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LITTLE FOCUS

Anyone can teach little ones. This seems to be the driving principle behind nursery teacher training in most of India. Hardly surprising, given Indian society’s myopic focus on immediate gain instead of long-term benefit. Especially if the long-term benefit has to be conceived, painfully, as building the nation through educating its children, because children as distinct beings with specific needs and rights seldom figure on either policymaker’s or entrepreneur’s horizons. Predictably, the National Council for Teacher Education has had to admit that not only has it no idea how many nursery school teacher training institutes exist in the country but that it also does not have the manpower to monitor their functioning. A recent study that covered 95 such training institutes in eight states found that few followed the guidelines for nursery teacher training formulated in 2000. Directions for recognition by the NCTE, for course material, course duration, infrastructure and even for qualifications of the trainers were blithely ignored by most.

What could have been funny — had it not been another betrayal — is that the NCTE is frankly at a loss. Now this is 2014. Even if successive governments had been unaware of the mushrooming of nursery schools and of institutes to train their teachers as aspiration for education spread and grew, what was the NCTE doing since 2000? It has obviously been driven to articulate the problem for some reason, only when it is clear that the problem must have reached unmanageable proportions. It is bad enough that no one has bothered about the quality of nursery education so far, but is it necessary to reduce discussion about it to a joke? But it would have been possible to welcome the first ever study at this late stage too, if only 95 had not been such a pitifully inadequate number.