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Let’s train teachers with new techniques

Highlights

Let’s train teachers with new techniques, Chukka Ramaiah, English medium Model Schools. Other model schools’ examples are what I saw in the US.

Just as the four seasons of a year follow one another without change, the activities in our educational calendars also follow a set routine from admissions to examinations and vacations before the new cycle begins! With more parents interested in utilising the vacations fruitfully, relaxation is taking a back seat there and students are trying to improve some essential skills which they might have neglected during regular school days. Well, that would surely enable them to be more comfortable in their coming years. But what are our teachers doing? Corporate schools are losing no time in providing special training programmes, workshops and skill enhancement activities to their faculty so as to gear them up for the coming academic year. Where are our government schools in this regard? Where are our English medium Model Schools in this aspect?

We all know that the Government of Andhra Pradesh issued GO MS No 70 for Sanction of 234 Model Schools under Phase-II and sanctioned total 4,680 posts of teaching to be filled up by direct recruitment soon. School Education department started functioning of 310 model Schools in 2013 while the newly sanctioned 234 Model Schools under Phase-II will start functioning from academic year 2014-15. To my dismay, I found many of these model schools to be different only in name but not in quality delivery. Proper planning, timely action, a greater vision are all essential here. Just as you sow the seeds and cultivate in advance if you wish to reap the crop at a specific time, all schools should plan in advance, work on the objectives with which they wish to impart education, not after the commencement of the academic year but before it commences, say, in the preceding summer itself. This brings to my mind the specially designed AP Model Schools and how they can rise up to be true model schools to all the other schools in their districts by being ideal in the methods they implement in teaching. They should not be just like any other schools but rise above them.

Some of my observations and interactions with teachers abroad may be motivational here. In Singapore, I interacted with the secondary school teachers to learn their methods of pedagogy. It promotes analytical ability, critical thinking, application of information in other contexts etc., right from a very early stage. For example, the language teachers said that if they were to teach a story or a novel, they would initially ask the students to choose and read at least three or four works in that genre. Then the teacher explains the prescribed text and instructs the learners to note or study the differences and similarities between the texts they had read earlier and what the teacher had taught. So too, in a science lesson from physics, the teacher elicits the games they like and asks the learners to see how Newton’s laws work there, or how one can calculate the projectile forces, and for a biology lesson on a cell, an expert oncologist is invited to explain about the normal and abnormal cell growth. What I understood from these ideas is that the environment to develop a scientific attitude and a research outlook are encouraged from the school level itself.

Other model schools’ examples are what I saw in the US. They believe and work with the idea that: Critical thinking and problem solving skills are vital in addressing the complex societal and ethical issues of our time; Students learn best in a community where academic disciplines are integrated, fostering an appreciation of how they interact and form a whole; Collaborative learning, athletics, and extracurricular activities develop leadership and interpersonal skills and research stems from a combination of fundamental knowledge, individual creativity and curiosity. Pair work and group work, project-based learning and peer teaching are used even at the school level with positive results.

Like many secondary schools abroad, our model schools also must strive for a better vision and mission to provide students with a challenging learning environment focused on math, science, and technology, to inspire joy at the prospect of discovery, and to foster a culture of innovation based on ethical behavior and the shared interests of humanity.

There is nothing lacking as far as our declaration of our vision and mission goes or in stating how our model schools are unique. We declare: Teachers use innovative methods to ensure effective learning of all children and practice positive discipline; School management is accountable and uses systems for planning, monitoring and evaluation of school performance; Safe Environment, where all children learn to read and write with a focus on the girl child; Motivated, trained and committed teachers and staff attending school more regularly and using techniques of positive discipline to prevent dropouts and track learning levels of children; Children's involvement in school activities and classrooms; Involvement of Village elders, head teachers to sensitise them to the needs of the girl child…But, when it comes to implementation, we find a large gap.

The efforts to procure spacious land, construct computer labs, good infrastructure, hostels etc. cannot be ignored. But it is the quality of the teachers that makes any institution what it is. Our model schools do have qualified teachers as per the norms set for their selection, but they have yet to inculcate and imbibe the spirit of wholehearted involvement in everything they do, in all their interactions within the class and without and they must see teaching as the most rewarding profession not because of the pay packet it gives but because of the noble responsibility it rests on their shoulders, the honor it bestows of molding model citizens for the future. Selection of such teachers is truly not the task of a day or two and cannot be accomplished by mere scrutiny of the academic records. It needs great masters like in the past, to identify such talented souls even when they are in the early stages of their education and convince them of the great service they would be doing by opting to teach and inspire generations instead of choosing a lucrative career for individual glory.

Let us plan and use our time wisely in order to train the teachers this summer. Let us review the improvement the new techniques planned and implemented bring in the learners’ involvement. Let us be lifelong learners before we inculcate that spirit in our wards.

(The writer is noted educationist and former MLC. He can be reached at [email protected])

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