In February 2015, the western state of Maharashtra held its annual evaluation tests for teachers of government-run schools, those who teach (a) classes I to V and (b) classes VI to VIII.
These were the results:
|Maharashtra Teacher Test Results|
|Category||Total registered||Total present||Total absent||Passed in the exam||Pass percentage|
Only 1% of more than 245,800 primary teachers who took the test passed.
Upper-primary teachers did better, somewhat—4.9% cleared the tests.
This is the situation in a state where 99% of children aged 6 to 14 years are—officially—enrolled in schools, and there are 25 teachers for each student, near the global average.
“In the wake of Teacher Eligibility Tests [introduced after the Right to Education Act, 2009] and the high proportion of candidates who fail to clear the examination – there are people who argue that subject knowledge is poor among our teachers. They point out that it is the quality of teacher – her/his mastery over subjects, pedagogic skills and aptitude to teach that is perhaps responsible for poor learning” wrote Vimala Ramachandran of the National University for Educational Planning and Administration, an affiliate of the human resource development (HRD) ministry, in a study.
“Many of them argue that people enter the teaching profession as a last resort—when they have no other option,” wrote Ramachandran.
Teaching as an option of last resort might explain a key problem in India’s education system.
Less than one in five teachers adequately trained
In an effort to boost the quality of teaching in government schools, the union government in 2011 launched a programme under the universal education programme, or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, to support states and union territories for annual, in-service teacher training programmes.
Teacher eligibility tests check performance, based on training modules designed by states.
|Teacher Training, 2011-12 to 2013-14|
|Funds (Rs crore)||130||157||225|
|No. of Teachers Trained||74,732||95,360||86,734|
Source: Lok Sabha; *Figures up to Dec. 2013
There are 4.5 lakh or 0.4 million untrained elementary school teachers, according to Smriti Irani, HRD minister. The central programme has trained only 19.2% of teachers up to 2013-14.
So much has improved—and, yet, quality plunges
Despite spending Rs 586,085 crore ($94 billion) over the last decade on primary education, India has been unable to arrest the decline in learning. The quality of teaching and teachers, millions of them untrained or under-trained, is now emerging as a key problem.
A recent United Nations report showed that some basic indicators such as enrolment and access have improved:
- Over 12 years, India has reduced its out-of-school children (enrolment rate) by more than 90%.
- Universal primary education has been achieved, 99% of children (6-14 years) in school.
- India had a ratio of 35 pupils for every teacher in 2012, up from 40 in 2000—the second highest in South Asia after Bhutan—but behind the global average of 24 pupils for every teacher.
Despite these improvements, learning outcomes in India have fallen.
Only a fourth of all children in class III can read a class II text fluently, a drop of more than 5% over four years, according to the 2014 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) report by Pratham, a non-government organisation (NGO) working in the field of education.
A quarter of children in class III could not recognise numbers between 10 and 99, a drop of 13% over four years.
What goes in exceeds what comes out
The focus of the government’s education policy has been to spend more money—in other words, inputs. India’s elementary education budget has increased almost two-fold, from Rs 18,439.6 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 32,940.7 crore, in 2015-16.
This has not translated into improved learning outcomes.
While the government spent money on building schools, hiring teachers, providing free textbooks, uniforms and mid-day meals, the net enrolment in government schools went down, and enrolment in private schools rose, especially in primary schools, according to the ASER study.
Between 2007 and 2013, according to data released by the District Information System for Education (DISE), a division of the HRD ministry, enrolment in primary schools (classes I to V) peaked in 2011 at 137 million, while upper-primary enrolment (classes VI to VII) rose from 51 million to about 67 million.
During this period, enrolment in government schools (classes I to VIII) declined by about 11.7 million, from 133.7 million to 121 million; enrolment in private schools went up by 27 million, from 51 million to 78 million.