Teachers need to be taught too...

One of the most important resources in any educational institution is a team of competent and well–performing teachers. It is imperative that they are equipped with in-depth knowledge and pedagogical skills in order to bring in innovation in the education system. Therefore, teachers’ professional training plays an important role and must be a priority area for any society. 

English teachers in government primary schools are not specialised in the subject and have little formal training. To address the issue, intensive professional training programmes are being conducted in the State with the following objectives:  

To help the teachers prepare a comprehensive strategy for teaching English at the primary school level.

To enable them to transact curriculum through a learner-centred, participatory approach to ensure quality teaching. 

 To improve teachers’ competence in understanding and teaching the language with the help of textbooks (for classes I to VIII).

To encourage them to involve themselves in skill development and continuous learning.

Recently, an online survey was conducted to assess the impact of English training for primary school teachers with the following questions as the premise.

To what extent did the professional learning have an impact on their classroom teaching? What were the changes observed in the classroom as a result of the learning? Over 1,000 teachers took part in the survey which had 20 questions. About 86% of teachers who participated in this survey were from rural areas. Majority of them taught the sixth and eighth grade. Nearly 68% of teachers stated that the month-long training has helped them in teaching English better and with confidence. A majority said that the students had shown an increased interest in learning than before, as the teachers applied various interactive methods of teaching the language.

 It was observed that the teachers had developed fluency in the language after the sessions and tried to use more English in their classrooms. However, a few teachers said that ‘‘Children definitely needed the mother tongue to grasp the meanings of abstract terms.’’ So, even after the training, they used the mother tongue to explain various concepts. 

A majority of teachers now use additional material to supplement textbooks. They make use of charts, flashcards, pictures, dictionaries, newspapers, storybooks, etc, for improving the language skills of the students and making the subject interesting. 

On the job challenges

The teachers cited a lack of resources as the constraint to use ICT(information and technology) tools in the classroom. At the most, they are able to use mobile phones to show videos and play rhymes and songs. As for the learning among students, the teachers mention that most of the students in upper primary use dictionaries, read aloud with clear pronunciation and talk on simple topics in English.

However, only a few students have comprehensive skills, they are able to read small passages and answer the questions given. And very few students can use familiar words, frame their own sentences, and write short paragraphs.

This qualitative improvement in student learning is the litmus test to measure the real impact of teachers’ professional learning. Teachers need to set realistic targets and strive to uplift the disadvantaged learners. Their professional development is necessary to ensure better learning and job satisfaction. In-service training is one of the means of achieving the same. Such programmes help in bridging the gap between the pre-service curricula and classroom reality.

Pre-service training courses alone may not fully prepare teachers to face the classroom challenges. There are plenty of issues like irregular attendance among students, isolated working environment in case of rural areas, lack of support from parents, and very little time and material to design activities.

One of the ways of helping the teachers is by providing them with opportunities for ‘learning on the job’. In-service training should enable them to share good practices. It must promote learning and help teachers develop pedagogical and linguistic competence.

Providing training alone may not be helpful. Therefore, we must also develop strong mechanisms to examine the extent to which teachers’ professional learning has impacted the classrooms.

(The author is a faculty at Regional Institute of English, South India, Bengaluru)

 

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Teachers need to be taught too...

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