What Do We Lose If We Shut Down B.Ed. Colleges?
The draft National Education Policy 2019 proposes to merge teacher education with institutions of higher education. While this is aimed at restoring the credibility of teacher education in the country, is there anything that we will lose as these long standing B.Ed. colleges are shut down? Let’s find more.
The draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 laments the mediocrity as well as rampant corruption in the ‘beleaguered’ teacher education sector of India. One reason for this state of affairs is that most institutions today providing teacher education in India are small colleges in private sector where there is, “general lack of commitment to the needs for rigour and quality in teacher preparation.” Understandably, the draft NEP 2019, strongly recommends moving teacher education into multidisciplinary colleges and universities. This radical action, it seems to believe, is critical to revitalise teacher education in the country.
Need for teacher education
One can neither deny what the draft NEP 2019 observes nor agree with the need for the proposed measures. If one looks at teacher education across countries it can be noted that universities have been teacher education institutions from their inception. Long before teacher education got recognised as an independent profession, it was graduates from local universities and colleges who were taken in as teachers by surrounding schools. It was believed that anyone who had reached a particular education level could teach others. This was in an era where education was meant for the elite. It was only with the mass schooling system in 19th century, that first in Europe and then gradually around the world, the need arose for large number of teachers and subsequently teacher training. The institutions created to prepare teachers in France, the United States and England, were called “écoles normales”, normal schools or like in India colleges of education. The focus of these institutions has been on training teachers with basic knowledge of teaching teachers how to teach core academic subjects. Further more there would be focus on skills such as classroom management and disciplining young children.
Gradually, as educational thought and theory developed with emergence of disciplines like psychology and sociology, teacher education began to gain more respect. Eventually, most countries brought teacher education in the realms of universities both in terms of location and management.
Thus, the proposed measure of moving all teacher preparation programmes into multidisciplinary higher education institutions seems the most natural progression for India’s teacher education system.
Impact of shutting down of teacher education colleges
However, while doing so, the policy makers must also take stock of what India stands to lose by shutting down the standalone teacher education colleges. Experts around the world point out that the ethos and style of the normal or stand-alone college has been quite distinct from that of the university. These have a strong commitment to the overall moral development of the teacher trainees. They focus on the development of a teacher as a professional almost along the lines of a craft. In contrast, universities across the globe maintain a strong commitment to theoretical discipline of knowledge with a relatively impersonal environment. The liberal pursuit of curiosity with an orientation to deep level understanding and long term change.
This distinction in the contrasting cultures of a university based and standalone teacher education college was clearly evident in this authors doctoral research. When asked what would they consider as the strength of the programmes, teachers who had graduated from stand-alone B.Ed. colleges in Mumbai described their programme as ‘life changing’ experience. They used words such as it ‘brought out the best in me…makes you a teacher but touches you as a person.’
One teacher even went on to say that, ‘Even if you don’t want to become a teacher …just to become a good mother to your children do a B. Ed. It’s a life course!’
It was noted that the interviewed teachers, considered their teacher educators in these stand-alone colleges to have played a pivotal role during the programme. It was the teacher- educators who, according to the respondents of this study were apparently instrumental in eliciting above experiences. They were appreciated by the respondents for their mastery over their jobs, their role as facilitators, their ability to make every student teacher learn and their zeal to organize events that would add to the future teacher’s profile. One teacher summed up the sentiments of most participating teachers by stating that, “My teachers [teacher educators] gave me the best!”
For the research, this author interviewed only teachers who had undergone teacher training in aided colleges. But her formal and informal interactions with teachers across diverse curriculums and sectors leads her to believe that the same sentiments should exist in at least some private colleges. One does not know when eventually all the stand-alone colleges will be shut down and merged with institutions of higher education or universities. But there is a real danger that if the transition is not managed well, we may lose out on many of the strengths of stand-alone colleges – its unique culture, ethos, distinct value orientation and a committed and dedicated band of teacher educators.
I suggest that communicating the strengths of the existing teacher education system to the management and staff of higher education institutions should be a mandatory step as institutions are merged. For teacher education to be elevated to a more respected status its current stand-alone colleges and their associated stakeholders should be acknowledged for their contribution so far. One must remember that many of these colleges were founded before independence. We must not forget they have led us to where we are today as a country and as a society. Their contribution towards our children and their education cannot be ignored.
In fact, the aim should be to make new beginnings while safeguarding old legacies.
Experts around the world point out that the ethos and style of the normal or stand-alone college has been quite distinct from that of the university. These have a strong commitment to overall moral development of the teacher trainees. They focus on the development of a teacher as a professional almost along the lines of a craft. By contrast, universities across the globe maintain a strong commitment to theoretical discipline of knowledge with a relatively impersonal environment.
Dr. Shamim Suryavanshi is an educationist with solid grounding in classroom teaching, education management and research. In her more than two decades of experience,she has interacted with hundreds of teachers in mainstream as well as NGO sector across the country. She has also taught in private as well as government aided B.Ed. colleges. In her recently concluded doctoral thesis she compared the B.Ed. in India along nine dimensions (such as location, structure, teacher educators etc.) with teacher education in top universities in the world. That apart– having lived, taught and studied in different countries further adds to Shamim’s understanding of societies and education.