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A furiousdebate rages on between educationists connected with half-a-dozen NationalCouncil for Teacher Education (NCTE) committees constituted to implement therecommendations of the Justice Verma Commission (JVC) report. The JVC itselfwas an outcome of a legal battle over granting permission to some 291institutions in Maharashtra to run Diploma in Education (D.Ed) courses. Thereport and what the NCTE is doing to implement its recommendations should be amatter of public concern as it pertains to the regulatory mechanisms governingteacher education in the country. The battle now between two sides ofeducationists is essentially about how closely teacher education in the countryshould be controlled or how best to throttle it. The JVC wasconstituted by an order of the Supreme Court while the NCTE constituted severalcommittees to work out norms for regulation, the qualification of the teachereducator and so on. One of these committees, under Prof. Poonam Batra, is toreview the existing regulatory functions of the NCTE regarding grant ofrecognition and related functions, including the educational and professionalqualifications for teacher educators for D.Ed, Bachelor of Elementary Education(B.El.Ed), Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) and Master of Education (M.Ed). Thesenorms, if accepted, will be applicable to all teacher education programmes.

Meanwhile,the NCTE has said, the enabling recommendations of the JVC are beingoperationalised by a committee with extremely limited grounding in educationand constituted another more balanced committee under the chairmanship of Prof.N.K. Jangira to work out qualifications for the B.El.Ed and D.El.Ed programme.The raging battle, though is primarily between the protagonists of these twocommittees.

What allthis shows is that the issue of qualifications and eligibility for teachereducators and teacher education itself, needs to be reconceptualised. Manycommissions and committees have flagged the two very serious problems with ourteacher education one, its isolation from university education; and two, itsreliance on ritualistic practices rather than developing capabilities requiredfor a ‘thinking practitioner.’ In spite of correctly spotting these problems,not many educators understand that these two problems are much aggravated bythe NCTE itself, though they existed even prior to its creation.

Most teachereducation colleges lack liberal arts and science education programmes; ghettostightly controlled by NCTE norms. There is no research, nor interaction withthe larger academic community.

All ourcommittees and commissions since the Radhakrishnan Commission on HigherEducation (1948), as well as educationists have always lamented that teachinghas not developed into a profession in our country, and that the development ofteaching as a profession is essential to improving the quality of schooleducation. But what does it mean for a vocation or practice to develop into aprofession? Of course, there are structural and socio-political aspects of aprofession; but what lies at its heart is academic and epistemic. However, inbrief, a practice that (i) is based on a wide ranging knowledge base, (ii)capable of being justified and understood in theoretical framework(s), (iii)has intellectual coherence and independence and (iv) has a close interactionbetween development of theory and practice with substantial engagement from thepractitioners themselves, can be reasonably called a profession from an academicpoint of view. That is, if (v) there is a substantial body of practitioners and(vi) sufficient institutional structures to support it. Teaching and teachereducation meet the last two conditions in India; the problem is conditions (i)to (v), which are concerned with knowledge base, methodology and epistemology.

For such aknowledge base to develop, an academic community has to work for long and in asustained manner. Education, by nature, is an interdisciplinary field; to bringinsights from all these disciplines of knowledge to bear upon the purposes,content and processes of education, an academic community has to be rooted ineducational issues and have in-depth knowledge of some or other of thesedisciplines. All this is impossible without freedom in curriculum, assessmentand pedagogic processes, and also the freedom to learn through mistakes.

We need torealise that teaching can hardly develop into a profession without thesimultaneous development of education as an intellectually coherent field of study.They are complementary. The emphasis on education as a single and narrowdiscipline is inimical to the development of a coherent field of study with awell-defined domain and with the capability to draw upon the depth ofknowledge, especially in the disciplines mentioned earlier.

Over-regulationin the curriculum, assessment and pedagogy, therefore, will retard thedevelopment of teaching as a profession as it will forbid the experimentationwith varied and legitimate permutations and combinations of content fromvarious areas of knowledge.

Separately,we need to make a distinction between the processes of (i) creation ofknowledge, (ii) teaching of knowledge or constructing knowledge in thestudents’ mind, and (iii) impact of knowledge on the behaviour of the knower orusing knowledge in judgment and practice. Teacher education has to bestow acertain mastery to student-teachers in all three processes. The creation ofknowledge is a rigorous process and has to meet some epistemic criteria. Theimpact and importance of these criteria can be understood only through aserious study of connected frameworks in which such knowledge is formed.Meddling with these frameworks in an arbitrary manner will create confusion andwill privilege testimony of the teacher or the book over the independentjudgment of the learner, as the learner will have no grounding on the criteria.

Finally,through stringent regulations in terms of teacher educator qualifications,curriculum, attendance, etc. we are closing opportunities available to teachereducation institutions. This will throttle teacher education. If we wantteacher education to develop into a respectable profession, greater flexibilityis needed.

Today, where a majority of teacher educationinstitutions, be they public or private, have shown very little capability,seriousness and commitment, granting them freedom looks like a contradiction.But we have to think anew. The irresponsibility of the institutions is due topolitical patronage and corruption in NCTE implementation. We have a history oftrying to solve socio-political problems in education through academic andpedagogical means; it does not work. We should not compromise on academicprinciples of flexibility and openness due to an institutional inability to createmechanisms of implementation.
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