Monday, 14 January 2013

Testing Time for Teachers

Teachers in Tamil Nadu and across India are waking up to a new reality. In a role-reversal of sorts, it is the turn of the teachers now to face "exam tensions". I am talking about Teacher Eligibility Test which has landed many a teacher ironically in a situation that they used to face with their wards. Major Newspapers had a field day in presenting the same news with different twists: "Less than one Per cent teachers pass the TET" one. Another headline dramatised it by announcing "99% teachers failed in TET"

What is clear is however, the Indian exam system that is the bane of analytical thinking and creative expression has come to haunt the teachers themselves. The poor results in the TET also points out to the malady in our Teacher Training System itself. As a recent article in the Hindu noted, "there are 600 teacher training institutes in Tamil Nadu alone" These institutions apparently produce 'Teachers' who could not clear a Teacher Eligibility Test.

I was involved in training teachers in Govt. schools for more than 5 years and to me the poor results are not surprising. First of all, what is the "Eligibility' that they are being evaluated for? is it subject knowledge, ability to produce charts and PPTs? the whole system of teacher education itself is a mirror of our education system. Driven by blind focus on numbers and percentages, these tests do not really evaluate a teacher's eligibility to teach but their ability to memorize and reproduce. Same medicine, which the teachers have been prescribing to their students all along.

Most disturbing aspect of these low scores is the excuses that the teachers are ready to give. There seems to be a negative attitue towards learning and to teaching itself. Many teachers that I had interacted with have a low self esteem and expressed very little motivation to excel in their profession. They would rather give excuses than use the opportunity for personal and professional development. TET is an opportunity that should enable teachers take a hard look at what they have been practising and re-assess it.

A complete overhaul of the Teacher Training system is called for. Inservice training that focusses on teaching skills, leadership and facilitation skills must be conducted. Peer learning, opportunity to collaborate with other teachers, should be provided for them to expand their horizons. Continuous professional development and assessment instead of one time evaluation is the need of the hour to make teachers realize their potential. Only attitude change will lead to behavioural change and the Teacher Eligibility Test has exposed only the proverbial tip of the ice berg. It is time for Teachers and educationists to ponder. 

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