The failure of the vast majority of candidates in the Central Teacher Eligibility Test is convincing proof that the system of teacher education is in urgent need of repair. In this case, trainees with a B. Ed degree could not pass the examination designed to test their fitness for appointment as teachers in Central government schools, and some Central Board of Secondary Education institutions. The overall system of teacher training in the country has been found wanting for decades and many recommendations have been made by expert panels for improvements. A good critique of what ails the various B. Ed programmes, as well as diplomas in education is to be found in the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education. Demand for greater numbers of teachers has led to massive quantitative expansion of the number of institutions and courses at various levels in recent years, but without the necessary emphasis on infrastructure, faculty qualification and learning resources. A key point the Framework makes is that state provisioning of elementary education is marked by an attitude of resignation towards the existing system of pre-service and in-service training, which leaves little inspiration for the practitioners to improve.

The gamut of issues surrounding teacher education needs a fresh look. The imperative to raise the entry-level qualification for training of teachers from Plus Two, and make it a well-rounded degree programme has been underscored by the NCFTE. It would be worthwhile to invest in a four-year degree programme after senior secondary, or a two-year programme after acquiring a Bachelor’s degree. The J.S. Verma Commission appointed by the Supreme Court has also highlighted the importance of making teacher education a part of the higher education system to introduce the necessary rigour and exposure to various integral disciplines. It is the poor preparation in both the disciplinary and pedagogical domains that produces trainees who are found wanting. Making it compulsory to have a dedicated school attached to a pre-service teacher education institution, as the Verma panel suggests, could be one way to ensure that graduates acquire the necessary competence and skills. Such a system would naturally be far superior to distance learning courses. The poor performance of teacher-trainees in recruitment examinations is a clear indicator of the failed assembly-line system of training that exists today. It is also important to note that 90 per cent of the pre-service teacher education courses are in the non-government sector and the state needs to play a more active role in improving institutional capacity especially in the East and Northeast.

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