Rajya Sabha

January 3, 2019

Abir Ranjan Biswas speaks on The National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Abir Ranjan Biswas speaks on The National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018


Respected Sir, I rise to speak on National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017. I thank you for giving me this opportunity.

It is the responsibility of the National Council for Teacher Education to regulate and ensure that the norms and standards in the teacher education system are maintained. Certain State and Centrally funded institutions failed to obtain recognition and permission from the Council required by sections 14 and 15 of the Act. The Bill seeks to safeguard the future of those currently enrolled as well as those who have already undergone the teacher training courses in these institutions. The Bill attempts to protect their livelihoods through a one-time measure to grant retrospective recognition until academic year 2017-18 by amending sections 14 and 15 of the Act.

I support the Bill’s intention for protecting the careers of the hapless individuals who joined these institutions with the dream of becoming trained teachers. However, these institutions clearly did not meet the National Council for Teacher Education minimum quality standards and were therefore not permitted to train teachers. Therefore, granting retrospective recognition to teachers who have emerged from these institutes after a half-baked training programme could very well jeopardise far more careers of the children emerging from such a system in the future, than the bill seeks to safeguard in the present.

Sir/Madam, if you look at the Bill from the perspective of the Domino theory- if one poorly trained teacher enters the Education System, classrooms full of students would be receiving a substandard education year after year, till the teacher retires. So the entire education system would bear the brunt of this one misstep, causing it to topple like dominoes. While the bill might be safeguarding the careers of teachers from substandard institutions, it is important to bring them up to mark as teachers. Otherwise, this will definitely adversely impact the careers of several students.

Those being granted retrospective recognition must be assessed and made to pass a remedial course or training programme by the National Council for Teacher Education. This would fill any gaps that may have arisen during their training at institutions which were deemed not worthy of being granted permission for reasons what may. In the absence of any corrective action by the council, these teachers will be denied their opportunity to realise their full potential of quality-trained teachers. Likewise, thousands of children would likewise will be denied their right to quality education.

Almost 1 in 4 government schools have a teacher-student classroom Ratio greater than 30 according to DISE data. The need for teachers is very important, but the Government should not overlook the importance of recruiting teachers with quality training. The Dakar Framework recognized the preeminent role of teachers in providing basic education of good quality. In order to achieve the ratio prescribed under the Right to Education Act, at least 10 lakh teachers have to be appointed. 1 in 6 teaching positions in government schools is vacant. Assistant teachers are being filled up for the headmaster’s posts. The overstretched teachers find it difficult to concentrate on academics. This eventually affects the quality of education. Further, teacher absenteeism in government school is estimated at 25%, so here is a situation of teacher shortage coupled with teacher absenteeism.

The West Bengal State Government gives their children the best when it comes to Education. The focus in Bengal is not just restricted to high enrolment and attendance among students, particularly girls – through the UN Award winning Kanyashree Prakalpa Scheme and Sabuj Sathi scheme. Equal focus is given to recruiting quality teachers. Bengal has risen to the challenge of teacher shortage and recruited 50,426 primary school teachers and 27,572 teachers for upper primary and secondary schools in the past 6 years.

Educationists have long been pointing out that shortage of teachers is a big hurdle in ensuring quality education, and the only way to improve the situation is to recruit adequate number of qualified teachers. India is facing difficulties in ensuring the maintenance of the standards of teacher education and preventing the increase in the number of substandard teacher education institutions in the country.
India continues to fare badly in the well-regarded Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by Pratham. Only 27.7% Class III students who could perform a simple subtraction. Among Class III students, 32% could read simple English words. The proportion of Class VIII students who could read simple English sentences was just 45.2%.
In their book ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions’, Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze, found that only half of the children in classes five to eight could use a calendar. The OECD’s global survey, Programme for International Student Assessment, compares the most-advantaged quintile of students with the least-advantaged students in the bottom quintile. How did India rank? We will never know because India has refused to participate.

In this context, India must first and foremost improve monitoring at various levels. This would call for robust and reliable education statistics. Nevertheless, two concerns remain: timeliness, and continuing gaps in several series of indicators. Government data such as DISE, NSSO as well as data by credible institutions such as ASER capture the quality of learning by the students, but there is no credible data source for collecting the quality of teaching by the teachers.

Secondly, equitable deployment of teachers is as important as training them. Populations newly entering the school system are more likely to come from marginalized groups. Policies should aim at improving performance of low achieving schools and students by allocating more resources to the regions and schools most in need. The National Council for Teacher Education must step up its role by establishing a Teacher Training Commission to begin with. Improved data and transparent management can help in implementing teacher deployment policies.

Thirdly, two gaps relating to the cornerstones of the quality of teachers is, equity and quality. Deploying information and communication technology (ICT) can improve access to education for disadvantaged communities and education delivery. Integrating ICT into education systems to improve learning. However, ICT effectiveness depends on trained teachers who can use it to maximize teaching and learning. Only 9 in 100 primary schools and less than 1 in 4 of all schools have access to both computer and electricity. Teachers must be trained and infrastructure in schools has to follow.

Fourthly, improving the quantity of teachers will not be enough; quality needs improvement too. Quality education is a prerequisite for achieving the fundamental goal of equity. Access to an education of good quality is the right of every child.

Contract teacher recruitment has expanded rapidly. They have little or no training, poorer working conditions, job security and salaries than permanent teachers. While regular teachers have to complete two years of initial teacher education, contract teachers are only required to undertake a short induction programme.

To be more transformational, Government should not overlook the need to ensure quality teaching for all are deployed where required. The existing laws governing the National Council for Teacher Education in India needs to be reformed to address these requirements, towards which this bill has taken a step in the right direction. However, I would recommend that the Bill be sent to Committee for scrutiny before any further consideration.

Thank you Sir.