Improving Teacher Motivation is Key for the Indian Education System

There are many issues in education system in India, and one of the big ones is the lack of focus on the quality of education. India has been focused on what we call the inputs to the education system – student enrollment rates, building schools, books/meals, providing teachers etc). Although all these inputs are important, India’s focus has to change from inputs, to outputs of its education system – student outcomes, quality of education.

Although the student enrollment rates have signficantly increased in the India in the past decade, the drop out rates, and repetition rates are also very high. Enrollment doesn’t mean attendance, and attendance does not mean that the students are actually learning in school.

Why is Teacher Motivation Low in India: One of the main reasons for the poor quality of education in India is low teacher motivation. There are a few reasons for this:

Low accountability in the system: The education system in India is very centralized, with very poor monitoring ability. The people who have the power are sitting in their office in urban, while the local community in the rural areas who know what the issues are, and have the monitoring capability, have no power or voice. As a result, issues like teacher absenteeism (rates in India are highest in the world) go unnoticed, or unaddressed. In some instances, the teachers have one or two additional jobs on the side, that they attend to while being absent from school.

Poor incentives / salary structure: The teacher unions are powerful in India. Due to the centralized nature of the education system, and because of the power of the teacher unions, the salary structure is such that neither does a teacher get a raise for a good performance, nor does he/she gets fired for poor performance or for being absent in school. The teacher salaries are based on seniority, years of service. Hence, there is no motivation for the teacher for performing better.

Other: Sometimes, poor school infrastructure make the working conditions difficult for teacher to teach under. Also, the teachers are not being paid on time, and lack of student interest/attendance, only add to the lack of motivation for the teachers in India.

What Needs to be Done:

Incentives for Teachers: The teacher salary structure needs to be changed from a seniority-based to performance based. One idea would be given a base salary to teachers, and a bonus based on their performance which can be measured by either their attendance rates, student achievement levels, or both. Also, it is critical that the teachers are paid well and on time.

Better Environment to Work In: It would be for the benefit of both the teachers and the students that government spend money on improving the school infrastructures, books/materials etc. It is important that the school environment is such that the teachers and the students would want to go to school everyday.

Decentralization of the Indian Education System: The local community needs to be empowered with administrative powers, for a better monitoring system. This will need some legislative changes, but it is required. This is the only way to get rid of corrupt government education inspectors, and add some accountability in the education system.

Conclusion: Improving teacher motivation in India will need a mix of the “carrot approach” (incentives) and “stick approach” (accountability). While teachers take a lot of the flak in India and rightfully so (due to high absenteeism rates, and lack of moral accountability), it is important to learn what the real issues are, and tackle the root cause of those issues. Teachers are key to improving the quality of education. And it is vital that while addressing teacher issues in India or elsewhere, we make them a part of the solution and not the problem.


About pritamkabe

Originally from Bombay, India. Relocated to the United States in 1997 for attending graduate school at The University of Texas. Completed my Masters in Electrical Engineering in 1999 and then worked in the Hi-Tech industry for the next 11 years in Austin, Texas. I have a passion for travelling, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures...and i've been very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to travel quite a bit. Sports and food are my other big passions in life. Some life-changing experiences in my life a years ago changed my perspective of life, after which, just have an engineering job was not meaningful to me anymore. Hence i quit my engineering career, and I'm now motivated to give back to society and make a positive impact in some way. To get started on that journey, i went back in graduate school, and recently graduated as a "Mid-Career Fellow in Foreign Service", from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, at Georgetown University, Washington DC. Currently in New Delhi, India, on a research fellowship, to learn about the educational issues in India, and brainstorm my ideas about technological interventions for resolving those issues.
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