School Teachers: their role, status and agency

This film is a moving journey into the heart of the one of the largest education systems in the world. It probes deeply into what it means to be a teacher in India today – too often robbed of agency within an education system focused on standardized assessment. In response it offers some solutions to how, with some creativity and training, teachers can retail their own agency and originality in order to bring real value to the children they care for.

We asked filmmakers Dr. Chhaya Sawhney, Sheetal Rajput and Shivani Yadav about their work with TESF and the film they’ve recently created on this.

Why is the work you do important?

Dr. Chhaya: With increasing privatization in the education sector, the role and perception of elementary school teachers is shifting gears. While historically one looked at elementary school teachers as enablers, and as significant stakeholders in the teaching-learning process, they are becoming delivery agents with little voice and agency of their own.

What is the core message that you want people to take away from your film?

Dr. Chhaya: Elementary school teachers need systemic support to function well.

Why did you make the film?

Dr. Chhaya: We wanted to showcase how the students of the Bachelors in Elementary Education (BElED) Programme, as critical and reflective school practitioners, continue to create informal spaces in very structured school systems. We wanted to show how these graduates continue to exercise their agency despite stringent inspections and prescribed top-down teaching templates.

What do you hope a broader audience will take from it?

Dr. Chhaya: The hope is that policy makers, government officials, school managements, teacher educators and parents will trust, involve and listen to the voice of elementary school teachers more. This willl allow teachers to play their important role in each child’s life and as nation builders. Also, we need to nurture pre-service teacher preparation programmes in our country, such as BElEd, programmes that enable teachers to be critical thinkers who can be effective change agents in schools.

What was an interesting thing that happened while making the film?

Dr. Chhaya: To put the film content into 5 minutes, we had to go through several iterations. In addition to bringing clarity of thoughts at each stage, we learnt use of several tools that were interesting to play around with.

While the film is set in India its story is a global one. This makes it a must-watch for anyone concerned with teacher education, as well as young teachers heading out into the classroom for the first time.

This post was written by Luke Meterlerkamp, Digital Weavers