Surabhi Goel, CEO – Aditya Birla World Academy, The Aditya Birla Integrated School & Aditya Birla Education Academy

A qualified Chartered Accountant, Surabhi Goel brings with her 18 years of experience across finance, project management, operations, budgeting, branding & marketing. She has worked at large multinational organisations such as Arthur Andersen and ICICI Bank. During her yearlong teaching stint at an MBA college, she realised that she was passionate about the education sector. Her keen interest in the field of education then drove her to work with Zee Learn, where she set up their first international school in Mumbai. Currently, she is the CEO at Aditya Birla World Academy, The Aditya Birla Integrated School and Aditya Birla Education Academy, ventures of the Aditya Birla Education Trust.

 

Why should we upskill our teachers?

I think this is the most redundant question we can ask! Would you agree to get yourself operated by a surgeon who uses age-old methods of treatment? Or hire a lawyer who has not studied the latest provisions of the law? Or let a Chartered Accountant file your returns if he has qualified 15 years ago and not bothered to upskill himself? Then why do we allow teachers to teach the same thing, in the exact same fashion year after year? Alas, that we are still asking this question itself highlights the problem.

In India we revere knowledge. If someone accidentally drops a book on the floor, you would often see the person touch the book to his or her forehead. Similarly, we worship our teachers, our Gurus. However, we do not want to invest resources- both time and money on them. Isn’t that really counter-intuitive?

Why the need?

The primary role of a teacher is twofold- to spark the imagination and creativity of a child and to provide a safe and happy environment conducive to learning. This role has not changed over the years. Why then, one would ask, do teachers need to change their methodology? This is because the students have changed over the years. The challenges they face, both while growing up and in the future that we need to prepare them for, are a far cry from what our generation has grown up with.

  1. The tools to learning have evolved beyond recognition in the recent past and especially during the pandemic. Virtual schools are a norm. The educators however are not prepared for this reality. Yes, it may be easy to deliver a lecture online but that would be a one-way interaction. The teachers need to unlearn and relearn the skills of virtual classrooms dynamics. They have to be exposed to a variety of online tools- both as teaching options and also to conduct meaningful summative and formative exams.
  2. Students have to undergo a myriad range of issues such as depression, loneliness, single family and single child syndrome. Peer pressure, body shaming and cyber bullying is on the rise. School for children is a home away from home. The teachers have a huge role to play in identifying the symptoms of mental health issues and providing support and care before the issue spirals out of control. Unfortunately, they are woefully ill equipped to manage such situations.
  3. Further, there is data that ADHD are on the rise. I envisage that soon we will not have special educators or counsellors separately in school. In fact, every teacher would have to be encouraged to accept and deal with children with varied learning and emotional difficulties.

Let us remember, ‘Change is inevitable but personal growth is a choice.’ We will need to continuously grow to embrace this change.

Challenges
  1. Paucity of time- Most teachers in India are young females, often between the ages of 25-40 years with a full load of responsibilities at home. Already trying to juggle these two roles they are left with little time to invest in self growth.
  2. Financial Constraints- The teachers are often poorly paid and find it difficult to invest in expensive programs.
  3. No tangible benefits- The teachers often do not see any tangible benefits (promotion etc.) for doing a professional development course.
The Way Forward

The NEP has very rightly proposed that all in service teachers would need to undergo minimum 50 hours of training every year. While this too is inadequate, at least it is a start.

I would urge schools and institutions everywhere to set aside time and money for training their teachers. Schools should conduct detailed school audits to identify the gaps at the school level and also at an individual teacher level. Even a good teacher could, with a little guidance and a little nudge become a great teacher. Teachers who display a growth mind-set and invest in professional development, should be celebrated and given a more challenging role or moulded to get into a leadership role.

In the words of Brian Tracy, “Dedicate yourself to continuous personal improvement, you are your most precious resource.”

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