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Teacher shortage could hamper universal education goal

Saturday, September 04, 2010 12:46:16 PM, Anjali Ojha, IANS

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New Delhi: As India celebrates another Teacher's Day on Sunday, it comes as a reminder of a major challenge that lies ahead - a massive crunch of teachers, at both the school and university levels that could hamper the goal of education for all.

Availability of teachers in fact remains the biggest challenge for institutions as well as the government, which has put in place educational reforms - at the primary level with the right to education (RTE) act, and in higher education, with a slew of reforms.

Consider the figures: The country lacks over 1.2 million teachers at the school level, according to human resource development ministry data. The figure includes 178,000 posts sanctioned for teachers under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan.

Similarly, more than one third of faculty seats are vacant at premier central universities and other institutions of similar stature.

"Teachers are the key to the RTE act. We lack trained teachers and we have to implement the act as well. This is a major challenge," a senior official of the HRD ministry told IANS.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or the RTE act, passed last year, makes the state responsible for ensuring the education of all children between six and 14 years of age. It pegs the teacher student ratio at 1:30.

However, the reality is otherwise. "India has one of the lowest ratio of teachers, at one teacher per 42 students. But with the states making constant effort, and the central government monitoring it should not be an unachievable goal," the official said.

He also agreed that quality of teachers was the main concern even if quantity is addressed.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has himself admitted that no change in the ground realty would be possible unless teachers are offered better facilities.

"It is true that the best minds are not coming to the field of teaching. Even the HRD minister has said this on a number of occasions. The ministry has started housing and insurance schemes for over 60,000 teachers. However, the process will take longer," the official admitted.

"Nearly 19 percent of the total primary schools in India are single teacher schools catering to nearly 12 percent of the total enrolment in primary classes. Again 16.29 percent schools still do not have two teachers," he says.

According to census of India figures, while the literacy rate of the country has reported a sharp increase from 18.39 percent in 1950-51 to 65.38 percent in 2000-2001, one-third of the population, or nearly 300 million people in the age group seven years and above are still illiterate and 42 million children in the age-group 6-14 do not attend school.

According to Unicef, approximately 16.64 percent villages do not have facilities of primary schooling. There are other problem areas such as inadequate school infrastructure, non-availability of teachers in remote rural, hilly and tribal areas, high teacher absenteeism, large-scale teacher vacancies, and inadequate allocation of resources on education to meet the expenditure.

Faculty crunch is affecting higher education too, as even premier institutes are facing the problem.

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) are facing a faculty crunch with nearly one-third of the posts vacant, officials said.

"Around 35 percent posts are vacant in central universities, 25 percent in IIMs, 33.33 percent in the National Institute of Technology and 35.1 percent in other central education institutions," an official said.

A concerned government is looking at ways to overcome the crunch. While states have been allowed to carry on with the present staff on the condition that their training will be upgraded in tune with the RTE act, for higher educational institutions, the task has become more difficult.

"Teaching is not that lucrative, let's admit. And that is the key point. We have to make it lucrative enough to attract the best minds," the official added.



(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at anjali.o@ians.in)

 

 

 

 

 

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