Instead of digital blackboards, HRD minister Javadekar must focus on teachers | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Instead of digital blackboards, HRD minister Javadekar must focus on teachers

The entire support structure for teachers needs to be revitalised and focused on the vision of classroom change. Digital Blackboards can wait, although we shouldn’t forget them.

editorials Updated: Nov 09, 2017 11:02 IST
According to human resource development ministry, there is a shortage 1.2 million teachers across the nation
According to human resource development ministry, there is a shortage 1.2 million teachers across the nation (Getty Images)

At a national workshop on school education held in New Delhi earlier this week, Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar said the day is not far “when there will be digital blackboards in all class rooms in schools in the country”. His dream of equipping schools, many of them in far-flung areas without basic amenities, with such tools (found mostly in private ‘SMART’ schools), is in sync with the NDA government’s vision of harnessing digital power to push the country’s development processes . The minister, however, is putting the cart before the horse. Fancy tools cannot improve dismal learning levels of India’s students unless the State ensures the basic requirements of students are met: Infrastructure (classrooms, toilets etc), better quality text books, and well trained, motivated teachers.

One of the key factors for such low learning levels is the lack of teachers who can teach. India has 16,000 teacher education institutes with 1.3 million seats. The sheer number of institutes makes it difficult to improve their quality. The majority of the teachers who graduate from these institutions don’t make the cut. Worse, there are no centres of excellence in teacher education.

Not surprisingly, less than 6% of the seven lakh teacher education programme candidates, who appeared for the September 2014 Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) conducted by CBSE, passed the exam. According to MHRD, there is a shortage of 1.2 million teachers across the nation and District Information System for Education data (2013-2014) shows that the continuous professional development of teachers is not exhaustive with only 22% of all primary teachers undergoing any in-service training during the previous academic year. The shortage of teachers and poor coverage of in-service training only weakens the delivery capacity of schools, many of which are dealing with first-generation learners. These learners get no additional help from their families.

If teachers are neglected, so are the principals of the schools. As a report by the Central Square Foundation, correctly points out, principals are usually chosen based on seniority and view their role as administrators rather than leaders. In the absence of specific qualifications to become a principal, there is no specialised training on offer. Besides these problems, the school academic support system ---- Block and Cluster Resource Centres ---- is in disarray and burdened with data collection and other administrative tasks. The entire support structure for teachers needs to be revitalised and focused on the vision of classroom change. Digital Blackboards can wait, although we shouldn’t forget them.