India’s Punjab state sends educators to Singapore for training

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann speaking with government school principals before their departure for Singapore on Feb 4, 2023. PHOTO: @BHAGWANTMANN/TWITTER

NEW DELHI - A batch of 36 principals from government-run schools in the northern Indian state of Punjab will commence a five-day professional training programme in Singapore on Monday, an initiative that is part of the state government’s wider attempt to upgrade Punjab’s public education system.

Flagging off the group on Saturday in state capital Chandigarh, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said the programme will expose the principals to new education techniques that they, on their return, will share with their colleagues and use to deliver quality education to students.

In a separate statement, Mr Mann said the programme will “further widen the horizon of teachers by equipping them with state-of-the-art teaching practices, leadership skills, creation of teaching-learning materials and audiovisual technology to meet objectives of education in the post-pandemic world”.

The group will be training at Principals Academy (PA), a joint venture between Academy of Principals (Singapore) and the Economic Development Board to help develop Singapore into a thriving international education hub.

A statement issued to The Straits Times by PA said the programme will address challenges that have emerged because of disruptions to the education sector from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The uncertainty from the pandemic, it added, has reinforced the need for strong school leadership to help shape students for a rapidly changing world, while creating opportunities for governments and schools to be agile and innovative.

The programme designed for Punjab’s principals will position them as “vanguards of change” in such a setting, with hands-on adult learning techniques, including through authentic case studies.

This is the first time that PA is training school leaders from India, and the institution is in discussion with the Punjab government for further such training programmes.

A second batch of school principals from the state is also expected to undergo a week-long training programme in Singapore in March, organised by NIE International (NIEI), the official consultancy arm of the National Institute of Education.

Singapore has been a preferred destination for training educators from India. NIEI trained more than 700 teachers from Delhi government schools in 2017 and 2018, and they have since helped improve the quality of public education in India’s capital city.

A statement from NIEI said the Punjab principals will also be introduced to ways of leading their schools effectively in the post-pandemic era, besides “practical ideas of school strategic management, professional development of the teachers and developing a resilient school culture”.

Both the governments in Delhi and Punjab are led by the Aam Aadmi Party, which has made the improvement of education facilities one of its key priorities since it came to power in Punjab in March 2022.

Training teachers abroad is a key intervention to achieve this goal, with the government in Punjab planning to send its teachers to other foreign locations such as Finland and Canada.

But the government faces a daunting challenge, including an understaffed education sector.

The state’s School Education Minister Harjot Singh Bains recently said government schools face a shortage of as many as 22,000 teachers.

The state’s budgetary outlay for the 2022-2023 financial year for school and higher education was enhanced by 16.27 per cent, with an allotment of 139.91 billion rupees (S$2.25 billion) for schools – around 9 per cent of the state’s expenditure budget for the year.

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