How important is M.Ed. degree to be a teacher educator?

June 10, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

The debate which started on Poonam Batra Committee recommendations regarding qualifications for teacher educators had developed into a full-fledged war. One can call it ‘teacher education war’ on the lines of ‘math wars’ and ‘science wars’ that raged in the western academia about 20-30 years back. I think academic wars are good signs for a society. What might have been decided earlier in some cases on the basis of patronage from establishment and academic alignments is being fought openly. That should help in sharper articulation of positions and more rigorous argumentation in public. Academic wars, of course, are fortunately bloodless and can also avoid creating bad-blood if fought with sensitivity and intelligence. I do hope that this war will be fought with such intentions. This article is certainly guided by this sentiment.

The latest move in this war is an internet petition put up by a group that calls itself “Save Teacher Education”, if the name reflects the motto of the group it certainly is loadable. The said petition has two parts in its title. One, “Reconstitute a more representative and non-partisan Committee on Regulations, Norms and Standards of the NCTE”, and two “Make Post Graduate Degree in Education an essential qualification for teaching”. In my usual selective manner, I will leave the first part alone; it seems to me that it does not matter as all committees are likely to have some or other bent of mind that can easily be called partisan. The second part, to my mind is more important; and therefore, I will spend my energies on it.

The question, then, for me is: should we make post-graduate degree in education essential for teaching in our Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs)? Before attempting an answer to this question, like a true Indian, I will review the poorva-paksha; and poorva-paksha in this case is the arguments put forward by the said petition, as this article is occasioned by it.

Actually both the pleas of the petition rest on the argument they build for making M.Ed./MA (Edu) essential for teaching in TEIs. Because the argument for reconstitution of the committee rests on the inadequacy or partisan nature of the committee in specifying the qualifications. And the acceptance or rejection of the qualifications depends on how good is the argument for making M.Ed./MA (Edu) essential.

The main argument the petition builds is as follows:

a. “Education has a small core of theory and a large periphery where one draws from the other disciplines in an eclectic manner.”
b. Masters stage “gives one the exposure to draw, connect and weave in from these inter related and inter dependent areas of knowledge and constitute an organic whole.”
c. Therefore, masters stage is necessary for being able to create an organic whole from the eclectically chosen knowledge from different disciplines.
d. And so, “Doing away with M.Ed./MA (Edu) degree as an essential requirement for TEIs is a dilution in the efforts towards teacher preparation and quality education …”. (Emphasis mine)

One understands that public petitions are not academic papers, and therefore, they state their arguments in a simple and summary manner rather than building them with all the detail and rigour. One of the principles of fairness in philosophical argumentation is that one should critique the strongest interpretation of the opponent’s position. This evening I want to follow this principle in letter and spirit.

The first premise of this argument, as it is stated, is seriously problematic. One, this makes education a collection of eclectically chosen knowledge from different disciplines around a small core of theory of its own. Eclectic means “selecting what seems best of various styles or ideas”, where the principle of selection is rather vaguely defined. If the principle is clearly and strictly defined then it becomes ‘derived’ on the basis of the principle rather than being ‘eclectic’. Two, the contributing disciplines are seen as periphery of education studies. They are not really the core of it, but rather somewhat intuitively selected collection, which may not be essential for education or may be selected differently without creating any serious incoherence. This makes education a very loosely defined field of study. Three, where that “small theory at the core” comes from is not clear; nor is its nature known. That makes the whole of education a very vague area of knowledge.

This characterisation of education studies is a popular one among people coming to education from other supposed to be well-defined disciplines like psychology and sociology. And this encourages them to push education on lines suggested by their own mother disciplines; a sure starting point for turf wars so common in education departments. As it is, it will not give the petitioners’ argument enough force to make M.Ed./MA (Edu) compulsory as that “small core of theory” can very well be acquired by anyone who has an academically disciplined mind capable of dealing with conceptual issues. Such a mind is supposed to be cultivated in master’s programmes in all disciplines; and definitely at the research level. So master’s degree in education may not be necessary. But I assume that the articulation here is simply a way of expressing something much stronger and more solid characterisation of education. Therefore, this is a minor point, and is made here only to replace this characterisation with a stronger one; and not as a critique of the whole argument.

One can easily replace this characterisation of education with, say, “education studies is a field of study unified by its central concerns immerging from intentional teaching and learning, with a well-defined domain that includes all issues arising out of this endeavour, from its impact on the individual and the society, and from its organisational arrangements”. At the heart of this endeavour is flourishing of the entire society and wellbeing of the individual learner. Education in this sense, when perused gives rise to a whole lot of fundamental questions about life, humans and society. These are its foundational questions. Insights gained from various disciplines become necessary conceptual apparatus to address those questions. The knowledge that is essential for addressing these questions becomes foundational; but the guiding principles emerge from the central concerns of education and not from the contributing disciplines. Also, no single contributing discipline is capable of shaping those principles as they necessarily admit different perspectives and are essentially contested. For example in deciding aims of education philosophical, sociological and historical perspectives necessarily interact; no single perspective is capable of providing sufficient grounds for decision. Therefore, education studies strives for an intellectually coherent and comprehensive understanding of education; and this understanding necessarily used insights from other disciples.

The main claim being made in the petition, then, is that such an intellectually coherent and comprehensive (organic whole, in the petition’s language) picture of education emerges only at the study of education at the master’s level. Therefore, a teacher without M.Ed./MA (Edu) is unlikely to have such an intellectually coherent and comprehensive picture of education. And a teacher who himself lacks such an understanding cannot give rise to that understanding in the student-teacher’s mind. Therefore, education will remain fragmented in the minds of the faculty and the student-teachers if the faculty has not studies education at MA/M.Ed. level. A teacher with fragmented understanding cannot provide good quality education to the children at school level.

Now, I accept that the following points could be successfully argued (though I am not working out the arguments here):

1. To be able to provide quality education a teacher requires intellectually coherent and comprehensive understanding of education. Otherwise, s/he is unlikely to be an efficient reflective practitioner.
2. Unless teacher educators themselves possess such intellectually coherent and comprehensive understanding most of the student-teachers will not develop such understanding.
3. One needs to study education for such an understanding; it does not emerge automatically and study of other disciplines to master’s level is not geared to develop such understanding of education.

But acceptance of the points 1 to 3 above does not necessarily lead to the requirement of MA (Edu)/M.Ed. for every faculty member of a TEI for a variety of reasons.

One, it is fairly possible to develop required understanding of education at the undergraduate level; that is, a good quality B.Ed. or B.El.Ed. should be able to develop such required understanding of education. I believe that even a good quality D.El.Ed. can succeed in forming an intellectually coherent and comprehensive framework of education in student-teachers’ mind. There is no reason to claim that it can happen only at the master’s level. But that simply shifts the focus from M.Ed./MA (Edu) to B.Ed./BA (Edu). The main argument remains the same.

The second reason for not accepting the necessity of M.Ed./MA (Edu) lies in the nature of education, teaching and institutionalised learning opportunities. The petition seem to see each teacher educator as a complete Guru in himself/herself. It seems to assume that each one will teach in isolation and completely oblivious of others. The nature of education is such that the overall capabilities of any student are a result of collective efforts of the faculty. However good or well (and appropriately) educated the individual faculty members might be, if the institutional collaboration, dialogue and awareness of what else (other than a single teacher’s subject) the students are learning are lacking, the institution will fail to develop adequate understanding of education in its students. Therefore, collaboration, dialogue, awareness of the total curricular learning is essential in any case; whether one makes M.Ed. and MA (Edu) essential or not. Without such an institutional ambiance teacher-education will necessarily fail even if each individual teacher educator is a great scholar of education.

Therefore, we should think of faculty qualification keeping the whole institution and its working culture in mind. Now suppose that there are 15 teacher in a TEI. Further suppose that each one has some experience of education either as B.Ed./B.El.Ed. or M.Ed./MA (Edu) or research/Ph.D. level. Further suppose that half of them actually have M.Ed./MA (Edu) and everyone has adequate knowledge of his/her own subject (for example MA in philosophy, etc.). If this institution has the work culture of collaboration, dialogue and each member has a fairly good idea of the whole curriculum, then the student-teacher should be able to develop the adequate and comprehensive understanding of education we have been describing above, even if some of his/her teachers are not M.Ed./MA (Edu) and even if some of them themselves do not have that comprehensive understanding. This will happen because of the atmosphere created by faculty’s awareness of other subjects and mutual dialogue and collaboration when needed. In addition, it seems to me that a faculty who teaches, say psychology, has an MA in psychology, knows about the whole curriculum and interacts and collaborates with his colleagues will develop an overall understanding of education within 2 to 3 years. (Sorry, I have no systematic empirical study to back this claim, but my experience in institutions has convinced me of this.)

If this understanding has some merit, then, though it is desirable that each faculty has an M.Ed./MA (Edu), still it is not necessary, and the institution can function well, and achieve its aims, even with some of the faculty without MA (Edu)/M.Ed. That is, if it is a properly functioning institution.

However, there may be certain courses like curriculum study which should be preferably taught by faculty who have MA (Edu)/M.Ed. of have adequate preparation, as such courses are integrative and can be better handled by someone who has studies education.

Another important issue that emerges here is the responsibility of institutions to prepare their own faculty to have a clear idea of its programmes and what is needed to achieve their goals. When we imagine institutions, we sadly leave out their responsibility to prepare their faculty and to provide opportunities of growth of faculty.

Now, if we look at Poonam Batra Committee recommendations in this light we can immediately see that most of the specified qualifications are fair enough. The curricular requirements are taken care at the institutional level and there is a strong possibility that about 50% faculty will have studied education at the master’s level. As a safeguard, may be the committee can recommend that a certain percentage, just for example say 50%, of faculty must have studied education either at the bachelor’s or at the master’s level.

Having said that, one must note that there are some lapses in the recommendations here and there, and they must be corrected. For example, a bias towards elementary education, and consequently for B.El.Ed. There is no reason to assume that this bias is a result of being partisan to B.El.Ed.; it seems it is a result of an academic stance where elementary education is seen as the most important. Another example is absence of history and philosophy faculty in B.Ed. No mention of MA in philosophy is made while other humanity and social science post-graduates are allowed to teach foundational courses. There are several such lapses and the tables need to be very carefully checked and revised if need be.

The petition also points out one problem in B.Ed. curriculum; that is of not having philosophy of education in the foundations. Actually, the report is the weakest where it suggests curriculum. The suggested curriculum is seriously flowed and can hardly be defended; but I will not go into details of it here as I have argued that elsewhere; and as actually it requires a separate complete paper.

If this analysis is acceptable then the petitioners’ claim of making M.Ed./MA (Edu) essential cannot be accepted. The concern of the petitioners may be genuine, but it is misguided and without proper analysis of overall institutional functioning and requirements.

The kind of overall qualifications that are recommended by the committee are likely to bring in some fresh thought and critique in teacher education; and that is very much needed at present. Therefore, if the petitioners are genuinely interested in betterment of teacher education they should not insist upon making MA (Edu)/M.Ed. necessary. They should rather be arguing for more openness in teacher education.

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Open letter to self-assumed guardians of Teacher Education

June 8, 2014

Respected Legitimate Guardians of Teacher Education,

This letter comes to you in response to worries expressed by many of you in press and publicly circulated emails; and it is from an unqualified intruder in education and teacher education. Please be patient to read.

Respected Sirs and Ma’ams, I call myself an ‘unqualified intruder’ because I hold no degree in education or teacher education; more specifically, I am not a D.El.Ed. or a B.El.Ed. or a B.Ed. or a M.Ed., and not even a MA in education, in which I happen teach. This lack of degrees makes me totally unqualified for what I have been doing throughout my working life for last 36 years. During this time I have been teaching at elementary school level and at the post graduate level in two universities. Have been reading and debating education, helping other people develop understanding of educations as per my capabilities and ideas; and doing some minimal writing on issues in education. Now I realise I have been functioning in these roles quite illegitimately and I qualify for none of them.

On 5th May 14 The Pioneer published a news item titled “NCTE council members ineligible: IATE chief” claiming that respected Professors PK Sahoo and Anita Rastogi of IATE have made a complaint pointing out that some persons in the NCTE General Council do not qualify to be members as per NCTE act 1993. The names given in the news report are “Prof Krishna Kumar of NCERT, Prof Janaki Ranjan of Jamia Millia Islamia, Prof Padma Sarangapani of Institute of Social and Economic Changes, Bangalore, Prof Virginius Xaxa of TISS, Guwahati, Prof Poonam Batra of Delhi University, Prof Venetian Kaul, AUD and Alok Mathura of Rishikesh Valley School, Andhra Pradesh.”

Before I come to the required qualifications, I will draw your attention to the two simple factual mistakes in this list: as far as I know the person you refer to as “Prof Venetia Kaul” is well known scholar “Prof. Venita Kaul”; and the one you refer to as “Alok Mathura of Rishikesh Valley School” should be “Alok Mathur of Rishi Valley School”. That is just to make the identification unambiguous.

After reading this news item, Sirs and Ma’ams, I downloaded NCTE Act 1993, the amendments made in 2011 and The Gadget of India notification of 1st May 2013 which announces the constitution of the NCTE General Council.

With due respect, Respected Guardians, all the people you have mentioned, but one, clearly qualify. Let me explain, please.

Prof. Krishna Kumar, Prof. Janaki Rajan and Prof. Padma Sarangapani are nominated as per sub-clause (i) of clause (m) of sub-section (4) of section 3 of the NCTE Act 1993. Clause (m), Discerning Guardians, states “(m) thirteen persons possessing experience and knowledge in the field of education or teaching to be appointed by the Central Government as under, from amongst the (i) Deans of Faculties of Education and Professors of Education.” Now, Sirs and Ma’ams, all three I mentioned above possess experience and knowledge in the field of education and all are professors of education in universities at the least as reputed as your own, if not more.

Three other people you have raised objection to, Respected Guardians, are Prof. Poonam Batra, Prof. Venita Kaul and Mr. Alok Mathur. They are appointed under sub-clause (iii) of clause (m) of sub-section (4) of section 3 of the NCTE Act 1993. And this, Discerning Guardians, states “(m) thirteen persons possessing experience and knowledge in the field of education or teaching to be appointed by the Central Government as under, from amongst the (iii) experts in pre-primary and primary teacher education.”

For your information, Respected Sirs and Ma’ams, Prof. Kaul is well known expert in Pre-primary and Primary Education and teacher education, same goes for Prof. Batra. Mr. Mathur is a teacher and is involved in teacher preparation for a very well reputed school of India in which many of you would have willingly sent your children to be taught by teachers prepared by him.

It seems, Knowledgably Guardians, that you are totally wrong here in case of 6 out of the 7 people you have mentioned. And I am not sure about the seventh, one has to take advice from someone better than me at legalities of this nature. Usually knowledgeable people make false claims with some hidden purpose, Sirs and Ma’ams. But an humble unqualified intruder like me cannot think such thought about you, so I will leave the issue of The Pioneer news here.

Some of you, Sirs, have been circulating very enlightening emails publicly. Respected Prof. SK Yadav has asked several ethical questions of Prof. Batra. One of them happens to be “Is it ethical to become Members and Chairpersons of one or more Committees during last so many years and prepared norms and standards on Teacher Education without having the degree of B.Ed. and M.Ed. of Teacher Education programme?”

I would request Respected Professor Yadav, to elaborate upon the issue. Why is it unethical in his mind to be chair and member of above mentioned committees without B.Ed. and M.Ed.? How many bureaucrats and other people are members of such committees without these very reputed degrees in India Prof. Yadav? How come your critical insight never notices that? I will have something more to say of B.Ed. and M.Ed. in this letter, Sir. But for now move to another point.

Another respected member of the collective of guardians, Prof. Harish S Rathore of BHU, has written an open letter appealing to the collective to defend teacher education.

Rathore Sir is very legitimately angry that Delhi University has made some appointments “of certain Professors who did not have a legitimate right to be appointed as Professors of Education, as they were not having the essential qualifications to be appointed even as a Lecturer in Education. Nor these people were having the ideology and values deep rooted in our traditions of being a Guru.” There are two issues here (i) the issue of qualifications for professors and (ii) the issue of ideology and values.

Regarding qualifications, I wonder if the Learned Professor has ever come across the “UGC Regulations, 2000 regarding Minimum Qualifications for Appointment and Career Advancement of Teachers in Universities and Colleges”. By the way it states the following regarding the appointment of professors:

“1.3.0 HUMANITIES, SOCIAL SCIENCES, SCIENCES, COMMERCE, EDUCATION, PHYSICAL EDUCATION, FOREIGN LANGUAGES AND LAW.

1.3.1 Professor

An eminent scholar with published work of high quality, actively engaged in research, with la years of experience in postgraduate teaching, and/or experience in research at the University/National Level institutions, including experience of guiding research at doctoral level.
OR

An outstanding scholar with established reputation who has made significant contribution to knowledge.”

This, Respected Professor Rathore, goes to show that a scholar of repute can become a professor without having qualifications good enough to become a lecturer. This, of course, is of no use to you; as you have all your B.Eds. and M.Eds, I presume.

A hummable intruder in the august precincts of education and teacher education like me cannot imagine that you, Sir, are unaware of the work done by the professors you are so angry with. It seems, Sir, they have worked and contributed in the field as well as have published academic work of repute.

Professor Rathore, weighed down by the responsibility of his guardianship worries that these illegitimate professors do not have “the ideology and values deep rooted in our traditions of being a Guru”. My humble request as an outsider, Sir, is to please explain what that ideology and those values deep in the roots happen to be? I hope with perplexed heart, Sir, that these are not the ideology and values of Respected Guru Dronacharya. Drona Sir, as we all know, first refused to teach a deserving shishya and when the shishya learnt despite of the Guru, rendered his vidya useless by demanding undeserved Guru dakshina.

However, if they referred to values happen to be values of Buddha, Sir, who wanted everyone to think for themselves rather than being obedient, then these illegitimate professors will not be found wanting, I am sure.

Now a few words regarding teacher education, Respected Guardians. First, Sirs and Ma’ams, education is bigger than teacher education. And unless one first understands education as human endeavour as well as a field of study one is hardly in a position to be a good guardian of teacher education. That is because, as you know very well, Respected Guardians, understanding of TE is situated within the understanding of education. Second, this thing referred to as education cannot flourish without drawing upon a very wide range of human knowledge. And all that human knowledge, Sirs and Ma’ams, cannot be encapsulated within your cherished B.Ed. and M.Ed. These very B.Ed. and M.Ed. have ossified in last 50 years under the guardianship of people very much respected and very much like yourself, Sirs. Please have a look at the research done, academic writings produced, new and powerful ideas brought in theory and practice of education; and you will find that the contribution of B.Eds. and M.Eds. is negligible. The illegitimate have produced much more educational knowledge than the proud inward looking “fraternity of Teacher Educators” to whom Porf. Rathore so hopefully appeals. Would it not be useful, Respected Guardians, to reflect why it is so? Why we are in such a sorry pass today? What is your contribution to this state of affairs, Respected Sirs and Ma’ams?

My humble observation as an intruder, Respected Guardians, is that the air in side this cherished precinct of yours is stale, there is no ventilation and the atmosphere is numbing for the mind. The future of our children, Sirs, depends on teacher education and teacher education, Respected Guardians, depends on opening up the windows of this mansion of yours which are shut for over 100 years now.

The humble request of this intruder, Respected Guardians, is to let some fresh air come in. Please don’t feel threatened, we illegitimate intruders are powerless; all we can do is think and act humanly, Sirs. And such creatures have been losers throughout the history. We pose no threat to you Respected and Powerful Guardians.

With respect and hope

A humble intruder
Rohit Dhankar

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