In these days of specialization in every field, it has come as a bane of the teaching profession that those, who are otherwise erudite, do not have the flair to impart knowledge to others, thereby defeating the very purpose of education.
Nowadays, be it in the print-media or the electronic media, we observe everybody, right from the policy-makers in the government to the head-hunters of the manufacturing industries or service organizations, complaining about one of the major issues confronting them all – namely, shortage of adequately trained and appropriately skilled man-power to meet the requirements of one of the fast developing economies of the world.
In a country where thousands of educational institutions including a few internationally recognised ones, churn out lakhs of certified youngsters into the job market, with hope in their minds and pride in their hearts, a good number of these aspirants are hit hard when they face the harsh reality of rejection because they are “not competent/ skilled enough for absorption” by our industries and other organizations.
At this point it may be relevant to appreciate that in the first half of the last century, the educational institutions conducting professional courses were less in number and the youngsters coming out of these institutions had the option to join the industries both in public as well as the private sector, or to take up teaching assignments more on their own volition than due to any compulsions. However, in the last 3 or 4 decades, the growth of the software industry has changed this demographic structure considerably, with those students considered academically good-performers preferring the desk jobs which lure them at the entry-level itself, with pay and perks that their elders could have dreamt to earn and enjoy only at retirement stages. As a result, many professionals with just a certificate validating their qualification are forced to opt for the teaching career mainly out of compulsion than out of conviction or passion.
As a result, “one medicine for all ailments” approach has led us to the present situation where every industry or organization or institution is complaining about not being able to find professionally qualified and technically skilled personnel to offer gainful employment. This big dichotomy calls for immediate interventions and corrective actions from the powers that be. While on the subject of remedial measures, we have to address the problems being faced by the professional colleges and management institutions.
In every profession, an expert eventually ends up teaching the juniors, in some capacity or the other. Such experts may teach by choice or by force. They may be gifted with teaching abilities or entirely lack them. And we come across every description of teachers in between these extremes. But the one thing common to most of the experts is that they would have never really been taught how to teach. Or considered it necessary to know how to teach. And this attitude has sadly ruined the classes for umpteen number of students all over the world.
Teaching in primary and high schools requires completing professional teaching courses or degrees, while most of higher education does not. In regular academia consisting of liberal arts or basic sciences, some colleges and institutes demand that the teachers/lecturers obtain training in pedagogy, at least as part of professional development programmes. In the technical, management and other lines of studies that are usually called ‘professional’ courses, even this level of requirement for teacher education is largely missing. The Institutes of Technical Teachers Training and Research may be the exception, catering mainly to the faculty of polytechnic colleges.
In view of this, it would benefit both teachers and students to have basic pedagogy courses included as part of the curriculum, mainly as optional subjects in later semester. By the time students complete 6 semesters or 3 years of a 4-year professional course, they would have realised their own potentials and shortcomings in the chosen field. Some of them might prefer to teach rather than take up any other job related to the subjects they have studied. Some others, for various personal or professional reasons may not be able to continue in the same line of work and may need to find alternative vocations. A short but effective pedagogy course will arm such students to confidently seek out teaching jobs within their own profession. This will allow them to stay in touch with the subjects of their interest as well as benefit the colleges that hire trained teachers.
As anyone who has genuinely tried to teach would realise, teaching is one of the best forms of learning. The kind of analysis required to think in terms of teaching a topic even while learning it, would really enhance the depth of understanding of the students of professional courses too.
As each profession demands a specific kind of teaching-learning experience, it may be well worth designing specialised curricula for pedagogy courses in each field. Even at the school level, we regularly encounter special focus on how best to engage students in languages or science, with approaches most effective for each kind of learning. As the basic ideas of student engagement and assessment of learning can be applied across the board, some initial modules of pedagogy courses can be planned in most fields. But specialised requirements vary, which must be taken into consideration in planning the rest of the pedagogy courses. For example, the same methods and experiences most effective for teaching in a medical college may not be the best suited to teaching well in an engineering or management college.
The accreditation bodies that monitor the centres of higher education in each professional field may collaborate with educationists to come up with pedagogy courses suitable for each field of study. The existing departments of education in universities, teacher-training colleges and staff training institutes could also be asked to be involved in this process. MHRD units of state as well as central governments can play a role in coordinating these activities in the respective geographical areas, if necessary.
India is endowed with the largest population of youth, who will soon reach college age and choose professional fields of study. In order to equip this millions-strong workforce with suitable guidance, it would be ideal if plans to introduce and improve pedagogy courses are put in place at the earliest. This step may help to steer the future population of citizens onto their chosen careers with the requisite levels of preparation and confidence.
In these days of specialization in every field, it has come as a bane of the teaching profession that those, who are otherwise erudite, do not have the flair to impart knowledge to others, thereby defeating the very purpose of education. Hence, the Central Government, having realised the need to have skill development to improve the employability of the youth and established a separate ministry, has to take the initiative in designing the blue print of pedagogy as suitable to the various branches of higher education so as to maintain a uniform and standard proficiency all over the country.
N. Ganapathy is a retired Senior Executive of the premier public sector life insurance organization with nearly four decades of experience in the life insurance industry. Now actively engaged as a trainer for new life insurance companies, associated with a leading private sector life insurer as an Expert Invitee. Also visiting faculty of a highly rated business school.
Sushama Yermal has been a researcher in biology and an educator, taught at the undergraduate programme of IISc from its beginning; now freelancing as a writer and independent advisor in teacher education, educational policy, curriculum development, implementation and related areas. She can be reached at email@example.com.