– Tapan Kumar
In the fast changing world of the early 21st century concept of public education, school education is also changing. As part of the changes the role of schools and education will also be different both in the educational system and the society.
Schools are being charged with a growing range of responsibilities. Their role is seen as central in helping societies adapt to profound social, economic and cultural changes. Their capacity to fulfill these expectations however depends crucially on their own ability to manage change and in particular on whether teachers are able to develop positive and effective strategies to meet the needs of tomorrows schools. Without change, there is a danger that technological and other developments will make schools and teachers seem increasingly irrelevant, especially to younger generation. Teacher professionalism should not obstruct the change but be redefined to become part of it. The professionalism of the 21st century must include expertise, openness, use of technology and the capacity to adapt and collaborate continuously with in schools and networks that are learning organizations.
If we aim to have a closer look at the characteristic features of the changes, we have to examine what they are. Schools used to be a source of knowledge, a place where children are educated more or less without parental control. Schools used to prepare students for exams. Thus teaching was mostly exam preparation or exam training, especially in the final year.
The need of a generation of teachers who aim to develop learners instead of teaching them, who help their students to become independent (learning to learn), who provide students with motivation and interest for lifelong learning and urge them to become autonomous learners, is essential in the education of future days.
Together with the changes, new expectations appeared towards our schools. Now days it is not merely a place for exam preparation only. Schools need to teach their learners how to gain information, how the select them, synthesis them and use them. This happens so quickly that students learn how to use internet together with their teachers. Parents are involved in decision making so they take part in the life of the school. It is no longer enough to send the children to school in the morning and pick them up in afternoon. Parents have to a view of what is happening in the educational institutions. Exam preparation though is still important but the concept of “Learning to Learn” has slowly become a very important element of teacher’s job.
The changes that took place in schools have changed the role of teachers too. In the past teachers used to be the major source of knowledge, the leader and the educator of their student’s school life. Teachers would organize after school activities. They used to be the authority in the class and often took over the role of parents. Now a day’s teacher provides information and shows their students how to tackle them. Although they are still considered to be kind of leader in the class, they can be thought of as more like a facilitator in the learning process. They are supporters rather than educators and also advisor towards parents.
Even the teaching process is supposed to be changing in the changing society/societal expectations. First of all, teachers now a days are no longer lecturers, they are facilitators. Their main task is to set goals and organize the learning process accordingly. Though we have a set syllabus in front of the teachers but teachers should cultivate the habit of going beyond it and in the light of national curriculum and national expectations, they have to develop a local curriculum as well. They have the independence to choose the teaching materials, make up a plan of their own and facilitate the learning process of their student so that they can perform well, both at exams and in life. Curriculum design is a task where teachers have to be prepared for, although the present generation of teachers has been growing into making of syllabus only.
Another difference between the past and the present teachers is represented by the technical background they need to be able to use and handle effectively (Computer, Power Point, and Projectors etc.) instead of teaching chalk face, they need to be an information technology expert.
One of the biggest challenges for teachers is that their role in school management affairs has also changed. The school needs them as individuals, who can make decisions and cope with the stress of the changing world. At the same time they need to be able to work in teams, cooperate with colleagues and parents, they have to be PR experts and need to do all these things for a modest monthly income.
All these changes have a common root. They show that it is not enough for teachers to be masters of their profession; they also have to be the artist of it. But what is the difference between a master and an artist? How can a teacher be both? What are the characteristic features of good and bad teaching? Various studies and resources have come up with the importance of content knowledge (subject syllabus), pedagogic content knowledge (how to adapt content to the learners), and general pedagogic knowledge (eg. Classroom management), curriculum knowledge, contextual knowledge (the context of teaching – society expectations) and process knowledge (learning skills, observation skills etc.). Among the characteristic features, cooperation, flexibility and the ability to relate learners appear rather important.
Generally the teachers show priority to content knowledge (their subject) over the general characteristic features like empathy on creativity, openness. Some teacher thinks that content knowledge is far more important and relevant then pedagogy knowledge or methodology. But it is to be noted that the future teachers needs to be more open towards the need of the learners, they should be innovative and creative. He must be more efficient in touching the hearts. Various soft skills and competencies which seem to be fairly important in the present as future education do not really appear in priority among the needs of the practicing teachers. Teacher must feel that convertible and renewable content knowledge; open and pedagogically well trained teachers are the key figures of the future education.
In my personal view teacher education rather than teacher training needs to be changed. The need of a generation of teachers who aim to develop learners instead of teaching them, who help their students to become independent (learning to learn), who provide students with motivation and interest for lifelong learning and urge them to become autonomous learners, is essential in the education of future days.