By Devasis Sarangi
Odisha of late has got its share of centres of excellence be it an IIT for technical education; a NIFT for education in textiles & fashion, an AIIMS for medical education, IOMA for mathematics and application, a Central University (in KBK region) for traditional disciplines and so on and so forth and trying hard for a world class innovation university; as India struggles to try and bring in the Ivy League bill.
This makes Odisha in general and Bhubaneswar in particular a preferred choice for education, especially in the Eastern Part of India. But, can Odisha make its presence felt at the national level and compete with the likes of Delhi in the years to come and emerge as a hub in India both in School & Mass education as well as Higher education?
The biggest impediment to this is quality educators. If the state is able to rope in the best teachers and provide a conducive environment for them to thrive it will no longer be a distant dream.
Teachers make the highest impact on quality in the classroom. They are at the heart of education but the status of overall teacher education in India itself, leave alone Odisha, is pathetic; to put it mildly.
While good teachers can make a lifelong positive impact on a child, a sadistic teacher will bully and make classroom lessons a child’s nightmare.
Odisha needs to make a beginning to address the issue of both pre-service and in-service teacher education and develop a framework for their education.
A majority of teacher education colleges in the state are resorting to malpractices - allowing students to register for the programme at a fee and collecting certificates at the end of the year without attending classes. An independent quality assessment of such institutions is needed to close down the bogus ones.
We need high quality teacher educators. The vicious cycle of poor quality in-service teacher development begins with the absence of high quality teacher educators. If the existing capacity of teachers has to be enhanced, the state must develop at least 1000 high quality teacher educators, who would effectively shoulder this responsibility both at school level and at higher education level.
A school principal and an institutional head can make or break a school/college/university. Today, there is no prerequisite for a teacher being promoted as head teacher/institution head, nor is any special input given to build such capacity. The government must ensure that all institutional heads/school leaders in the state are covered by an intensive programme of development and the process is planned and not adhoc as at present, motivated by political compulsions.
Education functionaries also need to be well equipped. Functionaries are responsible for supporting from outside - ensuring quality infrastructure, maintaining the right teacher-pupil ratio and facilitating a smooth flow of incentives, textbooks, quality food etc.
The government must ensure that management development programme covers all education functionaries, enabling them to have the necessary education perspective from a gobal, competencies in their respective roles and the social orientation to deal with children emerging from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.
This being addressed Odisha can become the education hub of India.
(The author is a co-founder of a leading pre-primary school in Bhubaneswar, Little Steps Pre-school. Opinions expressed are his own and does not represent that of the organization he is associated with. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)