Boring life in class follows an early death

17th October 1997 at 01:00
INDIA. The American educator Nicholas Murray Butler used to sum up the contribution of some of his staid colleagues with a biting epitaph: "Died at 30; buried at 60."

The career of Indian teacher-educators invariably follows a similar dismal pattern, says VK Raina, a Delhi academic who has assessed the "professional productivity" of college staff in Rajasthan.

Writing in the latest issue of the Journal of Education for Teaching, Raina says that Indian teacher-educators, like colleagues in many countries, are in a paradoxical situation. Teachers see them as aloof theorists, while other university staff regard them as unscholarly.

His questionnaire survey of 145 staff in 25 Rajasthani secondary teacher-training colleges shows that only 23 had produced a book, monograph or report based on research, and in most cases they had simply adapted their PhD thesis. Ten had written school textbooks and five were the authors of books on teacher education, but Raina points out that most were printed by "obscure, local publishers".

Shockingly, a significant number (35 per cent) of the lecturers had not read any books about education recently. And many of those who said that they had picked up a book listed "simplistic" manuals that were also popular with students because they contained easy-to-memorise passages.

When asked about the journals they read, several mentioned periodicals that are "commonly popular with housewives", says Raina, adding: "This indicates their level of intellectual curiosity". None of them read national or international research journals, which Raina suggests are bought by college libraries for their "cosmetic value" and to satisfy inspectors.

"Too many Indian educators die early in the intellectual sense," Raina concludes. "But they go on receiving their pay cheques and keep on teaching, long after their lives have lost their meaning and they have ceased to have anything worthwhile to teach."

"In Search of Saraswati", by VK Raina, Journal of Education for Teaching, Volume 23 Number 2, Carfax Publishing, PO Box 25, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 3UE.

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