Pratyaya | Good Teachers and Dunning–Kruger Effect

Many research studies confirm the importance of quality teachers to the overall child development and it is important to have professionally qualified and trained teachers instead of adhoc-fixes to address the problem of quality in Indian education system.

According Section 23(1) of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the central government can authorize an academic authority (National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) in this case), to notify minimum eligible qualification for the appointment as a teacher. The minimum qualifications (Diploma/Bachelors in Education) as prescribed by the NCTE can be read here.

However, the RTE Act recognized that there would be two practical difficulties with this criteria and addressed them adequately.

  1. Not all the states have enough institutions to meet the minimum qualifications as prescribed by the NCTE, and in such cases on the request of respective state government, the minimum criteria can be relaxed by upto five years
  2. The teachers who are already appointed and do not have minimum qualifications are given five years to acquire them.

The normal course duration for a B.Ed program is 1-2 years depending on the state and giving five years time to comply with seems to be a fair deal. It may sound a bit odd for teacher education but distance learning degrees are also recognized by NCTE. However, not many private schools took these criteria seriously and as the deadline approaches there is a clamor for further extension or relaxing the minimum eligibility criteria.  It is argued in some quarters that a “teacher education degree” is not even required to be a good teacher and as an example they show some “lost cost private schools” which are doing well without having qualified teachers.

A couple of weeks back someone tweeted to check if working professionals would be interesting in teaching primary school children in public schools on weekends. Some institutions came up with a magical 5-week teacher training program — a two-minute Maggi noodle version. Some of these interventions may be with good intentions but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. As Finnish Educator Dr. Pasi Sahlberg asks, do we trust a civil engineer with a 5-week adhoc training program on dentistry to fix our teeth? If anything, teaching primary school children is even more complex. Subject knowledge alone is not enough. Teachers should have a good understanding of cognitive theory, pedagogical methods and language acquisition.

How it is then some people claim that they can be good teachers even without a proper teacher training?

This phenomenon is explained by Dunning–Kruger effect, which in effect says that unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority. (From Wikipedia) Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

  1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
  2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
  3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
  4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill.

Dunning and Kruger published some fascinating research papers on this inflated self-assessment phenomenon. Unskilled and Unaware of it : How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (1999), Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence (2003). For a complete list click here.

Primary school teaching is one of the most difficult jobs. In Finland (which has the best primary school system in the world), primary school teachers have to go through a rigorous Masters program and multiple selection interviews and they enjoy the professional status as doctors or lawyers.

The social cost of not having properly trained teachers is really massive. If our B. Ed program is inadequate we should reform it, if our public education system is broken then we should fix it but to come up with adhoc fixes, even with noble intentions can have terrible consequences. Slow progress is better than travelling too far in the wrong direction. We must find the right way.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.