In an interview to a national daily last week, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said: The “fundamental point we are missing in our education system is teachers’ education. The teachers’ education system is very bad in our country. That is our biggest sin.” He is right. The lack of trained professionals can be attributed to the rampant commercialisation in teacher training — close to 90% of the teacher training institutes lie in the private sector, where standards of training are low. States such as Haryana, for instance, have institutes that offer teacher training with price gradations, depending on whether a candidate would like to skip classes or design teaching aid kits, and even forego the mandatory training in classrooms, say experts.
This crisis has led to a shortage in the number of trained professionals. There are almost 660,000 teachers in the country who need training. This shortage is evident from the fact that less than 10% of candidates who appeared for the 2015 Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET) managed to crack it. The TET was introduced after the enactment of the Right to Education Act (RTE), when the National Council of Teacher Education laid down the minimum qualifications required to become a teacher and introduced the test as a qualifying exam.
At 4.6 million — out of a total of 7.7 million teachers — government school teachers constitute the bulk among teachers in the country. Along with lack of proper education and training, government teachers face several other challenges: They are used as frontline workers in different government surveys and the threat of ad hoc transfers. In states such as Rajasthan, if a government changes, a huge number of teachers appointed by the previous government are transferred randomly. But in states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have a policy on transfers, where you get points for serving in rural areas. This makes the transfer policy transparent. Third, the shortage of teachers in schools puts pressure on the existing staff. For instance, as in March this year, 500,000 sanctioned teaching posts are vacant in India. As a result, several schools have a pupil-to-teacher ratio of 80:1 and single-teacher schools account for 8% of elementary schools .
The New Education Policy is in the works; the government must use this opportunity to redesign the teacher education programmes. They must be seen as professionals who require multiple skills to do their job and accordingly professional standards need to be built into all teacher education programmes.