Wherever they exist, teacher-training interventions have traditionally aimed at imparting teaching-related skills and techniques to teachers with the specific purpose of helping students achieve better academic results. Teacher in-service training paradigm has thus been defined by very narrow parameters. A single minded approach favoring academic excellence has brought in its wake major problems. Serious and damaging spin-offs to this overemphasis on marks and grades abound – a content-based approach to learning with inadequate attention to more effective modes of delivery; inadequacies in generation, dissemination and processing of knowledge as students are forced to engage in temporary retention of information; a learning environment characterized by emphasis on enforced teaching instead of spontaneous and willful learning; a predominantly teacher-centric teaching and learning environment as opposed to what should have been a truly student-centric one; an over-simplified process of performance assessment without adequately capturing the true worth and potential of students and insufficient acknowledgement of effort that they put in; an all-round lack of tolerance for mistakes resulting in frustrations and self-doubt; teachers are forced to spend more time over mundane chores leaving them with little time to engage with their students intellectually and emotionally, trying to discover their talents and potentialities and stimulating their development. These and many other serious problems continue to afflict our education system as a vicious circle is created involving two major protagonists of contemporary school education system – parents, with often unrealistic expectations, and schools, which are judged to the extend in which they are able to fulfill those expectations. The result is that there is very little thought devoted to how all this is affecting children. Problems, therefore, continue to persist and wreck havoc with our younger generation.
Perhaps one of our most serious problems is that we have allowed our education system to become too competitive! Competition reigns supreme in schools where students are forced to compete against one another as opposed to their natural instincts and tendency to cooperate as spiritual, moral and social beings. Too much competition impairs the ability of students to perform to the best of their capacities as they soon realize that they just cannot keep up with the ones with whom they are being compared. At another level, too much competition begins to adversely affect the moral values of children as their concepts and attitudes take shape around the central principle of ‘success at all cost’. Consequently, the process of education that should provide us with the appropriate skills, tools and attitudes for harmonious coexistence and cooperation is doing just the opposite: training people to compete with one another!
So, what is to be done? The first step is to acknowledge that we have some very serious problems. We can no longer be happy with just helping students produce excellent academic results at the cost of everything else. Second, we must agree that it is up to the teachers to be able to address and resolve these problems to the best of their abilities. We can forever blame the experts, our national policies, curricula, school examination boards, school administrators and so on, but the fact remains that it is the teacher who can make a real difference.
It is in the backdrop of this grievous situation only partially described here that the real value of effective teacher-training approaches is realized. The programs described here have been developed to create greater awareness among teachers of key principles that will help them become more student-centric. Carefully designed training packages that incorporate participative methods of learning and group activities help teachers assimilate key concepts, principles, techniques, skills and attitudes which they can apply in their classrooms with ease. Experience has shown that the best teachers are those that are not only proficient in teaching the subjects assigned to them, but who also bond and engage with their students and help them develop their potentialities. It is these latter aspects of a successful teacher that are, alas, often lost sight of in the quest for better grades, and which are the primary focus of the trainings offered here.
It is my firm conviction that these interventions will help teachers affect appropriate incremental changes within the teaching and learning process that goes on in their classrooms.