Dedicating an exhaustive section related to teacher education, recruitment, and skilling, the widely discussed National Education Policy 2020 was clear with its vision that there must be importance attached to the quality of teacher training and its impact on learning outcomes for students. While focused largely on Primary, Middle, and High School years, the vision document remained silent in most parts for early years or Foundational years in terms of teacher qualifications and subsequent in-service training. Assuming that the different States are now creating standard operating practices with this Central direction will adopt similar guidelines for the Foundational years (Nursery up to Grade 2), the overall principle does remain that to create thinkers of tomorrow who will be able to problem-solve with their learning foundation through K-12. And this will depend to a large extent on the quality of teachers, and the need to upgrade with a rapidly evolving world.
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that to remain ahead of the curve, it is important to embrace new ideas, strategies, tools and have the necessary skill sets to cope with a generation that is blessed and is exposed to so much. During this period, many in the Foundational years had to ‘react’ to a virtual world, and while educational circles have discussed this for many decades – (remember VUCA world conferences?), very few were able to adapt with ease. While the effort needs to be celebrated and acknowledged, managements must consider that the ‘output’ especially in the most critical periods of development for a child will require a conscious effort of teacher education imparted by certified and recognised training academies and thereafter, more effort to upskill teachers year on year with ‘best in class’ teaching-learning practices.
Change is a part of our world, and as educators nurturing younger children that are ever-evolving and implementing new ideas to make learning more personalised and customised is not just a ‘new normal’, it is essential and this will create more success stories as children graduate to the Preparatory and Middle School Years.
Global systems, research, proposed pedagogies, and approaches to teaching must find their way in our classrooms with the speed at which it is being churned out. Child-centric and differentiated instruction require constant upgrades and as the world has witnessed it due to Covid19, it is the mindset and being a risk-taker that differentiates schools in terms of their demand and faith parents have, as they seek enrolments.
An educator continues to be a life-long learner and for me personally, perhaps this need to ‘upgrade’ and upskill may finally lead to more research emerging from our country simply because demographically we have the diversity, and therefore, rich case studies will emerge. Perhaps in all of this lies the next Gijubhai Badheka who improvised with Maria Montessori’s proposition, simply because he had to adapt it to the context of what was available resource-wise in the school that he taught, and also keeping in mind the profile of the children, their exposure, their culture and their innate.
As we often say, no two children are the same, and we must honour this uniqueness, educators will need support to reach out through different skilling programs that give them a wide range of tools to work with. The future will be dominated by revisits to the drawing board and this can only happen if there is an importance attached to research and skilling.
It will not simply be the efforts of managements, but every educator taking an initiative to keep learning (and perhaps ‘un-learning’ in some cases) for the sake of the children in those virtual or physical classrooms.
Blending learning, virtual assessments, bridging programs, STEAM, PBL can no longer be ‘buzzwords’ they will need to be led by trained and experienced facilitators who are able to ‘walk- the – talk’ with the teachers who they upskill simply because of the years of experience of executing it themselves.
The good news is that there are academies and training institutes that break-away from defining theories to a focus on implementation and execution, which means as educators we find ourselves in a collaborative space and that will enable us to take the learning outcomes to the true 21st century skills we speak about. Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Creativity define that the world needs tomorrow and that ‘world’ is in those Foundational Years classrooms, so let’s attach a huge price tag to skilling throughout the year for teachers and year on year. Advantages are many, and as the great nations of the world will bear evidence – economies that have done well are those that supported quality education, and one can only support this by ensuring that teachers responsible for the children have access to quality training programs.