New Delhi: India on Tuesday restructured its teacher training system, doubling its duration and mandating a six-month internship as part of it, in an effort to improve the quality of teachers and, by extension, education.

The human resource development (HRD) ministry has changed the duration for teachers training courses—Bachelors in Education (B.Ed) and Masters in Education (M.Ed)—from one year to two years, and also scrapped a distance-learning option for M.Ed.

The change is required, said Vrinda Sarup, secretary, school education, at the ministry, because a year isn’t enough to provide teachers with the kind of training inputs they need.

Speaking at a meeting attended by the education ministers of states, Sarup added that the ministry has also made an internship mandatory. Finland, she said, mandates a year’s internship for teachers. In India, she said, a minimum of 20 weeks in a school would make aspiring teachers ready by the time they graduate.

Santosh Panda, chairperson of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), the apex teacher education regulator of India, said the move would improve the quality of teachers.

An official in the HRD ministry said that the changes are the beginning of reforms in the education space and that “the effort in 2015 will be to improve quality of education and streamline several key segments of the sector".

This person didn’t want to be identified.

“This country is all about possibilities and education is key to achieve this," HRD minister Smriti Irani said while addressing the state education ministers.

The changes in teacher training are part of India’s efforts to improve the quality of its education.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2013, the quality of learning—as measured by reading, writing, and arithmetic—has either shown no improvement or worsened over the last nine years. The proportion of all children in Class 5 who can read a Class 2 level text has declined by almost 15 percentage points since 2005. Similarly, the portion of students in Class 8 who can do divisions has declined by almost 23 percentage points during the same period.

Similarly, in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), India was ranked almost at the bottom in learning outcome among 74 countries.

According to Sarup, the ministry will also soon launch four-year integrated courses—BA and B.Ed or BSc and B.Ed—at the undergraduate level. And multi-disciplinary universities will be allowed to offer such courses, she said (currently, only stand-alone institutes can offer teacher training courses), a move that could increase the country’s teacher training capacity from 1.3 million to 1.8 million.

Other changes include a three-year part-time teacher training course for untrained teachers, and specialization in teacher training programmes.

At the meeting, states supported the HRD ministry’s move to introduce a credit framework for skills and the choice-based credit system in colleges and government universities. Irani announced this during the India Economic Summit in November 2014.

While the first one will make it easier for students and working professionals to switch between education and jobs, the second one will allow students to opt for diverse courses at the same time.

Both will be in place by summer when the next academic year begins.

Although the states welcomed the changes, they pointed to some obvious difficulties.

Prem Prakash Pandey, technical education minister of Chhattisgarh, said, “It’s fine to go for such initiatives but there’s is an issue of finance and manpower."

G. Jagadish Reddy, education minister of Telangana, said such moves would require “institutional structures for effective planning and implementing, and monitoring at state, university and institution level".

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