Of the four ideas that I talked about in my TED Talk titled Education for All - More of the Same or Something Different? on December 13th, 2010 at TEDx Kumaun, the fourth idea was about democratising the quality of education for all children in India.
Our focus in terms of achieving the goal of providing an Education for All continues to be on the following:
We haven't yet paid enough attention to the quality aspect of education. While Enrollment, Attendance and Completion are important, it is paramount that every child gets a high quality education. To determine if that is indeed happening, we need to focus on learning outcomes and constantly keep testing to see if children are learning and taking appropriate steps based on the results of the tests so that every child learns what it ought to have learnt by the time it leaves school.
- enrollment - ensuring every single child goes to a school,
- attendance - ensuring the child attends school everyday and
- time spent and completion - ensuring the child spends a certain number of hours per day at school and a certain number of years in school and is deemed to have completed schooling.
The quality of education or learning outcomes is integrally linked to the quality of teachers, especially so for the large number of first generation learners who won’t be able to get any support from their own parents at home. Great teachers can make a huge difference to a child. A recent study by Eric Hanushek of Stanford University attempts to quantify the value of a great teacher and also the value lost in the case of poor teachers.
But not every school has great teachers. What can we do to ensure that every single child in India has access to great teachers, thereby democratising the quality of education for all children across the country?
There are many excellent teachers in India today and they have been doing a great job unsung and unnoticed for years. A few of these teachers are identified and recognized with “Best Teacher” awards at the state and national levels every year. For a start, we could pick these award-winning teachers and create video recordings of all these teachers teaching in their own classes in the various Indian languages. These video recordings could then be broadcast on television and also put up on YouTube and other web sites for children and other current and aspiring teachers to watch. We could also study these videos to try and understand the traits, methods and skill sets of good teachers to help create many more good teachers.
How do we identify teachers with great potential? How do we attract good teachers to the teaching profession?
Imagine a reality show for teachers on television to unearth teaching talent from across the country and showcase it to the national audience of children. Existing and aspiring teachers can be invited to come forward to teach on prime time television, in all the Indian languages. Imagine them teaching Algebra, Poetry, the History of the Indus Valley Civilization, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, The Structure of the Atom and more. Along with a panel of eminent teachers as judges in the studio, children and parents sitting at home and watching these teachers on television can also rate and vote for the best teachers. The best teachers could become national stars and celebrities.
Every child in the country will have access to these programmes either on television or on YouTube or other similar sites. Not only will children realize that the best teachers can make every subject interesting and fascinating, they will also begin to expect the same high standards of teaching from their own teachers in their schools. Teachers from all across the country will also be able to watch and learn from the best in their profession. While good teachers ought to be paid as well as other professions if not more, this kind of national recognition for good teachers can play a huge role in making teaching an attracive and fulfilling profession.
I had described the other ideas that I spoke about in my TED Talk in earlier posts.