesign to achieve their target. We need educational engineering to bring out the best from our teachers. In the UK, we have the Teach First scheme that addresses the issue of educational disadvantage by transforming exceptional graduates into effective, inspirational teachers in all fields. We could have something similar in India as well. The process of teacher development should be a seamless process.”

Burnouts and attrition 
 “One of the major problems with this profession is the attrition. Even very good teachers often leave the profession after three to five years complaining of burnouts as the job is repetitive and the pay is much less compared with other professions. We need to have a deep professional dialogue and a process of enquiry. Teachers should think about the learning of the student instead of merely performing in class. We need to start looking at personal problems as interesting questions and find solutions for them.”

Difficult students 
 “In the UK, we have a large proportion of unmotivated, disaffected students who don’t value education. But as teachers we fail to realise that the classroom is an artificial environment for a child. To make a child responsive in a classroom, we should create an environment where students will behave the way they do outside the classroom. Also, we teach youngsters what they don’t want to learn at that point of time. The word pedagogue is derived from Greek and was used to describe a type of slave in ancient Rome whose charge was to protect, care for, and in many cases, educate, the children of the master. The teacher is the slave who takes the child to school. But we can’t force children to learn. Teaching is a little like chess, where the teacher makes one move and the learner the next. While as teachers our responsibility is to help the learners achieve in tests, we also need to provide them will a rich learning experience by facilitating them to ask us questions. We could learn a lot about the relational value of teaching from the gurukul system.”

Take on technology  
“Students, who surf the internet or play video games, have different levels of concentration compared to those who don’t. The production value of entertainment resources is high while that of teachers is limited. Often, students are more adept at technology than teachers. However, there still is a demand for teachers. The social interaction that you find in a classroom in the presence of a teacher cannot be simulated in a chatroom. Technology comes up with both challenges and opportunities. It depends on how we take them.”

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