India has the largest primary school system in the world and the one that needs the maximum overhaul. To be fair, over the years, there have been multiple efforts by the government in increasing the literacy and primary enrollment. In fact the primary enrollment has jumped to almost 100% in primary schools and literacy has reached 75% nationally.
But has just this increase in literacy and enrollment to schools led to any positive impact into the quality of education? The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) released in 2015 shows that only 58% of children in the 14-18 age group are able to read a Grade 2 level English text. Only 64% of them are able to put to use the school education to do basic financial calculations.
The entire purpose of education is to ensure adequate skills in students who pass out to ensure they are employable and responsible citizens.
Is our education system creating a Skilled Workforce? Of the lakhs of engineering graduates that India mass produces like a factory, only 51% of them employable. India constitutes only 2% of the Patent filings in the world compared to China which has 17%. India has a share of measly 4% of research papers published while China is at 20%. The country with the largest youth population in the world will falter if the educational foundation is missing. Schemes like Startup India, Make In India, Skill India etc. will merely remain a dream if there is no major shakeup to the education system.
Where is the gap? The key reasons for falling outcomes in the field of education and skill development are manifold. Infrastructure woes, skewed pupil teacher ratio, outdated curriculum and low teacher quality have created a big chasm. The one with the highest direct impact on student engagement is the quality of teaching. If the quality of education and thus the learning outcome needs to be improved, we have to tackle the most basic flaw of our education system - the inability to select, nurture and incentivise teachers.
Primary school teachers need to be trained at TTI and secondary school teachers required BEd. which is bachelors degree followed by one year full time study. Since teaching is not lucrative profession in India, there is very low enrollment in BEd. and MEd. courses in India. Facing the severe shortage of teachers, schools started hiring untrained or less qualified teachers. This has reached a stage where at present there are 11 lakh untrained teachers across India.This has led to downward impact on student engagement. The government has taken positive step by giving an option to these teachers to complete a Diploma in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed.) course by 2019 while in service. But this crisis of untrained teachers will only be solved by focusing on training the teachers well.
- Improve in-class teaching methods to increase student engagement: Blended learning techniques which use traditional form of teaching along with use of digital technology like movie clips, videos etc. will allow teachers to self learn while sustaining the concentration of students will create a positive environment for learning.
- Continuous in job teacher training: Providing an online and cloud based learning and certification platform where the teachers could attain various levels of certification while in service could. Teacher shortage could be handled by letting lesser qualified teachers undertake these online courses while on service.
- Managed teacher absence better: Teachers could plan their absence from classroom, by letting students go through lesson plans and videos online. Technologies like EdSense could help teachers monitor student work in real time remotely.
- Well designed classroom structure: mix of students which encourages peer teaching and group effort.
- Focus on Health and Wellness: Provide yoga, meditation, gardening and fitness classes to teachers outside school hours.
There are myriad ways to incentivise teachers in terms of financial gains and recognition in their community.
- A performance linked recognition will go a long way to motivate the teachers to strive for more in their career. The recognition can be deduced based on the classroom observation of teachers, parental perception, student attendance and a performance feedback system.
- Providing a clear path for teachers to see their career growth and incentives like by school sponsored further education or government sponsored research will make the profession more appealing to youth.
- In the business world, client satisfaction and employee satisfaction survey are key indicators of how an organization’s perceived success.Similarly undertaking teacher satisfaction survey, will provide good insights to improve the system which in turn will reflect on learning outcomes and continued enrollment of students.
A motivated and passionate teacher can create a system of empowered learners who will be responsible global citizens. If as a country, we can devise effective platforms to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education to all, it will directly reflect in various sustainability factors like poverty alleviation, better health, environmental protection and gender equality.
- Madhavi Agnihotri