It was the bounden duty of the teachers and gurus who were entrusted with the task of teaching an individual to live a harmonious life within the society and develop skills which would enable him to eke out a living for himself. These were the teachers of the past. There weren’t any formal trainings to become a teacher. The test of his ability was seen in his skill of teaching, he had to explain and expand, illustrate and interpret themes and knowledge with the help of his own experiences. This realistic approach to teaching which combined theoretical base and Practical Examination proved extremely effective.
Teachers have always been the catalyst in a student’s life by igniting the young minds the curiosity and discovery, providing opportunities to become critical thinkers. Teachers were important then and teachers are important now. It is well researched across the world that it is the teacher that makes all the difference and impacts the student learning outcome.
Education has come a long way. From Education 1.0 which, was based on centuries old model of rote learning and memorization to its current avatar Education 4.0 which, is based on empowering education through innovation and that can simply happen by nurturing creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This new form of education is the outcome of many revolutionary changes that the world witnessed over the last 2 decades which led to the creation of a new world order which will require our youth to be empowered with global competencies and skills that will enable them economically socially and intellectually align with the global standards and remain relevant. This takes us to reflect on our pedagogical standards. Teacher education which is the most critical component of the teaching learning process became the most contested terrain globally as to what constitutes adequate teacher preparation program in terms of the standards, content and nature of teacher education. The moot question is – Are our teaching learning approaches geared to preparing youth who will adopt and adapt to this new world order. And more importantly whether the teachers are equipped to impart the much talked about Education 4.0.
Teachers have one of the most demanding vocations in the world and in order to fulfil their important roles with excellence, they need training, motivation as well as regular mental, emotional and spiritual rejuvenation. The educational systems world over recognise the importance of the teacher is often evident by the resources spent on teacher capacity building. However, the issues often have been about building an effective model and mechanism that would develop and enhance the teachers’ capacity and provide them avenues for professional development. Research has proved beyond doubt that there exist vast lacunae in in-service teacher education and professional development. The current training approach is fragmented, often leading to a situation that teachers repeatedly attend the same training programme year after year. Consequently, training often does not lead to capacity enhancement or content enrichment, or result in enhancing motivation levels of teachers to bring about changes in classroom practices
In the midst of these worldwide changes comes the national Education Policy 2020, which was recently released came with a gush of fresh air is a positive re imagination of India’s existing education system as it is extremely well articulated and futuristic. It recognises “Teachers as Torchbearers of Change” and emphasises the criticality of teacher education hailing the legacy of “Acharya Devo Bhava”. The policy comes at a time when revolutionary changes are taking place in the world and further, we witness that the 21st century has created newer demands across the world and which require certain key skills to survive - communication, collaboration, critical thinking problem solving, data analysis etc. But to create students equipped with 21st century skills we need educators who have the required competencies to handle the generation Z millennials and impart the new age education of creating a holistic and multidisciplinary curriculum. The policy talks about creating performance standards for teachers clearly spelling out the role of teacher at different levels of expertise /stage and competencies required for that stage.
A competency-based teacher education must be designed which includes knowledge, skill and values which a teacher must demonstrate to truly qualify to her role of an educator. The 21st -century teacher needs to know how to provide technologically supported learning opportunities for students and know how technology can support student learning. Hence pedagogical innovation improves the teaching process and results. The introduction of more progressive methods, the use of active teaching forms, and new training technologies are seen as regular spheres of innovation which needs to be incorporated by every educator if they want to create meaningful learning experiences.
Teachers are expected to transform static learning spaces into active learning hubs resorting to reflective, integrative, flipped, blended, hybrid teaching. Hence to equip them with 21st century attitudes, mindsets and techniques for an effective pedagogical transaction to suit the 21st century learner becomes imperative.
Ideally a 21st century educator must demonstrate the following competencies to exhibit a wholesome teaching learning experience.
Effective classroom management aiming to maximize efficiency by employing a range of strategies to promote positive relations and meaningful learning.
Effective teaching practices representing differing viewpoints, theories, “ways of knowing” and methods of inquiry in the teaching of subject matter concepts. Promoting critical thinking, problem solving.
Effective assessment, incorporating formal tests; responses to quizzes; evaluation of classroom assignments, student performances and projects, and standardized achievement tests to understand what students have learned.
Effective technology skills, knowing when and how and how much to use current educational technology, as well as the most appropriate type and level of technology to maximize student learning.
The first step would be to initiate a paradigm shift in the usage of the terminology from a teacher to an educator/ facilitator/ mentor. It’s time for teachers to come out of their comfort zone and take on themselves the responsibility of their own professional development. Every teacher must aspire to become their newer and higher versions by reimagining and reinventing themselves by reflecting and taking upon themselves the undertaking skill-based training and thus always remain relevant to the education system.