Model teacher training institutions should be established to help institutions in the field, according to Krishna Kumar, former director of the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT).

He was speaking at the inauguration of a two-day national seminar on ‘Empowering teacher preparation' organised by the Stella Matutina College of Education (SMCE) here on Tuesday.

Speaking about the pressures associated with the extreme competitiveness prevalent in the current system, Prof. Kumar said that a relaxed learning environment that allows children's latent potential to blossom gradually was absent.

Someone like Albert Einstein, who is said to have learning disability as a child, would have been declared unfit for admissions in the contemporary school education system. “Even children of 3 to 4 years of age are being interviewed for school admissions today… perhaps we are losing Einsteins in thousands because we do not allow the child's potential and interests to blossom,” he said.

Emphasising the need for giving children more agency in the learning process, Prof. Kumar said it was important that teachers be given more agency to start with. Promoting a reading culture in teacher education would pave the way for more agency for the teacher, which might eventually translate to more agency for the learner. “Teaching is a relational activity. However, we do not seem to emphasise the need for teachers to relate to all the children in class, as much as we emphasise their knowledge of the subjects,” he added.

Drawing attention to the “severe limitations” of the teacher education system, where the curriculum still drew heavily on the behaviourist approach to learning, he said the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for Teacher Education, released recently, made it mandatory for all teacher education programmes to be brought within the purview of the university system.

He urged teacher-trainees and teacher training institutions to analyse and reflect on the system, particularly in the light of the Right To Education [RTE] Act and the NCF.

“As teacher educators and trainers, we must commit ourselves to a long-term struggle to make this [the RTE] a social reality,” as even today, there were certain “formidable cultural forces” that denied certain sections of students access to good education.

T. Padmanaban, Vice-Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Teachers Education University, said education was not a welfare activity, but regarded an investment for the present and future. Teachers have to develop subject expertise, character and emotional intelligence, he added.

Sr. Philomena Pushpa Mary, principal, SMCE and J. Nirmala of SMCE, coordinator of the conference, spoke.