Hon’ble Minister of Human Resource Development, Government of India, Mr Kapil Sibal,
Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India, Mr E. Ahmed,
Head of Delegation of the European Union to India, His Excellency Ambassador Joao Cravinho,
Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, Mrs Anshu Vaish,
Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, Mr Ashok Thakur,
Vice-Chancellor, National University of Educational Planning and Administration, Professor R. Govinda,
Director and UNESCO Representative, Mr Shigeru Aoyagi,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I consider it an honour to participate in this forth International Policy Dialogue Forum: Teacher Challenges for EFA in India, and I would like to express my appreciation and thanks for being given the opportunity to share my experience in the field of the right to education in relation to the theme of the Forum. This Policy Dialogue is most opportune in the context of permanent challenges of responding to quality imperatives, and may I congratulate Government of India for taking in cooperation with UNESCO this important initiative.
The persistent gap between commitments and reality in advancing the right to quality basic education for all is well known. Dearth of qualified and trained teachers is an impediment in moving EFA agenda forward as well as in accelerating progress in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2 and 3 on education. Equality in education will remain eclipsed so long as there is marginalization and exclusion. So will the quality in education. Equality and quality should indeed go hand in hand.
Shortage of qualified teachers which has assumed alarming proportions makes it incumbent upon public authorities to take bold measures. Innovative programmes for revamping teacher education and development, such as in case of India are significant in the context of the work of the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA which is a drive towards promoting teaching profession and improving teacher policies. The Policy Dialogue is also highly relevant with respect to the agenda emanating from for the Pan-African Conference on Teacher Development (PACTED) since 2011.
The challenges are daunting not only to ensure that qualified teachers are deployed but also to devise novel modalities of teacher training in tandem with reforms in the world of education. In several countries, laws and policies which encompass teaching profession are being modernized. This process deserves to be encouraged. This can be the bedrock for building a well-qualified, motivated and well looked after teaching force which is sine qua non for the realization of the right to quality education for all. Policies should ensure that teaching profession attracts high caliber graduates. They should also make for teachers’ professional development, and seek to improve teacher performance, their working conditions and career prospects.
Today, the teaching profession is not attractive enough – it is often least sought after – and does not enjoy social esteem commensurate with the noble cause which it should serve. Valorizing teaching profession with due public regard to it as a form of public service is, therefore, of utmost importance. Phenomenon of hiring teachers on a fixed term contractual basis makes teaching profession precarious and saps teachers’ morale, motivation and commitment. Teaching profession should also be provided necessary incentives to be attractive. Better emoluments and incentives can make the profession preferred and even teachers’ readiness to accept deployment in rural, remote and marginalized areas.
National level normative framework can be firm basis for such policy and programmatic initiatives. UNESCO-ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) provides foundation for this. It lays down a comprehensive normative framework on teaching profession. Recognizing the essential role of teachers in educational advancement, the Recommendation “applies to all teachers in both private and public schools.” (article 10). It can provide guidance on a diverse range of matters such as teachers’ status, their role and responsibilities, career advancement, security of tenure, and conditions of service etc.
It must be ensured that norms and standards for teaching profession and quality education are common throughout a country, and all schools, whether public and private, function in conformity with international and national norms and standards. Moreover, a comprehensive and sound regulatory framework for controlling private schools is of utmost importance in face of exploding demands for education, resulting in an exponential growth of such schools.
Allow me to underline the importance of quality imperatives and teacher challenges which have figured in the work of the United Nations human rights treaty bodies. In their dialogue with State parties, these treaty bodies concretized the state obligations and political commitments to ensure quality of education. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) have expressed concern about under-resourcing of schools, class sizes and teacher/pupil ratios, and level of untrained teachers and their impact on quality of education received. In terms of monitoring the teaching and learning process, the CRC noted narrow content of education provided within schools and lack of supervision of their curricula.
We must constantly remind ourselves of international norms applicable to teaching profession within the framework for the right to education as an internationally recognized right. In line with the UNESCO-ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers and the work of the United Nations human rights treaty bodies, mentioned above, countries should ensure conformity with ‘minimum standards’ in education. In this respect, let me mention the importance of evolving norms and standards on quality education in India in the process of implementation of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009). One of basic norms is that of teacher-student ratio. Reducing very large class sizes helps teachers to perform better and pupils to learn more. Similarly, deploying only well qualified and trained teachers in schools as a matter of norm is essential, if the EFA agenda has to accomplish its empowering role and students’ learning achievements enhanced.
Some countries have framed a code of conduct or guidelines for teachers. Such instruments are useful in handling matters such as prohibition of corporal punishment, ban on private tuition and disciplinary action in cases of teacher absenteeism etc. In this respect, the guidelines on elimination of corporal punishment in schools developed in India by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights provide a good example.
Quality education hinges upon giving teachers necessary wherewithal to impart knowledge and skills which in turn depends upon their pedagogical capacities and the dynamics of the learning process. Teacher training should, therefore, place emphasis on pedagogic skills and subject mastery. Curriculum reforms and in-service teacher training have become imperative in face of many demands placed on the teaching profession in today’s globalized world, where knowledge and skills and use of ICT’s are indispensable assets. Besides, the quality of education also requires new pedagogical approaches which are child-friendly, inspiring and motivating. Teachers should be able to develop in children love for learning. They should be able to kindle in children and adults critical thinking, as well as nurture in them ethical and moral values. Improving quality of teaching and learning at the basic education levels necessitates a child-friendly educational system in which rights-based approach is all pervasive. This requires a paradigm shift. Teachers are mainstay of the four pillars of education - learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be - which are of perennial importance, in terms of conceptual insights into what constitutes quality education. In order to nurture quality education, school environment must reflect the freedom and the spirit of respect for human rights and of mutual understanding. Teacher evaluation model which assesses pedagogical performance of teachers and their contribution to fulfilling the school’s mission should focus on empowerment through quality education..
I have no doubt that this Policy Dialogue will result in a comprehensive policy response to teacher challenges, and the deliberations will sharpen the focus on fostering normative action at national level, so much needed to make the right to quality education a reality for all – a right which is essential for the exercise of all other human rights, and which must be kept in forefront in the concerns and actions of the global partnership so that children, adults and youth can aspire for a promising future.