The AAP government’s seriousness in revamping school education in Delhi is appreciable indeed, and its plan to send principals to Harvard and Cambridge to learn global best practices and teaching styles makes sense. It is better than sending ministers and bureaucrats, who have no long-term stake in the field of education, on such trips on any day. By investing money in teachers it is putting its money in the right place. The knowledge gained would pass on to the appropriate circles and not rot as pointless reports as in the case of ministers and bureaucrats.
The Arvind Kejriwal government plans to send 200 principals abroad and 200 to different IIMs for professional training. According to sources, 90 of them would be sent to Cambridge in the first phase. In this year’s budget it has ear-marked Rs 102 crore for this purpose. Presenting the budget for this financial year Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is also the Education minister, had said the focus areas this year would be training and capacity building of teachers.
“They would be imparted high quality training for their professional development and will be sent to some of the best universities in the world like Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford. For this,” he had said. The fund allocated for the purpose is a massive jump from 2015-16 where a meagre Rs 9.4 crore was set aside for the purpose.
The fact that the quality of teaching in government-run schools across the country requires a massive revamp needs no overstating. While the weaknesses in many such schools – crumbling infrastructure, poor student-teacher ratio and underpaid teachers among others - have been glaringly apparent for many years now, few governments have displayed a sense of urgency towards improvement in one critical area: quality of teaching. This indeed is a problem that needs to be addressed with a sense of commitment.
Last year, Maharashtra held an evaluation test for teachers and only one percent of primary school teachers cleared it. In the case of upper primary teachers it was around five percent. In Punjab, English teachers delivered a shocker to the Education minister last year when they produced explanations on why so many students were failing in English. Their command over the language was abysmal. Needless to underline here that this is the case all over the country. No attention has been given to this area by governments.
There is allocation of funds for teachers’ training under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan but it has not helped much in elevating the standard of teaching in schools. Delhi could be setting a healthy trend by putting emphasis on it. However, it is not only knowledge of the subject or skills at teaching, teachers need to stay updated on managerial skills too. The principals trained abroad and IIMs would form a knowledge pool and help in upgrading the skills of other in their fraternity.
The message from the government is simple: you can hope to have quality education without having quality teachers around. The process of educating the young starts with them.