Some students and friends approached Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1962, the then President of the country and a former academician having stints with University of Calcutta, University of Oxford and Banaras Hindu University, requesting him to allow them to celebrate his birthday falling on September 5. Dr. Radhakrishnan instead opinionated to observe his birthday as the Teachers’ Day, in respect of the contribution of the teaching fraternity and since then we observe 5th September every year as the Teachers’ Day.
Dr. Radhakrishnan believed ‘teachers should be the best minds in the country’.
That was in 1962.
Figures like Dr. Radhakrishnan do inspire even today but what about the teachers of the day?
Do they still inspire? Do they come from among the best minds in the country? Are they motivated enough to build the character of the students?
In a report released on September 3, India fell by 11 places to 71 on Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) released by the World Economic Forum. GCI is an annual report that measures performance in 12 categories including macroeconomic policies, infrastructure, health and primary education and higher education.
India’s rank in ‘heath and primary education’ category is 98 while it is ranked 93 in ‘higher education and training’, but below its overall ranking of 71 that tells us the poor show and neglect of these sectors in the country.
What is behind this sluggish performance? Certainly not ‘the best of the minds and the motivated teaching professionals’!
What ails the teachers in the Indian education system, especially the elementary education that builds the character of the students to prepare them to take the higher challenges?
At elementary and college level, it is not attracting the best of the minds. Let’s see some of the parameters to see the ground reality:
It is basically about the systemic flaws in the education system that initially paid teachers so less that they never bothered to be concerned about the quality of teaching because they always found it hard to meet the ends in their families. According to the Department of Teacher Education and Literacy, Ministry of the Human Resource Development, the entry-level basic salary of a central government teacher was Rs. 1200 in 1994 that rose to Rs. 4500 in 2004. Going by the trend, it can be safely said the state government figures were around this or even lower than this. It tells of a long period when teachers in primary schools were so poorly paid that almost of them considered their jobs as secondary in nature and did other sundry jobs to meet the ends.
After the 5th Pay Commission, an average teacher earns Rs. 12000 basic salary a month for teaching around 40-50 students. With allowances and other perks, it works out to be around 30-40,000 for experienced teachers and 25-30,000 for entry-level teachers in many states and the central government run schools. But it cannot change the mindset of the scores of the teachers who have seen the days of scanty salaries and they continue to affect the performance of even the new entrants because most of them are in senior positions or are principals.
And even after the 5th Pay Commission, the annual increment is a fixed paltry sum of Rs. 500.
The condition is worse in private schools with sub-Rs 5000 salaries being the norm barring few international schools and no word on annual increments. According to an EY-FICCI report, 25% of the primary and secondary schools in India are private schools accounting for almost 40% of the enrolments. According to a report, in 2013, of all the students in 6-14 age-group in schools in rural India, 29% were in private schools.
According to a report by the Azim Premji Foundation, an education non-profit, 45% of the teachers in primary schools were just 12th grade holders. The report rues the lack of proper training and flawed teaching methodology focusing on exams and not on students.
Given this fact, it is not surprising that the country had the dropout rate of around 40% at the elementary level last year a CRY report said.
These teachers are trained to follow the system, expected to report to the school daily, teach students multiple subjects and carry out exams. These teachers are also expected to carry out many other assignments and are ordered to give them precedence over the academic work because even the system training and employing them is not serious about school education in India.
Such teachers are merely followers carrying out the instructions collecting their pay packets while the crux of education is innovation and creativeness on pedagogy.
According to a 2013 Wharton study, the average count of workforce in the primary schools of India is around three teachers.
According to the Right to Education Act (RTE), the teacher-student ratio should be 30:1 but in reality this is a mess. An assessment by the Azim Premji Foundation found that beyond the student-teacher ratio of 40:1, the possibility of a strong performance was reduced to less that 2%.
Going beyond the statistics of the different reports on teacher-student ratio, what is disturbing is the shortage of teachers in India. According to a report last year, India is facing the shortage of around 1.4 million teachers. With such a huge shortage, how can we expect the healthy student-teacher ratio be maintained?
And such teachers burdened with higher number of students are forced to get engaged in different administrative works.
Elections from state assemblies to local bodies are held almost every year and teachers from primary and upper primary schools are deployed. The process is long and takes months, collecting information, preparing voter rolls and distributing the voter cards. The diversion of teachers in such works leaves schools and students with very few teachers to manage the academic affairs.
Additionally, the teachers are deployed for other non-teaching works like Census counting, Pulse Polio programme or other survey studies.
In fact, the Bombay High Court last year had asked the Maharashtra government not to burden the teachers with the mid-day meal scheme calling it non-educational work, an in-house work that requires the teachers to manage the meal distribution work in schools cooked by a dedicated staff. So what about the field work activities like preparing voter lists or conducting Census surveys?
Already burdened with higher number of students and a not so handsome salary with sky-rocketing prices, the motivation is further drawn away by such engagements, especially for the entrants, when they are paid peanuts for such other works they do.
How can we expect such teachers to be motivated enough to go the extra mile while teaching the students when we cannot create the basic situations required for that?
They are not properly trained, many are less qualified and all of them are burdened, financially and professionally.
It is said an educator needs to remain student throughout the life to remain updated with knowledge, in order to impart that learning to the students. But what if we don’t allow the teachers to remain even full-time teachers?
And it reflects in the performance. According to the latest Annual Status of Education Report by the NGO Pratham, though the enrolment in the elementary education is now almost 100%, the qualitative output, in terms of the academic abilities of the students, has deteriorated further.
Three eye-opening important observations from the study that sum up the quality of education imparted by the teachers in our school system:
— Nationally, the proportion of children in grade three able to read at least a paragraph of grade one is still abysmally low. In 2013, only two out of five children could achieve this standard.
— Similarly, the proportion of children in the fifth grade at the all-India level who could read a second grade text remained unchanged at the level of 47%. It has decreased every year from 52.8% in 2009.
— Nationally, the proportion of all children in the fifth grade who could solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem was 25.6%, or just above one in four children could do basic math.
Dr. Radhakrishnan had said about the quality of a teacher: “Teachers need to be leaders in their own right, capable of proactive thinking, open to changes and challenges, able to inspire, motivate, demonstrate by example and finally with a realisation that they have a huge responsibility of nation-building.”
Do we have such teachers today in our school system?
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/