Second wave of input oriented policies in Indian education

Inputs are defined as the essential components that go into the making of an outcome. In education, the inputs are many — infrastructure, teachers, textbooks and so on. In traditional parlance, only “infrastructure” is seen as input, but technically teacher education, training, textbooks all fall under inputs.
One of the problems with our approach to education — as I discussed in my book and also in several posts in this blog — is that we follow a checklist approach ticking off one input at a time — instead of following a comprehensive approach where work on all required inputs simultaneously.
When we wanted to expand primary education India, we didn’t have enough school buildings or children in schools. These problems seemed so large that virtually everything else went out of sight. We constructed buildings and brought children into school. This took good 10–20 years.
Once the infrastructure issue is reasonably resolved, we realised that there’s much more to do. Our kids aren’t learning. This is because the extent of infrastructure deficiencies had clouded our vision making it impossible to identify other requirements and work on them.
Now, having realised that learning outcomes are poor, there are efforts to address the next large issue. We are now thinking that teachers are in school but they aren’t trained properly. The extent of this issue is huge — ranging from pre-teacher training, recruitment processes, regulation of teacher training institutes, in-service training, training support and so on.
MHRD has taken some commendable initiatives in this regard — cleaning out the regulatory mess, strengthening the regulation, closing down non-compliant teacher training institutes, launching online training programmes and so on. The problem is large, deep and complex requiring strong actions which the union ministry seems to be taking under the leadership of Mr Anil Swarup and Mr Santosh Mathew.
Though these are commendable initiatives, my concern is that we might be repeating our mistake in the 1st wave of infrastructure improvement — clouding our vision with focus only on the next big constraint — instead of pursuing a comprehensive approach.
Teacher education and training problem is so large that all our efforts now seem to be only on this, without efforts on other requirements. Just like the case with 1st wave of inputs (infrastructure), we are likely to land up in similar situation once teacher education issue is addressed to a reasonable extent.
We may realise that teachers are being screened, being trained but they are not teaching in school and in some cases, even if teachers attempt to teach, students aren’t able to progress.
This can happen if teachers do the training but don’t implement it in classroom or teachers face hurdles in enhancing outcomes due to students’ conditions at home and so on.
If we follow the current approach of focus only on teacher recruitment and training, we may realise these issues only after 5–10 years when the teacher education problems are solved. We will then again start the next check-box taking another 5–10 years. This process will take several decades before we reach the outcomes.
Alternatively, if we reverse the approach, start with end outcomes and work simultaneously on all the inputs that go into the making of this outcome (without reducing the problem to any single constraint like teacher education), we will start enhancing the outcomes from now itself. Such approach will translate the current efforts to fruition from now itself.
We must note that many of the complementary initiatives to teacher education have to be taken by the states, especially because this involves the issues of governance at grass root level. It’s time for states to step-up the game and also for the union government to make states understand this situation and nudge complementary initiatives, without waiting till we address the teacher education issue completely.

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