The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 highlights the prominent role a teacher plays in the holistic development of a child. The onus of nurturing approximately 27 crore students, encompassing the school education system, rests heavily on the shoulders of these teacher warriors. Ensuring that they are adept to take on this paramount responsibility calls for a strong and supportive development framework.
In our education system, teachers have numerous duties and responsibilities that go above and beyond imparting education. They wear many hats and take on administrative and constitutional duties and serve as last-mile government representatives for all schemes, pro- grammes, projects, and pilots pertaining to school education. There- fore, the herculean task of teaching takes a back seat. The pandemic has widened the sphere of responsibilities by taking away a physical class from the teacher.
Approximately only 19 per cent of a teacher’s annual school hours are spent on teaching activities. The remaining 81 per cent of the time is split – approximately 43 per cent in non-teaching core activities (in-service mandated and optional training), 32 per cent in non-teaching school-related activities, and 6 per cent in other department activities, as per the NIEPA survey report (2016). Clearly, teachers barely get time to teach in the classrooms.
We keep our teachers at the core of the education system. The responsibility of facilitating learning for children rests heavily on the quality of knowledge transfer. Children as central stakeholders need an environment to learn, unlearn, create, feel free and be fearless in their thoughts and actions. As the orchestrator, a teacher holds this colossal responsibility to facilitate holistic learning for a child. However, the responsibilities of teachers are plenty and are not just limited to teaching. It is, therefore, important to assess and address the factors that contribute to low morale and motivation in teachers.
Government teachers have been blamed time and again for the inferior learning outcomes of students. We want the children to learn with love, and also inculcate a love for learning. To infuse this beautiful fondness in children, we should start with our teachers. Working on the holistic development of a child is a full-time commitment. As we shadow this responsibility under non-teaching duties, the collateral damage ends up being the loss of learning outcomes. We have a responsibility to ensure that every time a teacher walks into the classroom, they are motivated in spirit and knowledge to put their best foot forward.
Second, teacher vacancy across States/UTs is a big problem. There are approximately 10 lakhs teacher vacancies in Government Schools across the country. Teacher vacancies are across primary, upper primary, secondary, and higher secondary levels. Some states are trying hard to fill the gap, but most States are facing a series of litigations, starting from district courts to the apex court on teacher recruitment issues. These litigations have been pending for years across the States due to which the issue of teacher vacancies has become even more problematic.
Subject-teacher vacancies are also becoming a big challenge for the upper primary, secondary, and high- er secondary levels. As per the Project Approval Board (PAB) minutes, the Subject PTR at the secondary level is 199 for Social Science in Delhi. In Rajasthan, there are 10,000 schools with adverse PTR at the elementary level. In West Bengal, only 17 per cent of upper primary schools have three subject teachers as per RTE norms. West Bengal also has Subject PTR at the Upper Primary level at 105 for Mathematics/Science, 138 for Language, and 669 for Social Studies. For Bihar, this is 351 for Language, 570 for Mathematics, 715 for Science, and 424 for Social Studies at the secondary level. This shows that not only teacher vacancies but also the subject-teacher (TGTs & PGTs) vacancies are imposing a huge challenge in the quest to improve learn- ing outcomes.
Teacher rationalisation is also an issue. In Delhi, there are large numbers of vacancies at some levels and surpluses at others. This is low-hanging fruit and can be achieved by establishing an annual online system of teacher transfers. The teacher transfer system should be entirely online and should work without any human interference, as has already been implemented in the case of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, along with some other states. All States/UTs need to adopt this annual practice with the expedition. Online teacher transfer has been successfully accomplished under Project SATH- Education of NITI Aayog in partnership with three State Governments.
Third, planning is foremost to effective learning. Incorporating the ‘what, why and how’ of a child’s learning seeds in the plan of thought of the educator should be focused upon. Lesson planning as a skill facilitates the ideation of a class before it comes alive in a classroom. Placing this seed to growth lies in the teacher’s actions preceding and succeeding this line of thought. Preparing the steps of learning for a classroom engages the teacher with the child even before the learning begins. Creating a framework optimizes classroom hours and provides a structure to knowledge delivery.
The Government of India is providing training to all teachers through its NISHTHA (National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement) training modules, where a lot of emphases has been given to lesson planning. During the two years of the Covid pandemic, NISHTHA provided online teacher training to more than 42 lakh teachers across the States/UTs.
Low cost and high impact open-source resources provide academic support to the teachers in a cost-effective and scalable manner. Enhancing the capacity of teachers is the necessity of quality education. Further, strengthening it through the
DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing) platform, community radio, and podcasts will enable the facilitation of a platform for teachers to assess and act on the real-time challenges of pedagogy. Unifying all efforts for teacher development is a mandate for holistic student development.
Fourth is the work environment. The locus of the learning environment used to start with a board and chalk but today it spreads beyond the school compound. The pandemic has made us learn the hard way that it is important to leverage technology to ensure continued learning. Peers in the periphery of the teacher are the most crucial stakeholders of the support ecosystem. Teachers who are led by strong and highly motivated school heads, give autonomy to innovate, experiment and create a space for their students to grow. The support creates space for self-development, reflection and buddy learning. Learning communities with reflective space, formalized support and counselling pro- grammes can bridge the communication gap, if any, and create a safe space for sharing. The educators sharing space will thereby act as enablers for the learner.
Motivating and celebrating teachers for their efforts has to go beyond the celebration of our teachers on Teachers’ Day. The immediate surrounding has a huge responsibility to play in inspiring our teachers, for them to feel positive and creative. Apart from the assurance by the Government, we as a society need to strengthen our efforts to inculcate a sense of respect for Government teachers; for the challenge and position that comes with being an educator. Passionate educators pave the way for passionate learners and that leads to the development of creative leaders for tomorrow.