As a second year scholar of the M.Ed course in Delhi University, my current circumstances have been making me think in a certain way for the last few days. The NCTE had recommended that the duration of the teacher education program should be extended to two years from the earlier period of one year. The stated rationale behind this extension of duration of the course was to improve the quality of teacher education program. I write as an inside observer, as someone who did his B.Ed. course and is pursuing the two-year M.Ed. now. I would like to share what I have experienced in the courses with two different time-spans. During the one-year period of B.Ed., which was really of nine months, the experiences were very rich. I participated in almost every activity but today when I reflect upon that period it mesmerises me. In those nine months we had Papers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; work experience; tutorial; school experience program; kavi sammelans; visits out of the city; debates and so on. That exposure gave me the sense of confidence that yes, I could become a teacher. It was well-planned to sensitise me towards children and the social incidents and reality around us. I hope that that sensitivity will always stay with me. In that period of nine months, there were numerous activities which required us to meet. Those meetings and the togetherness in them taught me so much that cannot be described in numbers. The best part of the course was that all the 350 odd students were familiar with each other, irrespective of their sections, disciplines, residences etc. since everyone had to meet each other in some context or the other. On the informal side, there used to be around 50 students playing in the ground everyday after or in-between the classes.
Ever since the duration of the course has been extended to two years (2015-16 onwards), things seem to have changed for the worse. I can say this because I have seen and experienced that transition in the same department some of whose present and past members often claim the numero uno status among teacher education institutes for it. The ground seems abandoned, barren and activities like the Panchayat have been discontinued. I do not know the valid reason for the discontinuation but I feel dejected for they were the best means of community learning and generating that sense of belonging and collectivity which mere classroom teaching many times fails to provide. In the name of improving the quality of education in our institutions, a far more valuable thing has been snatched away. I feel what makes an institution truly great is what are said to be the co-curricular activities, the spirit of the faculty to teach its students, the diversity within the student community and the freedom of the students to speak their minds, organise themselves and conduct events. Otherwise, it is clear that the assigned curriculum for all the institutes conducting similar level of teacher education programs in India is essentially the same. We must also keep in mind the present neo-liberal era's reality wherein private players are providing such 'opportunities' for B.Ed. and M.Ed. courses where if one is blessed with sufficient capital then one doesn't even need to attend a single class or go for school experience program.
In this background, the idea of extending the duration of the course seems more vague if not unsound.
The situation with M.Ed. is not much different. When this course was of one year it had three foundation papers, one dissertation, two specialisations, school teaching observation program (in which the M.Ed. scholars were supposed to observe the B.Ed. students teach in schools) and finally the annual examination. All this in a period of 9 to 10 months. Now, when I am enrolled in the second year of this course I find that features of the course which were very essential for a research scholar, like observing schools, have been discontinued. Instead a so-called project whose necessity is not at all clear at the moment, has been added to the course. Comparing the same course in terms of two different durations, I find that nothing productive or special has been added while increasing the time-period. Indeed, there is a discontinuity in many scholarly and productive activities which were part of the one-year course schedule. Since the whole syllabus in the last year was completed in February-March, I feel that the other remaining elements could also have been included (and concluded) within the same session. After all, it did use to happen so. It is difficult to understand as to why the precious period of one full academic year of the Indian student of Education is being wasted like trash. It is particularly damaging to the interests of those coming from the weaker sections of the society, the marginalised castes and perhaps, in the context of the patriarchic structure of our families which is financially loaded in favour of men, women too. The costs entailed in investing an additional year's time in the pursuit of an education which in any case does not ensure gainful public and secure employment and whose promise is getting more precarious day-by-day in the vice of the capitalistic order, are too discouragingly high for the working classes and the oppressed castes of this nation-in-the-making. We are forced to ponder whether such changes are made with a deliberate intention to keep excluding the marginalised people from the avenues of higher education.
The policy makers must understand that extending the duration of any course from one year to two does not necessarily increase its worth or ensure quality (in itself a very suspect and dangerous term in the hands of those scheming against public institutions). Since doing one's post-graduation in Education makes career sense only if one already has a masters degree in at least one other subject, extending the duration of the former makes the whole journey prohibitively lengthy for a large section of people and limits the chances to an already advantaged class. Thus, this exercise in the name of quality is a direct threat to the great value of equality enshrined in the constitution and the hearts and dreams of the working classes and the oppressed castes, and particularly the girl students among these sections. Finally, one needs to understand that so long as there is political and economic inequality in society and the power to make policy decisions vests in those coming from or representing the interests of the ruling classes-castes, we cannot expect pro-people changes to happen on the basis of their goodwill. Continuous struggle and organisation of the oppressed is the only alternative. .