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Skilling teachers in Indian universities

The skills of a teacher can be classified into three categories, namely, technical, human and enterprising.

The skills of a teacher can be classified into three categories, namely, technical, human and enterprising.   | Photo Credit: M. Govarthan

Developing the transformational skill should become a continuing process

The announcement of the implementation of the salary rates determined by the Seventh Pay Commission for university-level teachers is a welcome step.

However, in the face of exponential growth in technology and falling ranking levels of Indian universities, we need to develop the teacher’s thinking skill that is growing at a linear rate. Gone are the days of world renown attained by universities such as Nalanda and Takshila since we have departed from the transformational role of education and the teacher’s role as ‘enlightened masters’. In order to regulate the technology and boost the rankings, we need our teachers to do exponential thinking. They need the skill to transcend formal learning and teaching methods that simply serve the purpose of worldly existence; in fact, they are now readily available in cyber space.

Realising that traditional training does not promote the acquisition of essential transformational skills, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) recently set up 41 Teaching Learning Centres across the country. A teacher needs to strengthen his or her role by re-assuming the role of a ‘guru’ who could inspire students to transform and enlighten themselves. Inspiration to transform or enlighten connects one to the inner self and it can never lead to undesirable outcomes; but motivation to perform or deliver connects one to the ulterior self and can even lead to undesirable outcomes. It is ethics and values that have the inherent potential to transform the spirit of motivation into inspiration.

The challenge, however, is to find enough teachers and seekers of ethics. Most of us have become dishonest and thus consider honesty/ethics as the stuff of sermons of sadhus, or impractical subjects in the real world. We are stuck in a millennial generation where loyalty is just a tattoo, love is just a quote, and lying is the new truth. We don’t want ‘education of the ethicists’, but ‘tutoring of the opportunists’ who don’t have ‘the vision of truth’, who don’t know the true forms of Justice, Beauty and ‘the good’, and can’t try to mould ‘the world’ accordingly.

In a modern and dynamic educational environment, the job of a teacher has become complex and it requires different types of skills to teach effectively. The skills of a teacher can be classified into three categories, namely, technical, human and enterprising.

Technical skill refers to the ability and knowledge to use the pedagogy, tools and techniques involved in the teaching and research of a specific subject. Ability in programming or software designing and operating a computer is, for instance, a technical skill. There are two things a teacher should understand about transformational technical skills. In the first place, he must know which skill and what level of skill should be applied on a particular student. He should be familiar enough with their potential to ask discerning questions. Secondly, a teacher must understand the role of each event organised and the transformational skill applied, and the inter-relationships between the events and skills.

Human skill consists of the ability to teach effectively with, understand and inspire students both as individuals and as members of a class. Such a skill is required to win the cooperation of students and to build effective study teams. Such skills require a sense of empathetic feeling for students and a capacity to look at things from their point of view. A teacher with human skills is sufficiently sensitive to the needs and motivations of students so that he can judge the possible reaction to and outcome of various courses of action, and can transform them, resolving their conflicts.

Enterprising skill is the ability of a teacher to see the perspective of the entire institution and the inter-relationships among and between its parts. It includes the ability of a teacher to visualise the academic pursuit in a holistic manner and consider a situation in totality. These skills involve understanding abstract and innovative ideas, constructing models and relationships, and anticipating the implications of actions. It is the intellectual ability to coordinate and integrate all the institutional interests and activities. Such skills help the teacher to conceptualise the transformational needs of society, and to analyse forces working in a situation. It includes the competence to understand a problem in all its aspects and to use original thinking in solving the problem.

Teachers across the country require proper training at the appropriate time in their careers. On account of the unique occupational dynamic, together with the constant pressure to address the growing expectations of society and the effectiveness of teaching pedagogy, teachers need to be engaged in continual re-examination of their role. This cannot be achieved unless they incorporate the subjects as varied as applied ethics, human psychology, spirituality, democratic values, peace studies, and organisational behaviour. A well-organised ethics paradigm to study the teacher and teaching is what will make this possible. Unprecedented social, cultural, legal, political, economic and technological changes require a host of new proficiencies and competencies beyond those imparted in our teacher training institutions.

Teachers worldwide are stuck in a constant balancing act between individual liberty and occupational obligations. The Indian teacher is also stuck in tremendous technological, political and sociocultural changes, which are having an impact on performance and lifestyle. It goes without saying that teachers in India need to redefine and adjust their thinking to develop transformational and humane skills by helping bridge the deep-rooted psychological distance between the teacher and the taught.

(Dr. Mishra is an Associate Professor of Commerce, and Director, Centre for Ethics and Values, Ramanujan College, University of Delhi. Email: mishratushar101@yahoo.co.in)

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 10:22:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/skilling-teachers-in-indian-universities/article19897434.ece

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