National Education Policy-2020 has reaffirmed the role of teacher as the fulcrum of desired transformations. Starting with the vision of developing an equitable and just society to empowering the nation to face new set of challenges posed by the ‘new world order’ and global ecosystem, the teacher remains the catalyst of change. The lofty ideals envisaged in the policy including universal access to holistic quality education, life-long learning opportunities for all, constructive revamping of aspirational goals of 21st century education and regaining the status of Visva-Guru in true sense of the word, shall see the light of the day with active participation of teaching community not only as the disseminator of knowledge but also as the most vital stakeholder to develop high-level foundational, creative, cognitive, social, ethical and emotional capacities among individual learners.
The NEP-2020 rightly commemorates widely hailed great Indian tradition and classical scholars such as Charaka, Susruta, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Bhaskaracharya, Brahmagupta, Chanakya, Chakrapani Datta, Madhava, Panini, Patanjali, Nagarjuna, Gautama, Pingala, Sankardev, Maitreyi, Gargi, Thiruvalluvar and numerous others who made phenomenal contribution in diverse areas of knowledge, and exhorts the teachers to hasten the fundamental reforms visualised in the policy. Taking clues from the ancient Indian scholars, it expects the teachers to be well-versed not only in the latest pedagogical advances but also in Indian values, cultures, languages, knowledge system, ethos and indigenous folk traditions. It reposes great amount of trust in the teacher as a revered member of the society endowed with immense potential to truly shape the progeny of the nation. Similarly, the guiding principles of the Policy accord enormous priority to identifying and fostering the unique capabilities of each student, flexibility in learning, multidisciplinary and a holistic education across disciplines, ethical and constitutional values, promotion of multilingualism, continuous formative assessment, extensive use of technology, respect for diversity and local context, and humanitarian and spiritual aspects which make the role of a teacher arduous and challenging.
The Policy puts teachers at the core of the learning process and underlines the importance of empowering strategies to orient them for the revived aspirations of the learners and the policy makers through minimum 50 hours of continuous professional development opportunities every year. Besides, teachers have been assured of more autonomy and freedom in pedagogical and curricular aspects. The new education policy reiterates the principle of reinforcement, recognition and rewards for the teachers devising and adopting novel approaches to teaching for improved learning outcomes. It recommends rise in salary and other incentives to the teachers doing outstanding work. Acknowledging the importance of quality teachers, it paves the way for a robust merit-based structure of tenure, promotion, and salary structure to incentivise outstanding performers.
It reaffirms that the teacher is a disseminator of multidisciplinary knowledge and a crusader for revamping of entire education system so as to sync it with the spirit of the policy to integrate the essence of cherished ancient traditions with the modern education. It positions the teacher at the centre stage for realisation of the ambitious targets such as attaining early childhood care and education (by 2030); universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary school (by 2025); inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all learners regardless of social or economic background in tune with SDG-4 (by 2030); promotion of all scheduled languages, regional languages and mother tongue of the learners; and target to achieve 100 per cent GER in School Education (by 2030) and 50 per cent in Higher and Vocational Education (by 2035).
The achievement of these targets would certainly require the teachers to be oriented and trained with new set of uniform professional standards for teachers to be determined by National-level Professional Standard Setting Body (PSSB). In addition to that, teachers are expected to develop secondary specialization through pre-service or in-service training to understand and handle the special requirements of children, for which the policy has set the target to shift the teacher education to multidisciplinary colleges and universities by 2030. It also focuses on restructuring teacher-education programmes with special focus on introduction of 4-year integrated B.Ed degree by 2030 along with special shorter local teacher education programmes for eminent local persons, and shorter post-B.Ed. certification courses to help the existing teachers to move into more specialized areas of teaching. To develop the future teachers as Guru incarnates capable to accept all the expectations and challenges, the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE-2021) shall be the guiding document for teacher education programmes aimed at inclusion, equity and sensitivity towards gender issues and underrepresented groups. In view of the growing dependence on IT intervention in teaching, the teachers will also be exposed to the training through DIKSHA platform for high-quality online content creation using online teaching tools. The new generation of teachers will be friendly with e-learning platforms and other assistive tools to supplement their mastery over the content and pedagogy.
The National Education Policy-2020 envisions the teacher to imbibe all the spiritual, professional and ethical attributes of an ideal mentor and guide for the students, which makes it imperative for the students, parents, governments and other stakeholders to rethink their attitude towards the lesser acknowledged warrior in the mission of constructive social change. It also motivates us to derive inspiration from the great Indian visionary teachers such as Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Savitribai Phule, Premchand, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and many others who dedicated their entire life in the service of the nation. Considering teaching as the noblest profession, Kalam rightly observed that “If the people remember me as a good teacher that will be the biggest honour for me”.
If we observe the plethora of initiatives taken by the University Grants Commission to expedite uniform implementation of National Education Policy-2020, it is perceptible that the substantial projects such as National Credit Framework (NCrF), Academic Bank of Credits, Multiple Entry and Exit Options, incorporation of Indian Knowledge System and Mulya Pravah, technology-driven pedagogical tools, National Research Foundation (NRF), National Higher Education Qualifications Framework (NHEQF), and integrated approach to learning may not see the light of the day without active participation of teachers at all levels of education.
These enterprising ventures require the teachers to be creative and imaginative enough to be the torchbearer for the posterity to flourish with pride in the nation and its rich cultural heritage characterised by tolerance, harmony and respect for diversity and plurality. In such a context, a teacher is expected to imbibe the essence of Indianness and the best of the professional attributes to the extent that he/she becomes a role model for the young minds to follow.
The auspicious occasion of the Teachers’ Day is an opportune moment for the teachers’ fraternity to internalise and practice S. Radhakrishnan’s mantra “Teach to transform” so as to enable the nation to realise the vision of envisaged by Tagore in his beautiful lines: Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls….”, more so because, even in the technology-driven world, society holds a teacher in high esteem.