Brillian is Senior Vice President and Head Human Resources and Mentor Operations & Quality at Times Professional Learning, a division of Bennett, Coleman, and Company Ltd. (Times of India group). He is an Academic Program Advisor with the SNDT PV Polytechnic for Women, Mumbai, and serves as the Industry Expert on Education. Brillian has been a part of various global industry and academia organised events as a moderator, panellist, keynote speaker, trainer, and workshop facilitator. He brings about 25 years of work experience across diverse domains like Education, IT, Logistics. He has experience working with Blue Chip organisations like Aptech, BNP Paribas Bank, CRISL, CyberTech Systems and Software Ltd., Infrasoft Technologies Ltd., SP Jain School of Global Management.
The advent of digital transformation has brought many disruptive changes across the education sector. The use of digitisation and artificial intelligence has ensured continuity of education over the past year. This sudden shift has raised a pertinent issue of lack of continuous professional development (CPD) among teachers.
This upskilling is necessitated by the dynamic changes faced by the sector. Evident across, right from the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) level to the ‘professional-employment’ driven courses offered by several institutes and B-Schools. While India enjoys great cultural and geographic diversity, it also suffers from a massive socio-economic divide. There is a massive equity gap in education that has been aggravated by the shortage and uneven distribution of professionally trained teachers.
This has called for greater spending in education – a thought that has resonated right from the 1968 National Education Policy (NEP) to the current one. The NEP 2020 has estimated the spends to be six percent of the GDP as opposed to the present spending of 3.1 percent. This divide in spending must be bridged to achieve results in the immediate future.
Technology must be the driving force to create equilibrium, enable the upskilling of teachers, conducting regular teacher assessments to ensure high-quality learning, and standardisation in the teaching processes. The NEP 2020 also envisages the importance of teacher training to ensure continuous professional development to stay academically updated, map students’ performance, identify skills and provide a holistic environment for students during their learning journey.
Investing in teacher training to achieve targets
Skilled teachers are vital to ensure quality education and to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). SDG4 aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Teachers play a critical role in improving student outcomes and advancing quality of education across geographies. Hence, they are a crucial ingredient to inclusive development and for helping India achieve SDG4.
While curricula are being updated to keep pace with evolving trends, teacher training is still lagging. India does not have enough qualified and trained teachers to cater to the growing young population. As per the data submitted by Lok Sabha in 2019, 22 percent of teacher positions at secondary level and 27 percent positions in higher secondary level were lying vacant.
The shortage of skilled and qualified teachers is a major problem that has plagued our education system. A variety of factors have contributed to this inadequacy, including unavailability of monetary and digital resources, and lack of access to suitable training programmes. COVID-19 has added another layer of complexity. Teachers across the country are bearing the brunt of massive upheavals that the education system faced when brick-and-mortar institutions moved to total closures. Many teachers are still not sufficiently trained to conduct online classes effectively.
This highlights a greater need for a comprehensive approach to adequately recruit, empower, train, support and motivate educators within a more efficient education system.
Teacher training and its impact in preparing students for a dynamic future
Traditional methods of teaching and curricula are no longer at the centre of education as it is becoming more learner centric. The nature of jobs is changing, and so are the skill demands and expectations from graduates. This has profound implications for the competencies which teachers need to acquire to effectively impart the skills to students.
Traditional teacher training programmes are unstructured and not continual. This results in failure to help upgrade teacher competencies and, consequently, to enable them to cater to new-age learners. A long-term solution is needed to help enhance the initial education of teachers and ensure continuous professional development. Below are some measures that may be adopted by stakeholders to enhance teacher training:
- Standardized training and guidelines: The lack of a common training mechanism to help the next generation of learners has hampered the quality of teachers. There is a need for national-level guidelines to help prepare and develop teachers better. NEP’s common guiding set of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST), which is being developed by the National Council for Teacher Education, is a step in this direction. These standards will cover the expectations from the role of a teacher at different stages, and the competencies required at each stage.
- Short-term upskilling programmes: Teachers can no longer rely on teaching techniques that were developed decades ago. They need to innovate teaching methodologies to cater to Gen-Z that relies heavily on web resources and social media. As new technologies and tools keep emerging, teachers need to learn and adapt. Upskilling would help them stay relevant, especially in virtual classrooms. Short-term courses also help teachers in understanding the requirements of students and addressing their psychological needs.
- Performance assessments: While there are assessment methods available, they may not suit the current needs of innovation, openness to online education and technology understanding. Institutes must work to develop grade-appropriate tools to assess practical skills, knowledge, and effectiveness of teachers. Such tools would encourage greater research and innovation in teaching, thereby improving proficiency and learning outcomes. Such assessments should be conducted and regulated frequently to maintain competency.
There is a need to rethink the overall strategy for education. While CoVid-19 brought in some much-needed changes, teachers and policy makers were not geared for it. The time is right for us to focus on continuous development and upskilling of teachers. As learners become smarter, educators need to be one step ahead.