Reliance Foundation today awarded 1,000 teaching professionals with the Reliance Foundation Teacher Awards recognising educators who have excelled in Centre for Teacher Accreditation’s (CENTA’s) Teaching Professional’s Olympiad (TPO) 2018.
The event also saw the launch of the 5th edition of CENTA TPO that will be held in 75 cities across India, and in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on 14 December, 2019. The Reliance Foundation also announced the next edition of the Reliance Foundation Teacher Awards to continue the recognition of talent through CENTA TPO 2019 where each of the 1,000 winners will be awarded a cash prize and a citation.
Reliance Foundation, led by founder and chairperson Nita Ambani, is the philanthropic arm of Reliance Industries Limited and strives to play a catalytic role in the nation’s development challenges in areas of rural transformation, health, education and sports for all (ESA), disaster response, urban renewal, and arts, culture and heritage.
Centre for Teacher Accreditation or CENTA, founded in 2014 is a market-driven certification of competencies that work to empower teachers and catalyse their professional development.
On the occasion of the Reliance Foundation Teacher Awards for winners of the CENTA TPO 2018 in Mumbai, Firstpost spoke with CENTA founder and CEO, Ramya Venkataraman. Edited excerpts from the interview:
How has the support of Reliance Foundation helped CENTA in its mission to make teaching aspirational?
One of our flagship programmes CENTA TPO has motivated teachers to get started for the journey. It’s a unique national competition in the format of an objective, multiple-choice test based on the CENTA Standards and which is highly practice-oriented. It brings a host of relevant and coveted rewards, recognition and opportunities for teachers. Indian and global organisations including Reliance Foundation are partnering with us.
As for support, Reliance Foundation gives awards in the form of exciting cash prizes and citation to 1,000 teachers and also helps in awareness building. The brand and reach of Reliance Foundation further it in a big way.
Was it a big challenge to convince teachers and schools to opt for CENTA Accreditation?
Initially, we thought it would be quite challenging, but gradually an interesting thing we found was that our programme was catering to the latent need of teachers — they wanted a platform where their knowledge and skills got recognition.
In the very first year, more than a thousand teachers, including from remote places, participated.
Prizes given by various partnering organisations including the Reliance Foundation helped in building momentum.
Convincing teachers had not been difficult. Rather, the teachers found this test to be the most relevant ever. We have put a lot of efforts in fulfilling a need that existed and teachers came in large numbers. For example, 90 teachers came from Ladakh by travelling six hours through snow and reached Jammu and Kashmir to take the test. Due to a large response from teachers from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, this year, we’ve opened a centre at Port Blair (earlier it was Chennai).
Has the response to CENTA been different in various parts of the country – in different cities, towns and villages?
Not really. CENTA received a pan-India response. We were welcomed everywhere. Besides metro cities, now teachers from Tier 2 and 3 cities and towns are participating. We’ve received participation even from remote locations like Ladakh, northeastern states and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Based on our reach, awareness of this initiative is gradually building. There is a lot of enthusiasm among teachers, as they look for social acknowledgement of their competence. CENTA provided that platform and it clicked.
At present, we have six languages and 23 subjects and teachers are participating in these segments. Once more languages and subjects are added, more teachers from various faculties will participate.
Besides making teaching aspirational, what are the other issues in education that CENTA hopes to address?
CENTA’s broader mission is to help identify outstanding teachers and teacher candidates and create great opportunities for them by serving as a signal of quality for schools, teacher training institutes and employers. Through this catalysing role, we hope to motivate a larger population of teachers to improve their competencies and see teaching becoming a more aspirational profession. This will help improve the quality of school education in a fundamental, sustainable and market-driven manner. Besides CENTA’s TPO, we provide in-depth certification like CENTA’s Micro Credentials and CENTA’s Teaching Quotients (TQ).
CENTA’s TQ for teacher recruitment is a high-quality assessment that leads to a TQ Score which any graduate interested in teaching can carry on the resume and which schools can use as a benchmark during recruitment.
‘My CENTA’ is a free technology platform that provides teachers with access to training options.
The 5th TPO will be larger as it will be held in 75 cities across India and in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. What role is the Reliance Foundation playing in this expansion?
Reliance Foundation gives awards to 1,000 teachers in the form of exciting prizes and citations, which creates motivation amongst the teaching community in a big way. It also helps in spreading awareness about this initiative widely and include a larger number of teachers from all corners of the country.
Reliance Foundation has announced that the next edition of Reliance Foundation Teacher Award in partnership with CENTA will continue the journey of recognising talents through CENTA TPO 2019, where each of the 1,000 winners will be awarded cash prize and citation.
How have you benefitted by working with Reliance Foundation as they have a vast experience in the education sector through its ‘Education For All’ (EFA) initiative?
Like other partner organisations, Reliance Foundation’s involvement benefits CENTA in two primary ways — Reliance Foundation Teacher Award and awareness building across the education sector. Reliance Foundation is a large organisation with a broader experience in the education sector through its EFA initiative. We have mutual brainstorming and exchange of ideas, which provides a rich experience and knowledge base to our programme.
How satisfied are you with the growth and development of CENTA?
It’s very satisfying to see the growth. Four years ago we didn’t anticipate that so much would happen and on such a large-scale.
There are a few most satisfying things that happened.
First, the participation of teachers increased in large numbers. Our focus is to serve the teacher community properly and ensure that the teachers are duly recognised.
Second, the participation, support and branding we get from partnering organisations like Reliance Foundation, Oxford University Press, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, etc.
Third, thousands of private schools today give weightage to CENTA in recruiting quality teachers. Schools are also recognising those teachers who got awards by participating in TPO and many schools are encouraging their teachers to participate in CENTA’s programme.
Fourth, identification of high-level of teachers.
Fifth, the support from the government — both from the centre and states. The central government bodies like NITI Aayog, etc, and from a few states have been very encouraging.
Today, more than 60,000 teaching professionals from more than 10,000 schools in 2,000 plus cities, towns and villages across India and the UAE are part of CENTA’s endeavour to connect teachers with career opportunities and professional growth.
Our purpose is to get the best brains into the education sector, which otherwise had not been happening. Teaching has not been considered an aspirational profession due to low social recognition. We are optimistic that teaching would be amongst the top three professions in days to come.
Disclaimer: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd which publishes Firstpost