How often do you hear a child today say she dreams of being a teacher one day? Few Indian youngsters, especially in big cities, are opting for a teaching career, with low salaries being the biggest deterrent.
According to Bharati Baveja, head of the department of education in Delhi University, the decline in the number of students taking admission in the B.Ed courses - which offer teacher training - has been as much as 20-30 percent over the last few years.
"In the late 1980s and 1990s, teaching as a career option for youngsters was at its peak. Even till 2000, we used to get a lot of applications for admission in the B.Ed course, but not any longer," Baveja told IANS.
"The decline has especially been steady over the last four years - by as much as 20-30 percent," she said.
One of the main reasons for this trend, according to Krishna Kumar, director of the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT), is the low salary structure of teachers, especially when compared with other career options like management.
"The status that a teacher enjoyed in the yesteryears in not true now, their pay is not enough and their welfare is hardly taken care of. A yoga, art or music teacher in many schools works only on a contract basis and in Madhya Pradesh they have teachers working only on a contract basis. It's true when a Unesco report says that a teacher is in a crisis today," Kumar told IANS.
Sharmila Das, a primary school teacher in Vasant Vihar, said: "I love my job but there are moments of frustration when I see my friends leading a much more luxurious and expensive lifestyle than I can ever afford. We started at the same time in our careers and I put in as much hard work as they do in their management careers, if not more. But we have ended up in very different places."
Experts feel that increasing frustration among the teachers could be one of the reasons for cases of violence in the classroom.
"Nowadays you hear about teachers hitting their students so badly that the children have to be hospitalised or even die. While I am not defending them, the situation that a teacher finds himself or herself today in is very challenging and therefore such cases cannot be seen in isolation," Kumar said.
However, following the Sixth Pay Commission, this trend may now reverse, some predict.
"After the Sixth Pay Commission, teachers' salaries have increased substantially by as much as 40 percent. Therefore, I am sure that people's interest will return to this field and we will hopefully get more applications for the B.Ed course this year," Baveja said.
Doing their bit to make teaching more appealing, bodies like the NCERT and Delhi University are working at revamping their teacher training course.
Baveja said: "The B.Ed course now is of one-year duration, but we want to make it two years and include more practical exercises. We are working at revamping it and have the vice chancellor backing us".
Baveja also added that the trend is not necessarily true when it comes to the young in smaller metros or even women.
"We get a lot of applications from students in the non-metros which shows that for them teaching is still a revered profession. In the metros, it's mostly the girls who opt for these (B.ED) courses. For instance, in the present batch of B.Ed course the ratio of boys to girls is 20:80," Baveja said