It was a pleasure watching the conference sessions live online yesterday. I urge those of you who wanted to attend the conference but could not, to use this facility provided by British Council to watch it live and even take part in it by adding comments. You comments may get discussed.
I tuned in for some of the sessions. Some- like, ‘building skills for employability’- were gripping as well as hilarious. Especially the speech by Manish Sabharwal; was it eloquence epitomized! Some were eye openers–Policy implications for English teaching and learning. It was quite informative.
‘Policy implications for English teaching and learning’ dealt a lot with scenario in schools in different parts of India. I guess good English teaching and learning in schools will lead to ‘building employability skills’ in the long run! This points to the lacuna we have in India in this area.
Isn’t that one of the reasons that makes ‘building employability skills’ a necessity now? I have heard private school principals lamenting about the difficulty they face in recruiting good teachers. They have to place the good teachers in high school so that the 10th grade results are not compromised. So most often the worst teachers end up in the primary section.
Rod Bolitho, Academic Director of Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE), raised many questions which I felt are very relevant.
Some questions, about the shortage of English teachers in India, are listed below.
- How attractive is teaching as a career in India in general?
- What is the reason behind the English graduates choosing fields other than teaching as profession?
- Is there any appropriate formulated initiative in India to raise the number of English teachers in training?
- Has the government decided what the probable number of teachers required to be trained is in order to meet the demand in, maybe, the next 10 years?
- Are there enough institutions training teachers?
Some others, about the quality of English teachers/education, are below.
- What is the minimum qualification for school teachers? Is there any standardisation of qualification for the primary school teachers teaching English across India?
- In some states the minimum qualification set for the teachers of English is far lower than the others. So is bad English being perpetuated through the system?
- What type of pre-service training do they undergo?
- What kind of training is going on in pre-service level and how practical is it?
- Are the pre-service training institutions calibrated completely against the needs of the teachers?
- Are the skills of the teacher educator the skills which are needed to produce methodologically and linguistically competent teachers?
What is your opinion on these issues? Please write in your comments, would love to hear your ideas.
In this session entitled ‘Managing the Silent Revolution’ the audience watched a video which showed how Activity Based Learning (ABL) has been implemented in schools in Tamil Nadu. We saw the teacher in a non-traditional role, not as the teacher standing as an authoritative figure at the front of the classroom, but as a facilitator of activities in which children were able to participate much more freely. Children were encouraged to work in groups and help each other, as well as monitor their own progress. The classroom scene was a refreshing change from visions of children sitting in rows listening to a teacher; here the role of the child is very much a participative one in which confidence and motivation are key to the learning process.
The film was a great start to the session on ABL, and will truly motivate teachers in other areas to learn from this project.
How could other schools implement ABL?
In the parallel session, ‘In-service and Pre-service English Language Teacher Education’, the room split into two groups to discuss the best way forward for in-service and pre-service teacher education.
One recomendation that came out was that Teacher Educators should come from schools and not from institutes or universities. They should be good teachers with a lot of practical experience and not traditional academics with doctorate degrees. What do you think?
Who is going to select these teachers? How to select them?
Should teachers be allowed to nominate themselves?
How do we replace the good teachers who we take out to become teacher educators?
Your comments please.
Rod Bolitho, Academic Director of Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE), tells us that the teaching profession is not a static profession and as such, teachers need to continually develop.
He also reminds us that development can only come from within an individual – teachers cannot be forced to develop, but they can be exposed to development opportunities.
Rod goes on to say that INSETT (in-service teacher training) and CPD (continuous professional development) are not synonymous. Teacher training is one route that teachers can take to help themselves develop, but there are other ways, such as gaining new qualifications, becoming involved in projects and materials development, mentoring and buddy systems, membership of teaching associations, classroom observations and feedback and autonomous research.
How do your schools and institutes ensure that teachers have access to the latest skills and knowledge in the ELT sector? How is their learning recognised and rewarded?
Prof. Siddiqui, Chair of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE)talked about the development of new curriculum framework for teacher education in India that he hopes will be implemented nation wide over the next 3 to 4 years.
He says pre-service, in-service and professsional development of teachers must be considered as a continuum of teacher education.
He says there has been a shift towards a more constructivist approach to learning. He recognises a need to enhance language competence and a need to give space for teachers to become reflective practitioners.
Professor Siddiqui recommends a 2 years post graduation teacher training programme, or 4- 5 years for school leavers (after plus 2).
How many years pre-service training do you think teachers need?
Dr Martin Wedell, Senior Lecturer, University of Leeds presented a session around planning for change in education.
He said that we are better at planning for change than seeing change in practice.
He also said change is unlikely to be identically implemented and that ultimately it is what teachers do in classrooms that determines what changes have taken place.
The neglect of how people actually experience change as distinct from how it might have been intended is at the heart of the spectacular failure of most social and educational change policies.
Transition is a complex process – changing teachers to facilitators – we often think that training will take care of that. But it is also a matter of systemic support – both visible and invisible.
Societal expectations and assessment systems must also change as well as the teachers and their teaching to ensure successful change processes.
Alison Barrett and Duncan Wilson began the second day of the Third Policy Dialogue conference by asking two questions:
What does English language mean to you?
What do you think the English language means to people in your country?
What are your answers?
Three things I heard yesterday.
1. Colombia’s National Bilingual Programme is a 16 – year programme and started 11 years after a new language policy was enacted.
2. China is engaged in a 40-year language programme.
3. The UK Education acts of 1911 and 1918 which liberalised curriculum did not translate into progressive practice in the classroom until the 1960s.
What about India?
Stephen Jenner, Deputy Head Corporate Training, British Council India, poses this question as one of the parallel speakers for the Session ‘Meeting the Recruitment Challenge’.
Stephen stresses the need for a global benchmarking tool and suggests the CEF, or rather ‘CF’ as it is more commonly being referred to.
Stephen summarises the BPO recruiter’s daily challenge:
1. I need people with good English, but what does that mean?
2. What exactly are the communication skills I need for this specific process?
3. What do I do with borderliners?
4. How do I transform new recruits into first class employees?
We would love to hear your ideas, suggestions and answers to these questions! Keep your comments coming in…
I want to draw your attention to Manish Sabharwal’s presentation at the Third Policy Dialogue, Session 3, Building Skills for Employability. Manish is CEO and President of Team Lease.
Manish spoke with such eloquence, wit and at such breakneck speed, that he managed to keep us all on the edge of our seats straight after lunch! His talk is peppered with so many wonderful soundbytes that I urge you to view at it in your own time. Find out what he meant by ‘the ovarian lottery’ and why ’English is like (Microsoft) Windows.’