New Delhi: India is working on replacing state-level exams for aspiring schoolteachers and substituting them with a common centralized examination in a move that is aimed at improving the quality of teaching in the country’s government schools, said two senior human resource development ministry officials close to the development, who did not want to be identified.
The move is a contentious one in a country where both the Union government and the state governments have a say in education, and where government teachers are highly unionized.
The human resource development ministry will hold talks with all stakeholders including the states and the National Council for Teacher Education, the apex body that governs teacher education in the country, later this week, the two officials added.
Candidates will have to appear for the proposed examination after completing their basic training that results in a Bachelor of Education or Diploma in Education qualification.
One of the two officials claimed that while some states had originally opposed the proposal, most have now come around to the Central government’s point of view. “We have made it clear that it will be (a) centralized system but carried out by state governments as it won’t be possible to handle the logistics effectively. We will give them the format, the question bank and the parameters.”
The human resource development ministry’s move comes at a time when India needs at least one million teachers to successfully implement the Right to Education Act that guarantees education to all students in the 6-14 age group. Currently, India has around 220 million students in schools.
The first official added that the larger aim of the Act cannot be achieved without improving the quality of teachers and said that the ministry hopes to notify the change within a few months so as to ensure that the recruitment of teachers is done from the universe of those who have cleared the new exam.
Quality apart, there are other issues to be addressed, said an expert.
“These are important steps to improve quality of teaching, but the bigger issue is what are the steps being taken to reduce teacher absenteeism. The learning level of students is also low in many parts of the country; hence, change in pedagogy style too is a necessity,” said Yamini Aiyer, head of the Accountability Initiative, a part of Centre for Policy Research, which tracks the government education sector.