There has been a lot of talk lately on the use of technology replacing teachers in schools. Although all this sounds very “cool”, “hi-tech”, and revolutionary 21st century thinking, we should not lose sight of the importance of “human teachers”. Evidence has clearly shown that just blindly introducing technology in schools has no positive impact on student outcomes, and is NOT a replacement for good teaching. The biggest bottleneck for quality of education in primary and secondary schools is the sustained motivation of students. And supervision from human teachers and parents is the only way to generate that motivation. The most important influence on the child’s learning is the school teacher. Teacher motivation and performance is a key ingredient to a healthy and productive learning environment.
Although the Indian government has taken steps to meet a teacher’s need, and to raise their motivation levels, their overall strategy is flawed, and has led to poor quality of basic education in India.
The Indian government has taken the following steps for improving the motivation levels for teachers, and for improving the quality of education:
- making sure the school infrastructures meet the basic requirements.
- the student-teacher ratios does not exceed 30.
- the teacher salaries were given a major boost after the 6th pay commission – this is also meant to encourage the young-talented individuals to enter the teaching profession.
- making sure that the teachers meet a certain minimum college degree qualifications for teaching in a public school.
But what has been the result? The quality of education is still abysmal, with high student drop-out rates.
How can one explain this??
One statistic jumps out at me is that 65% of the teaching resources are wasted in India due to the combination of teacher absenteeism and teacher inactivity in the classroom. Studies have also shown that more the teacher salary in India, the more likely the teacher is either absent or inactive. There is only one explanation for this – lack of accountability in the Indian education system.
What needs to be done:
The issue is not just the lack of accountability from the school administration or the local community, but the lack of moral accountability in the teachers. It looks like the talent pool entering the teaching profession in India is not of good quality. And this is not surprising. The top young talent in India aspire to be engineers, doctors, lawyers, consultants, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers etc; and only if/when they fail to make it in their fields, do they think of entering the teaching profession. India is a democracy, and one cannot deny anyone the right to enter any profession. But i think serious steps need to be taken to make the teacher profession a much more valuable/sort-after profession, and to improve the hiring process of the teachers.
It’s been proven that just raising teacher salaries is not the answer. I think the Indian government will be well-served if they implement these 3 difficult but important changes:
1) Not be worried about the teacher-union/teacher threats to go on strike, and hold them accountable. Clean house if necessary (not possible, but you get the point), and inject enthusiasm and purpose in the teaching profession by bringing in young/fresh/enthusiastic talent. This will need a strong will and determination on the part of the Indian government.
2) There is a serious shortage of teachers in India (unofficial number is 3 million). Just having a teaching degree, does not equal a good teacher. I’ve seen fantastic teachers in rural Rajasthan with no college degrees, and pathetic/unmotivated/well-paid teachers in urban New Delhi and Hyderabad, having all the required educational qualifications. Hence, let a motivated teacher without a degree, who passes a “Teacher Eligibility Test”, be given a renewal approval to teach in school, with a continual evaluation process in place.
3) Change the teacher salary structure, from the current seniority-based to a performance-based structure. Work on changing the labor laws, to make it easier to promote/demote, or hire/fire teachers, based on their performance.
I think, lack of quality education in India, is the biggest failure of the Indian democracy. And i think it is high time the Indian government takes this issue seriously, to ensure a long-term sustainable economic growth and social stability. And it starts with the school teacher, and making the teaching profession a valuable/sort-after profession that attracts the best/smartest young minds in India.