There is a disturbing shortage of over one million teachers in schools, according to a recent UNESCO report. In fifteen years, the report found that about 30 per cent of the current teaching workforce will need to be replaced.
Around 1.1 lakh schools in India are single-teacher entities. A total of 19%, or 11.16 lakh teaching positions in schools, lie vacant in the country. In rural areas, the number is as high as 69%.
The report, titled '2021 State of the Education Report for India: No Teacher, No Class', finds that the teaching profession is gender-balanced, with women accounting for about 50 per cent of the teaching workforce, but there are urban-rural variations with early childhood education, special education, and private unaided schools sectors highly feminised.
There is a significant rural-urban disparity in the working condition of teachers across the country. The state of teachers in the northeast and the aspirational districts are poor, with the provision of school libraries and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure being meagre.
Among states in the Hindi heartland, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest teacher vacancies. There are over one lakh vacancies in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the highest in the country. Moreover, over 60 per cent of vacancies in India are in rural areas, with UP topping the list at 80 per cent. Madhya Pradesh has 21,000 single-teacher schools, the highest in the country. About 7.7 per cent pre-primary, 4.6 per cent primary and 3.3 per cent of upper-primary schools have underqualified teachers.
Most teachers have tackled Covid-19-induced digital education
The report says that the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerability and insecurity of teachers. Although, most teachers have positive attitudes and beliefs about integrating technology in education, they find it time-consuming. During the pandemic-induced lockdown, students had limited or no access to devices and data that compelled teachers to use hybrid modalities to keep in touch. The report recommends that professional development using tech platforms can offer possibilities by enabling greater agency and interaction among teachers.
No professional autonomy for teachers
The private, unaided sector accounts for 30 per cent of the teaching workforce, while the government sector employs about 50 per cent, the report said.
The report further states that while teacher availability has improved, pupil-teacher ratios are still adverse in secondary schools. Private school teachers and early childhood education teachers are vulnerable, with many working without contracts at low salaries, with no health or maternity leave benefits. "Teacher workload is high -- contrary to public perception -- although invisible, and [is] a source of stress. Teachers value being given professional autonomy, and disregarding this is demotivating," the report said.
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