TESS-India: A Composite Strategy to Enhance Quality Education in India
by Dr. Simanchalla Ranjit, State Monitoring and Evaluation Officer-Odisha.
[Teacher Education through School base Support (TESS) is one of the felt need projects in a welfare state like India. It has all the potentialities to make teachers and students of the schools, especially government managed schools, to have a quality of teaching-learning practices on par with the private schools. It is a composite approach as well as strategy that has ability to address the academic issues of quality school education in India like, enhancing content knowledge of a teacher, abilities of their classroom transactions and ensuring a conducive school environment of teaching-learning practices by a Head Teacher. Hence, it could be opined that the TESS-India OER possess direct budding effects on promoting the quality of school education that could be strategically channelised through existing government wings and disseminated extensively by educational institutions. As a result of which the teacher fraternity in India, especially government teacher educators, elementary and secondary school teachers, will have virtually an opportunity to self-learn and enjoy easy accessibility to educational resources for enhancing their quality teaching-learning practices in the schools of India.]
In the recently concluded state level TESS-India OER dissemination workshop for teacher educators of 30 districts of Odisha, Dr. Sipra Nayak, District Education Officer (DEO) of Focus District, Dhenkanal, Odisha gave her testimony that TESS-India OER has reduced the distance between teacher and students in the schools under the project. In other words she explained during her inaugural address that she found a gradual extinction of barriers between the teachers and students. Prior to TESS-India programme, the barriers were so thick that always remained as a hurdle in the effective classroom transactions and interactions. The Officer while expressing her content with TESS-India programme, jubilantly shared with the teacher educators about how the teachers and students under the TESS-India focus district programme attended in the Cub/Bulbuls [Indian national integration programme for children (Cub for boys and Bulbuls for girls) in primary school] Programme were found to be more actively participative in all the activities of the camp organized from 13 to 15 February 2016 in the district of Dhenkanal, Odisha. They were easily identified through their behavior and the professional approaches of those teachers were clearly visible, the Officer shared.
Interesting to find that some teachers and students, in the focus district programme, have now become so focused in their learning activities that their learning gaps are assessed to be considerably getting lower. The “class is ready for learning” could be clearly visible by any visitors to the schools. It is learnt from at least 20 teachers out of 100 teachers that the visitors’ positive feedback and comment and importantly paying attention to their professional efforts makes them feel proud of being in the teaching profession. This gives them an impetus to remain more committed to the profession and in-builds interests in them to spend more time for self-learning, self-preparation and conducting effective classroom transactions. TESS-India has the potentiality to bring about behavioural changes among the teachers.
Quality Education in India
Defining Quality in Education, a paper was presented by UNICEF at the meeting of the International Working Group on Education, Florence, Italy June 2000. The paper reads in its preface “Children have a right to an education, a quality education. Quality education includes: „ Learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities; „ Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities; Content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition of basic skills, especially in the areas of literacy, numeracy and skills for life, and knowledge in such areas as gender, health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and peace. Processes through which trained teachers use child-centered teaching approaches in well-managed classrooms and schools and skilful assessment to facilitate learning and reduce disparities. Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, and are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in society”.
NGO Pratham’s annual report on the status of education in rural areas in India showed that while enrolment in schools is higher, quality of education continues to decline. The Annual Status of Education 2013 report of Prathama read “close to 78 percent of children in Standard III and about 50 percent of children in Standard V cannot yet read Standard II texts. Arithmetic is also a cause for concern as only 26 percent students in Standard V can do a division problem. Without immediate and urgent help, these children cannot effectively progress in the education system, and so improving the quality of learning in schools is the next big challenge for both the state and central governments”.
TESS-India has a greater opportunity to facilitate quality education through school base support to teachers and teacher educators with the existing educational infrastructure of the state.
TESS-India and Quality Education in India
Looking into the TESS-India Focus District Experiment, it would definitely be considered that TESS is a composite strategy to enhance quality education in India. While, with humility and perhaps, to remain focused, TESS-India declares its aim as “enhancing teacher education through school base support” but it has a larger scope and opportunity for enhancing quality school education in India by directly focusing on the students and teaching-learning environment of the schools, especially those schools managed by Government. Because, this is the reality and contextual need of the country i.e. addressing academic issues of teacher, students and school management at the school points/base.
Fig 1 depicts TESS-India as a composite strategy to ensure quality education India. It deals with teacher educators, teachers and head teachers so that their professional ability is enhanced and they become competent in the content knowledge of teaching, ability to make effective classroom transactions and the school become an environment of teaching-learning. Ultimately, every child in the school gets quality learning opportunity.
However, some research and academic work needs to be done for making the programme both teacher and school focused keeping the interest of quality school education in mind. Besides, there is also an opportunity for developing TESS-India OER for other subjects (social sciences). Teachers in the focus district opine that they are working on the key resources to make it subject specific. Developing activities and techniques of each key resource would also definitely be helpful for the teachers to enhance their abilities to prepare teaching-learning strategies. TESS-India could be supportive in facilitating the endeavors of teachers.
Scope of TESS-India to promote of culture of alternative learning
Education in India is changing fast but teachers in the elementary schools managed by government in the states are yet to change. Teachers are to get exposed to computer simulation, e-resources, e-learning and constructivist approach to inquiry learning, internet-enhanced learning etc.
However, it is observed that due to limited Internet coverage teachers in the rural areas lack access to internet. Besides, the poor digital literacy of the elementary school teachers in the state deprives them from the use of e-resources. However, use of electronic devices mainly smart phone by the school teacher is intensifying gradually. Although slow, the pace of change is observed to be obvious in the classroom transactions by the school teachers as they are necessitated by the digital channels that are constantly growing in volume and strength. Taking a sample size of 50 elementary school teachers from urban areas in Dhenkanal district of Odisha a study was conducted under TESS-India project 2015-2016 to understand the status of digital literacy of the Elementary School Teachers who participated in the ‘Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)’. The title of the online course programme was ‘Enhancing Teacher Education through Open Eucational Resources’.
The figure shows the frequency of use of mobile phone for information and communication that the majority of the respondents (63%) used it frequently, 26% of them used the device sometimes and the rest 11% used it rarely. It could be inferred that, in the age of information and communication technologies, still a significant percentage of participants did not use mobile phone frequently. About the status of using smart phone having internet applications for e-resources, the analysis guessing that the percentage would be far lesser than that of the use of mobile phone here.
It is shown in the figure 3 that 13% of the respondents used E-mail frequently for their communication, 17% of the respondents used it sometimes and 13% of the respondents used E-mail communication rarely. The majority of the respondents (35%) in this study had never used E-mail communication and at last the 22% of the respondents did not want to comment on this. When the last two figures (22% +35%=57% respondents) were analysed it was observed that more than the average respondents did not use E-mail communication. It is to remark that for using E-resources e-mail communication is one of the important requisites.
TESS-India through awareness building, convergence programme and other such innovative ways has enough potentialities to spread across an alternative ways of teaching-learning.
Conclusions and Suggestions
In the contemporary era of reckless commercialisation of education, TESS programme is an apt and most appropriate need based response to the hope of millions of children studying in the government managed schools in India to get quality school education, especially for them who come from socio-economically less privileged and/or not so well off categories. Resource scare should not be a hurdle and benevolence for quality education for every child should also take a center stage in decision making to strategically spread this programme throughout India. Besides, networking and alliances, partnership and convergence are always other possible options for making this a noble cause and a highway to “learning to live together”.