At Utpal Shanghvi School in Juhu, by morning Reshma Lalwani is a teacher but by afternoon she is a student.
It’s a double life that she and 30 other teachers of the school have been leading, since June, when the school set up its in-house teacher education centre.
The centre has been set up to hone the skills of the staff teaching the international curriculum. “We are assessed on our lesson designing, planning and preparation,” said Lalwani, a martial arts teacher at the school. “At the end of the day, my skills get enhanced, I get greater exposure, and the child is the beneficiary.”
Utpal Shanghvi inaugurated its first batch of teacher training, not as a substitute for the B-Ed but as an additional course for its teachers. “I want my teachers to become more than they already are, to give them an additional polish to their delivery,” said Abha Dharam Pal, the school’s principal.
It isn’t the only school that has made learning an on-going process for its teachers.
The Kangaroo Kids Education Limited (KKEL) group opened six new teacher centres this year, in addition to the one is started in 2004.
Jamnabai Narsee School inaugurated its centre in June that serves the dual purpose of offering the pre-school teaching qualification: the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) diploma for new teachers as well as a refresher centre for its old teachers.
“There is now a lot of awareness about learning disabilities,” said Jamnabai principal Sudeshna Chatterjee, explaining the impetus behind introducing the short courses for the staff. “We have made it a condition for our teachers to take this course to help them in early detection and remediation.”
The Podar Institute of Education similarly, offers a six-month course in learning disabilities and has also applied for Mumbai University recognition for a new B.Ed in Remedial Education.
Easy recruitment of teachers from their own training facilities is one of the advantages of such centres, say schools. The theory-practice gap can also be easily breached with teacher-trainees observing what they have learnt and experimenting practically, in the actual classroom.
“When we opened our KG section in 2000 we had the vision of it operating like a laboratory school, as is common in the west, with both a strong research and practical teacher training base,” said Swati Popat Vats, director of the Podar Institute. And young girls with teaching aspirations aren’t the only ones signing up. Mothers too, are enrolling in large numbers (see case study).
“We get to understand child psychology,” said Sonali Mirani, 40, who is doing the ECCE course at the Jamnabai centre. “Now that my kids are grown up, I have ample time and I was always inclined towards teaching so I took it up. It’s challenging, but I want to learn more.”