Global socioeconomic trends and cultural changes pose new challenges for ECE teachers in 21st century. Rising parent expectations around learning outcomes, are creating opportunities for those who are ready. Thus a teachers’ role in early childhood setting is much more demanding and challenging.
Thus teachers are the cornerstone of educational development and ‘good schools require good teachers’. Teachers are at the forefront of the process of educational reform, since the quality and effectiveness of any education system ultimately depends on the quality and nature of the interaction that occurs between learners and their teachers.
THE CURRENT SCENARIO
For most of USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, school readiness is around behavioural, emotional and motor skills, not academic standards. In Asia including India the demand from parents is more aorund academic excellence and readiness! Though this is taking a paradigm shift.
Asia is engaged in an educational movement in this decade to transform the traditional academic- and instruction-driven education into inquirybased and child-centered approaches involving critical thinking as the core. ECE teachers in India now have to possess skills to handle students’ varied interests, talents, and creativity in addition to academic knowledge.
“Teach Less, Learn More” is the new mantra in ECE and for all the right reasons. Teachers who earlier were abiding by the prescriptive curriculum are now forced to acquire new skills to handle the paradigm shift to inquiry based learning with critical thinking. It requires teachers to reorient themselves to align their beliefs and practices with the global trends in education.
The encouragement of conducting “learning by doing” activities throughout a wide range of fields replaces the traditional content-valued education. The objective is to focus on each child’s holistic developmental needs by a child centered integrated curriculum.
How to address the tension between achieving “success” in academic knowledge, and attaining the goal of valuing children’s creativity and diverse ways of thinking, are still evolving. Asia thus is at a critical point of this transformation journey being closely mentored by government agencies and global organisations.
TRENDS IN CHINA
China’s educational system has made great progress. The nine-year compulsory education has been basically universalised in 2000. Politicians, parents, and the general public challenge the quality of teacher education in China, and therefore the reform of the curriculum of teacher education is a very hot topic in teacher education institutions. In general, everybody agrees that the complex knowledge structure for teachers comprises subject-matter knowledge, conditional knowledge (knowledge about pupils’ development, knowledge about learning and teaching, knowledge about assessment and evaluation, etc.), practical knowledge, and cultural knowledge. But there is lack of common understanding about what should be the proportion of those kinds of knowledge or where the emphasis should be put.
China has raised the qualification standards by the establishment of Master of Education professional degree. Now comprehensive universities like Beijing and Peking unversities have started to prepare ECE teachers. The undergraduate programs will emphasise general education and foundations of major fields as in ECE. The majors will be widened to cover interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary studies including ECE. ECE teaching institutions are raising their standards and improving their quality of education to promote professionalisation of teachers by including global stadards. Teachers are still not regarded as full professionals by many policy-makers or the general public in China.
TRENDS IN MALAYSIA
During the ’60s and ’70s after years of independence, there was an urgent need to recruit enough teachers to staff the newly built classrooms. To ease the acute shortage of teachers in ECE and primary schools, many untrained teachers with academic qualifications as low as Form 3 (which is equivalent to nine years of general education) were recruited and given part-time training during the weekends and school holidays in training colleges and regional training centers. To staff the secondary schools, many graduate teachers were imported from the United Kingdom and India.
The goals of teacher education have changed over the years according to the pressing needs of the education system. Consequently, different types of teacher education programs have been developed to cater to the following priorities at different points in time:
a) to ensure that enough teachers of the various levels needed by the schools are recruited and trained;
b) to raise the quality of teachers;
c) to train enough teachers in specialised subjects like ECE, English, science, and mathematics;
d) to provide sufficient trained teachers for vocational and technical schools;
e) to provide training for upgrading, professional development of practicing teachers; and
f) to provide professional training for all kinds of practitioners in the education system, including school counselors, school principals, teacher educators, curriculum developers, and others.
The teacher-training curriculum is focusing on:
a) Teacher Dynamics – Soft skills, child psychology in ECE, language and thinking skills, Islamic education, Moral and environmental education.
b) Knowledge and Professional Competence - Psychology, pedagogy, and guidance and parent counseling.
c) Self-enrichment - art education and physical and health education/games.
d) Co-curricular activities - management of co-curricular activities, games, athletics, uniformed units, and societies.
The teaching profession and ECE does not attract the most talented young people and less male teachers.
ECE Teaching is not very attractive, partly because of its low social status and partly because a teacher’s job is very complex and demanding. Therefore, better pay and incentives are being provided to attract talented young people to the teaching profession.
The quality of teacher training is being improved by paying attention not only to the intellectual qualifications of future teachers but also the characteristics of their personalities, and the working conditions for teachers are improved to include a better career structure with more promotion and professional development opportunities.
In all ECE teacher education programmes, the practicum is being made mandatory which attempts to link theory and practice of teaching. This there has been a shift from the technical-rational model to the reflective practitioner model.
TRENDS IN INDIA
India has a long tradition of teaching and learning. Traditionally, the society entrusted young ones to the learned scholar known as guru with full confidence and faith: the guru looked after all the learning needs of the learner, including the total development of the personality.
There is a serious imbalance of availability of qualified/trained ECE teachers in the country. In many regions, ECE trained teachers are not available; this has led to untrained teachers being appointed.
It is widely acknowledged that teacher education has not yet acquired the requisite status as a profession like engineering, medicine, and business management. The community and parents still do not give much credibility to the training aspect of teachers in schools.
ECE teacher training and general teacher training are preparing teachers to integrate indigenous knowledge in theory and practice; developing among them an understanding of the impact of globalisation, privatisation and information and communication technology; fostering among teachers as well as in the students the interest for life long learning; empowering teachers to inculcate at every stage values among students; enabling teachers to establish linkages with parents and the community; developing among teachers the competencies to deal with differently abled students; orienting teachers in modern techniques of evaluation; etc.
Specialised training on parent management is part of the ECE training as parents’ expectations are very high and students are demanding! Teacaher concerns around career advancement, placement opportunities, professional development, and transparency in upward mobility scenario are being addressed. New systems are evolving to provide professional feedback to the teachers and thereby contribute to their professional growth.
There is immediate emphasis on retraining and reorganising existing ECE teachers, making most of them competent in their profession and to the new curriculum challenges. A new type of educational institution called the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) has been conceived within the National Policy on Education (NPE) and the Ministry of HR as major steps towards effective teacher education. The DIET is designed to improve and enrich the academic background of ECE and elementary school teachers.
Training in models of ECE teaching (concept attainment, inquiry training and critical thinking) in the form of lecture, demonstration, discussion and peer practice feedback has been put in place to enhance the understanding and competence of both teacher educators and student teachers in using the models of teaching. Teaching in these models also brought about significant favourable changes in the attitudes of both teacher educators and student teachers towards new models and their willingness to implement them in teacher training programmes. School students taught through these models also responded favourably to them.
In the long-term, helping teachers at the beginning of their training definitely sounds like a good investment. After all, before you can become a good teacher, don’t you have to have the opportunity to be a good student?
Vaidehi K N is Managing Partner, Podar Jumbo Kids Banashankari and Sarjapur.
Image Courtesy: ucl
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