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'If there are 10 students who do not understand a concept in a classroom of 50, who is accountable?'

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Basanti Roy, CEO of Teachers’ Training Programme, talks to Tanishka Sodhi about the lack of accountability in teachers, the education system, and her successful workshops for teachers

‘A school is a child's second home' is a phrase we've grown up hearing, and the older we get, the more we find truth in this. With the amount of hours a child spends in school, it is without doubt that a teacher holds the ability to mould the child, not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well.

Basanti Roy, who was previously Divisional Secretary with the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Education, Mumbai Division and is currently CEO of the Teachers' Training Programme of Navneet Foundation, speaks to us about the importance of our teachers promoting an active, safe space for learning that is not confined to textbooks. “If in a classroom of 50, there are 10 students who do not understand a concept, who is accountable? To bridge the gaps in our education system, we need to promote more accountability to the teachers. A teacher never stops learning, and this is how he/she passes on her knowledge.”

Teachers' Training is a programme conducted by the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) division of Navneet Foundation that strives to improve the quality of education by building the capacity of the teachers. Although it was initiated only in 2016, it has already conducted 80 workshops for teachers all over the state. Talking about the programme, Roy says, “Since the teachers have studied, there have been a lot of changes- in our generations, our manner of living, and ultimately, the education system. It is difficult for teachers to internalise these changes and adapt to them, so all we do is provide a little needed support. Better teachers will lead to smarter, kinder students, which will benefit us all in the long run.”

The Teacher  Training Programme is need based, and at the moment exclusively for teachers teaching in SSC schools. “In the programme, there is group work and activities that target the child-understanding skill in the teachers. There is a lot of unlearning and de-conditioning involved in the process of training teachers already in the field, which can get difficult for them to practice.”

Teaching through unconventional methods like music, art and poetry is something that a lot of teachers and education experts shy away from, preferring to stick to tried and tested methods. Roy, however, believes that teaching through creative means makes the entire learning process more meaningful and interesting, for the student. “Learning is more than just mugging up something only to forget it after the exam. Learning through activity based methods encourages a student to understand from their own inferences. In the rat race that is heavily influenced by pressure from parents and society, we often forget the ultimate aim of learning. The outcome should be meaningful and benefit the students.”

When asked what she considers the single biggest flaw in our education system, the silence that follows is not only sad, but also full of words unspoken. “Where do we start? Teacher's accountability, for starters, needs to increase. In today’s age of information, teachers need to be exposed, literate and component with every aspect of their subject, and more. I wish I didn’t have to say this but there are some teachers who barely glance at the syllabus, all they do is teach from the textbook. While traditional methods are important, the teacher needs to be well versed with the subject from outside the pages too.”

“From teacher centered learning, there is now a gradual shift towards child centered learning. Learning should be joyful. If the correct methods are practiced, students will start looking forward to coming to school and taking home knowledge, with them. There is also a severe need for the focus to move from only academic learning- overall development of the child is equally, if not more, important. We need to bring up our kids to be good humans. Today, there is apathy all around us, that shields us from the social issues our society is facing. Somewhere, schools are not doing a good job in instilling empathy, sensitivity, and sympathy as traits that are valued and necessary in the outside world.”

Roy speaks about a major problem affecting government schools- the large number of absentees. “Teachers need to ensure students come to college and understand what is being explained. Every child has a different capacity, but all of them should at least know the minimum requirement. This again, boils down to teacher accountability and the lack of personal interest taken by teachers. If a child doesn’t come to school, how will they learn?”

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