Usha Kiran, a government school teacher at Baba Ramdev Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, New Delhi received the Best Teacher Award at the state level last year. Her students find her very approachable she's not afraid to address issues such as peer pressure or family situations, often ignored by others but which can easily hamper effective study habits. 'You can change your destiny by making the most of an education it gives you choices and options in life, and a sense of control over your future, 'Kiran constantly tells her students.
The Central Institute of Education (CIE) in University of Delhi, North Campus has always found a large number of takers for its BEd programmes, except when there was a decline in 2000. But according to Bharati Baveja, Head of Department of CIE, it's picking up again. So, what does it take to be a good teacher? And what are the rewards? We explore the teaching profession in today's times.
Do you possess these qualities? Berit Jorgensen, a teacher for the past 10 years in Norway, sums up her profession rather well. 'A teacher is a like a potato, which is fried, boiled, baked, stewed etc. A multi-tasker, it's not enough to know your stuff you also need to prepare different ways of getting it across and making it interesting,' she shares.
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Often, people choose to become teachers without any insight into the challenges involved and the aptitude needed for the job. The two top qualities seem to be: patience and enthusiasm. Also, striking the right balance between the two, always. Additionally, you should have a desire for learning, you must be fair, possess good organisational skills and be observant.
And beware: children ask a lot of questions in the classroom, and sometimes you may not know the answers! Besides, interactivity also makes learning more fun, and engaging.
Choose your level of teaching Formal training is a must in this field, and your qualification will decide the level of teaching. And it's important to choose the latter, wisely. For instance, if you do not have patience with young children, then pre-primary and primary education is probably not the best choice for you. After completion, you can work in a government, public or private school.
Typically, starting salaries at the government level are higher than in public schools. Private schools may offer salaries as high as Rs. 40,000 per month based on experience and qualifications.
Shipra Ghosh Special needs teacher, Step By Step, New Delhi Shipra instantly strikes you as bright and chirpy, and these qualities seem infectious. When I entered her classroom, my companion received a spontaneous hug from a child. Glancing around, I noticed that all the kids were busy, and it looked like a fun day at school. With over ten years of experience as a special needs teacher, Ghosh asserts that children with special needs are just like other children, the difference being in the manner in which they communicate. To demonstrate this, she took my hands in hers, asked me to close my eyes and demonstrated how the visually impaired communicate three simple words, 'I love you.' Her insight into the world of special needs finds expression, equally, for hearing impaired and autistic children. Many parents thank Ghosh, for the difference she has made in the lives of their children and it's not surprising. Ghosh's strategy as a teacher is to give each student personalised attention, once she understands their specific needs. 'If it's not working then something is wrong. I change my strategy till it starts working,' she observes.
Pre-primary: This level comprises play school, nursery and kindergarten, and children between two-and-a-half to three years of age. You need to be a graduate, along with a nursery training certificate, diploma or degree. Schools usually prefer teachers trained under the Montessori or kindergarten pattern. The salary varies, depending on the type of school. Pooja Kalra left a corporate career to teach at Step By Step, a play school in New Delhi. The pros: she has fun in the classroom and also gets more time to spend with her own children.
Primary: This level comprises Class 1 to 5, and children from 5 to 9 years of age. Usually, you teach all subjects, and you must be a graduate or postgraduate, with a diploma or degree in teaching/education. You would belong to the Primary Teacher scale (PRT) and be paid roughly Rs. 17,000 per month, at public schools. Jorgensen, who recently went back to school to pursue a Master's in Multicultural and International Education at Oslo University College, says that teaching at this level is 'exciting, demanding, exhausting, not appreciated, and is not for everyone. If you like it, it can be great.'
Middle: This level comprises class 6 to 8. From this level onwards, teachers become responsible for a specific subject. A BEd degree is a typical requirement and being a graduate, you will be placed in the Trained Graduate Teachers scale earning a salary of Rs. 21,000 per month at a public school.
High school/Senior Secondary: High school comprises class 9 to 10 and senior secondary refers to class 11 to 12. At this level, teachers usually need to have a Master's degree, and a BEd, which places you in the Trained Post Graduate Teachers (PGT) scale, thus earning an average salary of Rs. 23,000 per month at a public school. Some subjects such as computer science do not require a BEd, due to lack of trained teachers. Anu Bhatia, who teaches class 11 and 12 students, finds it challenging as major generational and attitudinal change exists in this age group, making it an ongoing process to earn the respect of your students.
Additional perks Besides a salary, teachers receive several benefits such as accommodation at nominal rates in residential schools, subsidised fees for their children, a pension and gratuity. They also get regular paid vacations when schools are closed. Some schools conduct workshops and training during vacations, to help their teachers upgrade their skills.
Salaries may have remained modest as compared to other professions but the scenario is changing. The private education market in India was estimated to be worth $40 billion in 2008, and is expected to increase to $68 billion by the year 2012, opening further opportunities in the profession.
Subject specialists From middle school upwards, you could become a subject specialist in areas like maths, science, social science, economics, computer science etc. The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) prescribes the manner in which subjects are taught in the classroom, and is responsible for updating the teaching methodology to keep pace with the growing demands of the system.
A special vocation You can also train to teach children with special needs, and this requires a different attitude, aptitude and qualification. This is because though it can be rewarding, it can also be emotionally, physically and psychologically draining. It's a part of the territory. You could opt for a certificate course or diploma course, after class 12 or graduation. You could also specialise in a specific area such as hyperactivity or learning difficulties. A BEd is not essential. You can opt for a PG Diploma in Special Education from Action for Ability, Development and Inclusion, formerly known as Spastic Society, in Delhi.
You can join a special school or opt for integrated schools that have a special needs division. Many children with special needs attend integrated schools, also referred to as 'mainstreaming' or 'inclusive education.'
G Gautama Director, Chennai Education Centre, The School-Chennai, Krishnamurti Foundation, India
Teaching in schools in the 21st century is meant only for the bravest of the brave! Schools with a low student-teacher ratio, and therefore those that are able to pay greater attention to students, may run the risk of being thought of as 'easy' schools. So the challenge of creating and sustaining a 'humane' atmosphere, falls squarely on teachers. Only when the teachers are clear about their role is it possible to create a friendly, purposeful atmosphere. And this role is being radically redefined.
The educator will not only have to create a learning environment for the young, but also work for the emergence of lifelong learners. He/she will have to model the characteristics of a lifelong learner, and not just be a specialist teacher.
Humane schools are usually quite small and have a culture of teacher participation in the running of schools. This places the additional requirement of being part of a 'thinking', 'sensing' team. Learning the art of working together with other bright colleagues, innovating individually and collectively is another exciting area.
Thus in a humane, so-called alternative school, extraordinary opportunities await someone who wishes to learn the art of being a teacher. However, this generally requires being open to learning and doing many different roles, often simultaneously. School salaries are going up dramatically and promise to go up even further in the future. But if you are brave, daring and in search of understanding and growth, as a human being, there are few better options.
Alternative schools Also referred to as 'progressive' or 'humane' schools, this kind of schooling provides children and teachers with a unique experience, usually based on a philosophy, such as that of J Krishnamurti or Sri Aurobindo. The Rishi Valley School is considered to be one of the best alternative schools in India. One space to find training is in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi for a BEd, giving you the opportunity to also teach at Mirambika Free Progress School, based in the vicinity.
Choosing the right institute Almost all universities in India offer a Bachelor's and Master's degree in education, as well as diploma courses in teaching at primary level. Some well known institutes: Central Institute of Education, Jamia Millia Islamia, SNDT Women's University, Sophia Polytechnic, University of Calcutta and University of Chennai.
Lady Irwin College and MS University in Baroda offer child development as a subject in its Home Science course. Many employed teachers opt for correspondence courses in order to upgrade their qualifications. The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi offers an integrated four-year BA-BEd/BSc-BEd programme at its regional centres in Ajmer, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Mysore and Shillong.
Make sure you choose an institute with clear linkages between the Department of Education, NCERT and State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) along with other educational institutions of central and Delhi Administration. SCERT takes care of pre-service and in-service training at elementary, secondary and advanced levels to equip teachers in this profession. Educational research and training of teachers is given a lot of importance now, and teacher learning materials are being constantly updated.
Education in India
The Indian school education system is largely governed by various bodies:
State government boards
Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE)
National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)
International schools are affiliated to the International Baccalaureate Programme and/or the Cambridge International examinations
Islamic Madrasa school boards are controlled by the local state government, autonomous or affiliated to the Darul Ulom Deoband
The Central Board of Education has steadily increased its school count from 309 schools in 1962 to 8,979 schools in March 2007 (includes 141 schools in 21 countries). Regional offices have also been set up for better functioning. The NCERT is responsible for creating CBSE books, dealing with school education-related curriculum. Teachers are also invited to create specific chapters for different classes.
Rural education in focus As early as the 1950s, rural education was brought under Community Development Blocks that controlled education in up to 100 villages. Block Development Officers would cover an area of 150 square miles, covering a population of almost 70,000. The central government, as part of the tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007) from the total education budget of Rs. 438,250 million allocated 65.6% (Rs. 287,500 million) on elementary education and 9.9% (Rs. 43,250 million) on secondary education.
The District Primary Education Programme was initiated in 1994, through which 160,000 schools including 84,000 alternative schools were opened and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the 'education for all' movement, was launched.
Based in Rajasthan, the Vidya Bhawan Society and Digantar have built up a reputation for being education resource organisations working extensively in terms of elementary education pedagogy, curriculum and material development. Their aim is to improve the quality of mainstream elementary education through proper training, capacity building and reform initiatives undertaken at the level of government and non-governmental institutions, providing rural areas with better education.
Where should I be? Elementary education finds a large population of teachers in India. However, out rates indicate that only seven out of 100 children that enrol in class one finish high school. Efforts on training teachers and programmes being offered at the national level do not seem to be reflecting in the number of students finishing their schooling. Qualified teachers need to enter the field, a viable profession to make an overall difference in the field of education.
When planning your career, choose the right school level, type of school and subjects, carefully. And remember, a student never forgets a good teacher because his or her influence can change a pupil's life, forever.
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