04 Sep 2020 19:09 IST

Teachers Day: Upskilling teachers is to empower them

For it to be successful, it is important to have a high quality certification of teachers’ competencies

Teachers are the nation-builders and our heroes. It may be a clichéd statement but it has never been truer than now, as India rolls out its ambitious reform agenda listed in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 while dealing with a pandemic which has led to most of teaching-learning being remote or online. Therefore, it is rather appropriate that as we express our gratitude to teachers on Teachers’ Day this year, we also use it as an occasion to reflect on how teachers can be empowered to be the change agents for NEP as well as teach in the “new normal” brought upon by Covid-19 much faster than we had anticipated.

The obvious answer lies in upskilling teachers and this usually happens either through a “mandate” or an “appeal” to the teacher. However, numerous such initiatives have shown us the limited success of this approach. Instead, could we empower the teacher to decide for himself or herself – why should I upskill? What do I get out of it? And if that answer is – better career growth, job opportunities and recognition, we create a virtuous cycle, where teachers demand professional development instead of it being imposed upon them.

Teacher competencies

For this virtuous cycle to be successful, it is important to have a high quality certification of teachers’ competencies (not just whether the teacher has completed x hours of training but have the competencies themselves!). Organisations such as NBPTS in US and Centre for Teacher Accreditation (CENTA) in India have demonstrated how this can be a very successful approach to create a pull for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) from teachers themselves.

 

 

Graphics by V Visveswaran

 

 

 

For example, CENTA’s certification, which connects great teachers to career growth and rewards, has already led to 1,60,000 teachers across India engaging on self-testing and professional development – proving that self-sustained capacity building at the ground level happens when clear linkages to rewards and recognition are available to competent teachers.

Assured placements

Training needs to have the same approach of “benefit for the individual”. For example, when a premium teacher training course leads to assured placements in international environments – an example being post graduate certificate programme for teachers and school leaders by Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal Global (MaGE) and CENTA – it motivates teachers to upskill and inspires more young people to choose teaching as a viable professional choice.

The next step in empowering the teacher is to provide the choice to decide – how and when should I do it?

To make this happen, we need:

a) A comprehensive teaching competencies framework,

b) A platform for personalised and self-paced training content mapped to competencies and;

c) Voluntary teacher testing towards certification. NEP 2020 also envisages some of these elements. For example, if a digital platform has training programmes aligned to the above framework and curated based on quality, a teacher can choose to improve on a specific competency at her own pace and place!

In the “new normal”, with teachers taking centre-stage in our living rooms and society, an empowered teacher is poised to take advantage of the globalisation of teaching and learning, almost akin to software professionals a few decades ago. It is an exciting time to be a teacher, to take charge of your career and invest in your professional development!

To quote William Shakespeare,

We at the height are ready to decline

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.

(The writer is Founder & Director, Centre for Teacher Accreditation.)

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