What are the necessary and sufficient capabilities for teacher educators? [PART 1]

June 22, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

[I started writing this article as a short piece on the qualifications for teacher educators, but then realised that the issue requires a more detailed discussion. As a result this article became rather long and complex, and I suspect very abstract. I am not even sure whether it is fit for a blog conversation, but since have embarked upon it so am posting. Remaining parts of it will come as and when I have time.]

PART ONE

My earlier posts on the issue of required qualifications for teacher educators have attracted some comments and rejoinders. I am glade to note that these comments refrain from angry outbursts and derogatory comments on opponents. And rely on relatively more reasoned arguments. The comments have raised some important issues that cannot be dealt with individual responses; therefore, this post, next in the series.

Some of the important concerns can be identified and listed as follows:

1. That M.Ed. is being devalues by allowing non-M.Ed. candidates to teach in TEIs, even if they have some exposure to education in their M.Phil. and P.Hd.
2. That education as a discipline is being diluted.
3. Why M.Ed. is thought to be not necessary when in other disciplines, say Mathematics, M.Sc./M.A. in mathematics is thought to be necessary to teach mathematics at undergraduate level?
4. One repeated equation seem to be ‘what is the harm if teacher educator do their M.Ed.?’

It seems to me that the arguments from both positions (one, that M.Ed. should be necessary, two that the necessity is not needed) is getting lost in snippets. So I am trying to present it here in a slightly more connected manner.

Right or wrong, it seems to me that all interlocutors are using a host of unstated assumptions and that the argument cannot be resolved rationally unless we bring those hidden assumptions to the light and examine them. [That is, if we want a rational resolution of the argument. However, if we believe that there cannot be any rational grounds for such decisions and answers to such questions are and should be DETERMNED PURELY by political and social forces; rest of this article will be considered useless. Those who believe in this later thesis, will find this post boring, and therefore, I recommend that they discontinue reading it right here.]

The hidden assumptions that I alluded to in the paragraph above fall under the following themes:

a) Nature of education studies; that is, is it a discipline like mathematics or a field of study similar, say, to Engineering?
b) What does it mean for teaching and teacher education to be a profession?
c) What are the implications of b) and c) above for teacher education curriculum?
d) Appropriate institutional imagination for TEIs

Unless we have at the least tentative answers to these questions we cannot resolve the issue of required qualifications for teacher educators on any rational grounds. Of course, we can have a political kusti and make our decision on the basis of its outcomes; but that would have zero academic worth to my mind.

In this article, first I will try to deal very briefly with these four questions; and then come to the necessary and sufficient qualifications for faculty teaching in TEIs. It is obvious that all of these four questions require a full length paper to do justice to them. But an article for a blog post cannot afford it, nor can I, because of lack of time. So will provide some brief hints only. Each of these questions is important and is influenced by assumed answers to all others. Therefore, what I write below will often look like unsupported assertions; but a patient reader is likely to find supporting argument somewhere down the line if shows some indulgence in continuing to read.

THE NATURE OF EDUCATION STUDIES

In this debate ‘education’ is being referred to as a ‘discipline’ as well as as a ‘field of enquiry or study or practice’. Mostly it is being referred to as a ‘discipline’. But a discipline requires: ONE, a very clearly defined domain of study/enquiry (in rest of this article I will use ‘study’ to include ‘enquiry’ and ‘practice’); TWO, a coherent theory or set of theories which closely align with each other in terms of their epistemology; THREE, independence of epistemic (concerning with knowledge) judgment in the light of their own theory or theories; and FOUR, a reasonably wide spread practice of teaching/learning and knowledge creation. Often a body of practitioners is mentioned separately; but that is included in the condition four; otherwise how one is to obtain practice. These, to my mind, are the most important conditions from academic point of view. There are also some institutional and social conditions; but they do not alone create a discipline. Therefore: FIVE, institutional structures to support the discipline’s study and practice.

These conditions collectively define a tradition of study as a discipline. Meeting one or two of them may not be enough. In this sense, then, education is not a discipline like mathematics, physics, sociology or history. It does not have a coherent set of theories unified by an epistemological perspective; in spite of having a more or less well-defined domain. It has to borrow from other disciplines for its epistemic judgments; examples: philosophy, psychology, sociology, history.

Therefore, perhaps it will be more profitable to consider ‘education’ as a ‘field of study’ unified by its domain and concerns and not by its epistemology and theories. We must note that even a field of study requires to be ‘intellectually coherent’, but the condition of ‘intellectual coherence’ can be met even without a stricter ‘epistemic coherence’. But it seems here I must explain what I mean by intellectual and epistemic coherence.

I define, (these are not standard definitions), intellectual coherence of a body of knowledge on the basis of; 1. Relevance to its domain and concerns; and 2. The knowledge claims made in it are all judged by general criteria of accepting a claim as knowledge. What I mean by general criteria for knowledge is seen with suspicion these days and is considered an old fashioned view that is, in the eyes of some, is already countered and disposed of. I think they arrive at this judgment rather in a hurry; and the good (or evil, depending on where you stand) old criteria might be far from dead. To state them, then: one, knowledge claims are expressions of beliefs; to qualify as knowledge they have to be ‘true’ in the sense of being coherent with already accepted knowledge and basic assumptions in the field of study (or discipline); and three, should be publicly justified or supported with evidence.

Criteria number 2 for intellectual coherence defined in this manner is applicable to all propositional knowledge, and therefore, all human knowledge is coherent in this week sense of coherence. Criteria number 1 (relevance) is specific to a field of study or a discipline, and is more important in defining intellectual coherence. That opens up the possibility of some knowledge being excluded simply because in spite of its veracity it may not be a concern of the field of study or discipline. For example ‘smoking is harmful’ is not a concern of physics, and therefore, in spite of its truth no undergraduate student of physics is taught this. Similarly; string theory may be accepted ‘truth’ in physics but no one teaches it to B.Ed. students who do not opt for science education as their specialisation; because it is not seen as relevant.

Epistemic coherence is a little stricter, as I understand it. But first let us note that even intellectual coherence has to be coherent epistemologically; and that is ensured through the criteria number 2 above. To understand epistemic coherence, then, let’s take mathematics as an example. In justification of mathematical knowledge one requires a deductive proof based on axioms, definitions and proven theorems. A weaker justification can be achieved through demonstration in specific cases; but that also has the character of deductive proof. And something supported by demonstration is not taken as true in the whole range of the domain; only in the range that is clearly indicated by cases of demonstration. Empirical evidence is considered good enough for a hypothesis to further investigate through deductive methods but not a justification. Now all modern mathematical knowledge accepts these epistemic strictures; and therefore, mathematics could be deemed as having a coherent epistemological perspective.

If one takes science, say physics, as an example; this kind of abstract deductive justification alone is not considered enough. Any scientific theory which might have the mathematical abstract justification can be accepted only as a hypothesis; till there is some empirical evidence that it explains or predicts behaviour of nature. This again produces epistemically coherent perspective in physics.

One might accuse me of taking very specific examples of disciplines and may argue that social science disciplines like, say, sociology and economic, do not follow such strict criteria for epistemic coherence. I do not have enough understanding of sociology and economics to forcefully argue the case here. But it seems to me that in spite of using a variety of justificatory criteria (ranging from mathematical to empirical and interpretative) they have spelled out theoretical positions that adjudicate specific importance to the repertoire of criteria they use. The real justification finally depends on the unifying character of social (and economic, as the case may be) theories which claim to study the whole range of social phenomena. And therefore, in spite of having a somewhat different kind of epistemic coherence; they do have one defined for themselves. (However, I would like opinion of some sociologist or philosopher of social on this issue. And meanwhile continue in building my argument on these lines.)

Education does not have a single approache to its epistemology, and may have to use all of them; without having a unifying theory. That however, does not mean that there is nothing unifying in education. Its domain and concern which emerge out of intentionally teaching people (children, adolescents and adults, all included) create reasonably robust unifying principles, and intellectual coherence, which must leave room open to draw from stricter disciplinary epistemological coherences. We must also note that if education deliberately tries to create its own strict epistemic coherence and shuns other contributing disciplines it will become too emaciated to deal with the wide range of issues necessary for its endeavours. Therefore, attempts to craft a narrow ‘discipline’ out of overall education studies will harm it, rather than help it grow; as some people claim.

In the light of the above discussion it is better and more profitable to see education as a ‘multidisciplinary field of study’ rather than as a ‘single discipline’.

Education is often compared with medicine and engineering as a multidisciplinary field of study. This parallel helps in making a point regarding contribution of different disciplines; but also has its limitations. I see three very significant and obvious differences between education and engineering in spite of both being rightly considered multidisciplinary fields of study. One, education has to take responsibility of teaching itself; which engineering need not to. Engineering can leave significant parts of this job to education, while education cannot. This makes it necessary for education to develop a perspective on all human knowledge. Two, nature of contribution of other core disciplines to education is very different from the nature of contribution to engineering from its own core disciplines. Let’s consider the case of ‘philosophy of education’, which is one of the core sub-disciplines of education and that of mathematics in engineering. The mathematics in engineering is basically “mathematics for engineering”, to be used as a tool. It may not define the central purpose and nature of engineering. While philosophy of education is not “for” but “of”. It contributes to defining central purposes and character of education. Philosophy of education and sociology of education, among others, are constitutive sub-disciplines of education while mathematics and physics are more of ‘tool’ disciplines of engineering. We should note that the core sub-disciplines of education have a character that allows them to become “of” disciplines; that is, history OF education, psychology OF education; etc. while mathematics and physics cannot become “mathematics OF engineering” or “physics OF engineering”. The third difference is that education cannot ignore the study of its own impact on the society; while engineering may afford to leave it to other disciplines. In the view of the first and third differences listed here education is a self-encompassing disciplines; while engineering is not necessarily so.

Now, if we take this view of education studies then it would have a very significant influence on the remaining four (including the issue of qualifications) questions and that influence needs to be worked out carefully.

[But my time is up today, so the rest of the questions have to wait.]
Continues …..
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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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