International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation

In-service Training for Mathematics Teachers in India

Prepared by Sudhakar Agarkar and Shailesh Shirali

Introduction

India has the second largest population in the world. The number of school-going children is also naturally very large. There are more than 4 million schoolteachers in the country. The majority of them have entered into the profession either with a Diploma in Education (D.Ed.) or a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree. Once they enter into profession there is no mandatory requirement for them to undergo any training. In order to update their knowledge and to acquaint them with newer teaching technologies, a few refresher courses are arranged for practicing teachers. In-service training of mathematics teachers is arranged at various levels by different organizations in the country. Here is a short summary.

Government Education Departments

Education is on the concurrent lists of the central as well as the state governments. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) advises the central and state government education departments. Each state also has a State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) that is entrusted with the responsibility of arranging in-service training courses. Some states have dedicated State Institutes of Science Education, which arrange training courses for science and mathematics teachers. In particular, when a new curriculum is implemented, massive training programs are arranged all over the state.

DIETs or Colleges of Education

To take care of teacher training on a continued basis, District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET) undertake training courses for practicing teachers in their districts. Where all DIETs are still not in existence, many of the colleges of education are entrusted with the responsibility. Colleges of education have the major task of pre-service training for prospective teachers and also work towards conducting training courses for practicing teachers. It must be mentioned that the efforts of DIETs and colleges of education are more concentrated at the Primary Level. Training of secondary level teachers is done either by SCERTs and SISEs as stated above.

Teachers' Associations

In-service programs are often arranged by teachers' associations. One such organization that hosts training programs once every year is the AMTI (Association of Mathematics Teachers of India). The programs are held in different parts of the country. Refresher courses and workshops on specific topics, exhibitions, expository lectures by eminent persons, lectures by students (forums for innovative students to present their work), and so on, continue. However the membership of the AMTI is rather small, and it tends to be active only in the southern part of the country. State level associations that arrange in-service training courses periodically for their members also exist. On many occasions these associations conduct courses on behalf of state government education department.

Examination Boards/Councils

India has different examination boards that frame the curriculum and conduct school leaving examination such as the Indian Council of School Certificate (ICSC), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and State Boards of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. These boards often host workshops in various subjects including mathematics. They even arrange workshops for heads of schools focusing on human resource management and development of leadership skills. Occasionally, the examination boards commission a group of experts to counsel or guide teachers in a particular region or group of schools. Such counseling sessions tend to be strongly focused on examination preparation and "clearing of doubts" (for the teacher, not the student!), so they are more like "remedial sessions" than "enrichment sessions."

Educational Societies

Some organizations that run more than one school organize annual teacher conferences, with the agenda featuring academic as well as non-academic concerns (student behavior; cultural trends in the country that are cause for concern; developing curricula for media literacy; and so on). The academic component focuses on the teaching of specific concepts, addressing the needs of slow learners and those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, etc. Krishnamurti Foundation of India (KFI), Atomic Energy Education Society, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, etc. can be cited as examples of educational societies striving to keep their teachers up-to-date in their teaching.

Voluntary Agencies

In India there are a large number of voluntarily agencies that work for the betterment of school education. These agencies arrange training courses for practicing teachers sometimes with the help of education department, sometimes without their help. The work of these agencies usually remains limited to a certain region, and they focus on local specific problems. Since the members of voluntary agencies work as resource persons without any remuneration and teachers attend these courses on their own without demanding any conveyance charges, such course are often cost effective.

Commercial Organizations

The practice of arranging in-service training courses by commercial organizations is not very common in India. Nevertheless a few organizations mobilize their resources for improving teaching learning processes in the school system. Most of these efforts concentrate on the schools run by the organizations for the benefit of their employees. In addition, a few commercial organizations support the training programs for practicing teachers by providing facilities or funds. Recently, a few industries engaged in Information Technology have come forward to provide input to teachers in selected schools in the country. It is hoped that the involvement of commercial organizations in teacher development will increase soon.

Some Observations

As stated above in-service training courses are arranged at various levels by various organizations in the country. Unfortunately, the overwhelming reality about in-service teacher training in India is that there are so many schools and so many teachers that all efforts prove inadequate. One strategy might be to find radically new uses of technology and the media and to establish radically new organizational structures. In-service training in India has been and remains a highly unorganized activity. While pre-service training takes place in the D.Ed./B.Ed. certification courses that prospective teachers compulsorily have to take, no such requirement holds for teachers once they actually enter the teaching profession. The need for in-service programs is perhaps not seen clearly enough by those in charge, despite the changing technologies (ready access to computers, internet connectivity, software packages to do algebra, dynamic geometry packages, graphic calculators, etc.) and changing social realities (nationalistic and communal tensions, widespread environmental degradation, globalization, etc.). The National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) is now looking into this matter seriously.

Teachers are typically not supported if they do take the initiative to participate in these programs (in terms of remuneration, substitute teachers being arranged to take their classes, etc.). On the contrary, many schools actually discourage teachers from taking time off for these programs. Because there are no arrangements available for teacher substitution, the burden of "keeping the children busy" simply falls on some other teacher's shoulders. Teachers who do take part in in-service programs carry back a "certificate of participation" but little more than that. Some schools may give an extra increment in salary at the end of the year, based on such certificates. No contact is maintained between the teachers and the resource providers following completion of the workshop or program, i.e., there is little by way of follow-up action.

In-service programs often get held more for "clearing one's doubts" than for professional enrichment or for learning anything new. As noted earlier, most of the in-service programs are essentially local initiatives; there is little or no horizontal communication between the groups that take such initiatives, and most of them are unaware of related activities taking place elsewhere in the country, and perhaps even in the state.

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