Why are teachers losing the Midas touch?

Traditionally, teachers in the Indian subcontinent have always commanded the respect they deserved. Consider this: according to the Mahabharata, ‘Eklavya’ – known for his precision with archery – gave up the thumb of his right hand in honor of his guru (teacher). Ideally one would imagine that with history as rich and popular as this, India must be one of the strongholds for teachers, but the irony is that the state of education has worsened over the years with fall in number of trained teachers.

Teaching was considered a novel and attractive profession for the brightest but the decline in the number of teachers has been appalling. Though, India has managed to increase the number of children in school by starting new initiatives like – right to education, however, the decline in the number of trained teachers has been considerably alarming. Consider these numbers: according to a study conducted by a NGO in 2012, 53% of class 5 students were unable to read class 2 level text, here’s more – 43% of class 5 students couldn’t solve simple two-digit mathematics problems AND to absolutely rub in government’s face – 2012 was celebrated as the “year of mathematics”. Who should be held accountable for such an inexplicable situation? Government? Schools? Children? Parents? Or the lack of trained teachers!

The fact is, our woeful state schools are in stark contrast to our dream of becoming a nation of IT parks and call centers. The decline in the number of teachers is paradoxical to government’s rush to set up new schools to encourage more children to study. Shockingly, little attention is paid to what children are learning in those classrooms and how effective the teaching methods are. Moreover teachers are quitting their jobs in the initial years and atypically the important positions, for instance, head of department, are held by teachers who are old and at the end of their careers.

The exacerbated teacher workloads, negative job publicity, and lack of reforms are only a few of the many reasons to name from. In a profession as novel and important as teaching, more than 30% of teachers are working on temporary basis, without any job security; hampering the overall methodology of improving the state of education. Every school, or for that matter every parent wants their child to utilize their skills and outperform their peers; resulting in more pressure on teachers to deliver results. Another reason why teachers are rapidly moving away from the profession, as many are not able to handle such pressures. As with any profession, teachers have been demanding pay packages at par other professionals, however, many of them are still underpaid. Pupil taught by teachers go on to earn huge pay packets at national and international firms, though, their teachers are still struggling with ‘4-figure’ salaries. For most Indian teachers, the battles are that basic!

Take China for example – another growing economy like ours – where the teaching model is very unique. Teachers command a tremendous amount of respect because in China, the student teacher relationship is limited to confines of the classrooms. Outside classrooms, teachers and students are not allowed to communicate, which ultimately allows teachers to lead a stress free life. But over here, the student teacher relationship sometimes becomes too personal, which does not allow a teacher the time to rejuvenate, which ultimately hampers their teaching skills. We need quality teachers for quality education

According to a 2013 report, there are almost 5.8 million teachers in India but only 75% of them are trained. Now compare this figure to year 2008 when 90% of them were trained. Drastic and immediate changes are needed to improve the plight of education in India. Each government stresses on the importance of having an effective education model, however, what we hear are only speeches, but no concrete laws to ensure the change.

Implementing policies like – regularly testing teaching skills and improving basic salary structure can go a long way in improving the state of education in India. But the bigger question is – how soon can the administration act to ensure that this crunch in our education system be stemmed now?


Leave a Reply