One in every 56 candidates has managed to clear a national eligibility test for schoolteachers. Those who sat this test had passed their Class XII board examinations and got a diploma in elementary education from a recognized institution. What most of those who failed got stuck with were the questions on children’s development and pedagogy (concrete classroom situations) that required them to think for themselves rather than regurgitating rote-learned materials. This is both good news and very bad news as far as the nation’s general ability to think for itself is concerned. The good news is that unsuitable candidates are getting weeded out through such tests, although the number of successful candidates are still higher than the number of jobs available. But what is alarming is how schools and institutions for training teachers and awarding them diplomas are churning out utterly incompetent thinkers.
Classes I to VIII in Central and Union territory schools — teachers for which are required to clear this particular test before being interviewed — cover the stage in the life of an individual when he or she forms the most vital habits of critical thinking and learning. For that process to be entrusted to adults who are inadequately trained to impart this kind of education could only do wide-ranging damage to the country. There is no reason to assume that other tests, at state-level, show more encouraging results, or more elite private schools, which have their own screening procedures, gather a better harvest of teachers. When the foundations of education at the primary and secondary levels are poorly laid, then not only higher education, but larger spheres of national life — like politics, policing, the civil services, the media — are all adversely affected. Failing pedagogy is the ultimate bad news for democracy.