The single-storey brick-coloured fašade could easily be missed if it weren’t for the arched iron signage perched over its entrance. The building — with its cramped rooms, white vitrified tiles and paan-stained walls — looks dilapidated. But the structure is actually a teachers’ training institute, one of the four run by Delhi University. The Maharshi Valmiki College of Education works out of a rented building that it shares with a government school.
“Located in Delhi, the capital, this should have been one of the best BEd (bachelor of education) training institutes in the country. But who is bothered,” asks a frustrated staff member.
Indeed, is anybody bothered?
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld a government decision to implement the Right to Education (RTE) Act in all schools except unaided minority institutions. One of the key features of this ambitious plan is to maintain a healthy pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) in schools. For every 30 students, there should be at least one teacher.
“But where are the teachers,” asks Ambarish Rai, national convener, RTE Forum, a civil society collective comprising around 10,000 non-government organisations and education networks.
Human resource and development minister Kapil Sibal says there is a shortage of 12 lakh government school teachers. The Unesco Institute of Statistics goes one step further. In a 2010 report, it says India will need 20 lakh new teachers by 2015.
“In Delhi alone, 12,000 posts in government schools are lying vacant,” says Rai. It is estimated that in addition to filling existing vacancies, the government will need to appoint another 5.1 lakh teachers to meet the new PTR norm.
Rai adds that almost 53.2 per cent of India’s schools have a poor PTR. The situation is going to get worse with the RTE seeking to ensure education for all. It is expected to reach out to an estimated 8.1 million out-of-school children in the 6-14 age group. The shortage will be more acute as new government schools come up to accommodate the student surge.
A generation ago, teaching in schools was still an attractive profession, with some of the best students opting for it. But with job opportunities mushrooming across sectors, it’s now one of the last choices of a jobseeker. After all, the salary of a call centre employee is double that of a mid-level teacher in a top private school.
“In India, teaching is not seen as a high status profession and toppers do not opt for it,” points out Aruna Sankaranarayanan, director, Prayatna, Centre for Educational Assessment and Intervention, Bangalore. “In countries such as Finland, Belgium, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, teachers are paid well. These countries make teaching competitive by selecting only the cream of graduates for teacher training programmes,” she adds.
There are many reasons those with good grades look down upon teaching. “Outdated teaching practices are keeping students away from this profession in government schools; in private schools it’s the poor pay,” says Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal, Springdales School, Delhi, and vice-chairperson, National Progressive Schools Conference, a body of 120-odd private schools from across the country. “Most private schools don’t adhere to the Sixth Pay Commission salary scales,” Wattal adds.
Even graduates who are inclined to teach are finding jobs outside of schools. “Language teachers are in high demand in the corporate sector. Multinational education companies need teachers too,” says Rita Wilson, former deputy secretary, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations.
To tide over the shortage, state government schools have started employing para-teachers or contract teachers. According to a review analysis by the ministry of human resource and development (MHRD), 7.74 lakh teachers in government schools are untrained. Para-teachers are the norm in primary schools in Madhya Pradesh (with 52 per cent such teachers) and Chhattisgarh (41 per cent). “Para-teachers have no teaching qualifications. They undergo some refresher trainings and are paid salaries as low as Rs 3,000 a month,” Rai explains.
That the situation is dire can be gauged from the shortages in private schools. Though figures are not available, principals stress that filling up teaching posts is one of the biggest hurdles they face.
Take the case of Indus World School. When it was launched in 2006, promoters found it difficult to hire teachers who could adopt child-centric teaching methodologies. The school finally recruited candidates with strong subject knowledge, at times even without a BEd degree, and then trained them. “We hire high potential people and invest in quality training programmes,” says Sujit Bhattacharya, director, Indus World School.
Another reason for the shortage is the growing demand for Indian teachers in the West. “A teacher who earns around Rs 35,000 a month in India could be paid around Rs 1.5 lakh in Britain,” says Nikhil Indrasenan, head, training, Randstad India Ltd, a human resources outsourcing company. “Countries in Africa, West Asia and Europe have a demand for Indian teachers for English, mathematics and science,” he adds. Recently Vietnam also expressed an interest in hiring Indian teachers.
With some of the best teachers leaving for greener pastures, it’s not surprising that even private schools can’t retain teachers. “We have now started a no-poaching policy among our member schools [banning schools from hiring teachers from other schools],” says Anu Monga, principal, Bangalore International School, and chairperson, The Association of International Schools of India. “This is one way of curbing high attrition rates.”
Educationists stress that lack of training institutes is another serious problem. There are only 1,178 government-run institutions and 12,689 self-financed affiliated colleges running teacher education programmes. The training in many of the institutes is abysmally poor.
Private education firms are now running their own training schools. “We have to re-train our teachers as our BEd syllabi are outdated,” says Ranjan Mitra, principal, Future Foundation, Calcutta. Schools have started tying up with education companies to enhance teachers’ subject-specific skills.
Schools too have jumped on the bandwagon. “We’ve started our own training school in pre-primary teacher education,” says Vikram Ahuja, chairperson, Euro Schools, Jodhpur, and master franchisee for Eurokids Teacher Training Institute, Rajasthan. “Since we were in a small town, we faced a tremendous shortage of trained teachers.”
Government schools are also taking the help of private education companies. “We have conducted training programmes for government schools in collaboration with state governments, for example, in the Northeast,” says Naveen Rajlani, senior vice-president, ELT and School, Pearson Education India.
Remedial measures are now in the offing. The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), a statutory body that looks after teacher education programmes, has revised the curriculum and set up a National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, 2009, for universities to adopt. However, most states are yet to introduce the new measures.
“Till date we have made only some cosmetic changes to our syllabus. Delhi University too has introduced a new curriculum but it’s yet to be passed,” says Prabhjot Kulkarni, principal, Maharshi Valmiki College of Education.
To monitor the quality of teachers, every teacher being hired by government and aided private schools will now have to appear in a Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) conducted by the CBSE. However, in 2012 — the second year of the CTET — 93 per cent of teacher candidates failed the test.
“The quality is poor because nobody is training teacher educators. Those languishing in government institutions need to be trained to impart skills of modern teaching methodologies,” holds Marmar Mukhopadhyay, former joint director, National University of Educational Planning and Administration.
The MHRD, on its part, accepts there is a problem. “It is unfortunate that we are unable to attract bright minds,” says minister Sibal. “The private training institutes are of poor quality and the government-run ones lack infrastructure.”
The minister, however, has ambitious plans of reviving education colleges. “We have set up a committee that supersedes the NCTE and will be inspecting training institutes. Universities will open up more training colleges,” he says. “Under RTE, all government schoolteachers will get 18 months of refresher training,” adds Sibal.
The government, he adds, has allocated Rs 6,000 crore in the 12th Five Year plan for strengthening these institutions. Six lakh teaching posts have already been sanctioned. The MHRD wants all schools to adhere to RTE norms by 2015. Non-compliance could lead to closure.
Till then, when an Indian child goes to school, the teacher is likely to be undertrained. But that’s still a lucky child. Somewhere else, there may be no teacher at all.
Number crunching in government schools
Existing shortage of teachers:
New teachers need by 2015:
Posts sanctioned in the states:
Additional primary teachers needed to meet RTE specification: 5.1 lakh
Contract teachers as of 2006: 5 lakh
Unqualified teachers in government schools: 7.74 lakh
(Figures based on MHRD, Unesco, Unicef)
Number crunching in private schools
Teachers with a BEd degree: 77 per cent
Schools having teacher appraisals only once every two or three years: 25 per cent
No involvement in policy decisions: 55 per cent
Teachers trained on teaching methodologies: 35 per cent
(Figures based on the Quality Education Study conducted by Wipro and Educational Initiatives)
Training the educator
Government-run training institutions: 1,178
Self-financed affiliated colleges: 12,689
(Figures by the National Council for Teacher Education)