The pandemic is a reminder of education being a public good

Synopsis: Indian school education system faces various challenges like large vacancies of teachers, vulnerable private schools, etc. The government must act to improve the public school education system.


The recent UNESCO report State of the Education Report (SOER) for India: “No Teachers, No Class”, highlighted various challenges associated with school education in India.

Click here to know more about the State of the Education Report (SOER) for India: “No Teachers, No Class”
What are the challenges associated with Teachers and their performance?

Vacancies skewed towards states: The UNESCO report highlighted that India’s school system is facing an acute shortage of teachers. According to the UNESCO report, the bulk of the vacancies are in rural schools. But these shortages are skewed towards states with relatively fast-growing populations. For example, Uttar Pradesh, with a shortage of 3,30,000 teachers, Bihar 2,20,000 and West Bengal 1,10,000.

This implies that a large cohort of India’s future workforce will be insufficiently educated at a time when technological transitions in both services and manufacturing demand a high minimum standard of education.

Teachers and their non-teaching activities: Teachers are involved in several non-teaching activities too such as coordinating midday meals, registering children for Aadhaar, election duty and vaccination drives.

Interstate differences in recruitment and transfer of teachers: Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand see rules of recruitment being changed year to year, suggesting political influences, while Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have “a systematic, technology-based, transparent system of recruitment, employment and transfer”.

Further, the spread of teacher eligibility tests is helping to improve standards, but these tests only do subject testing, not teaching practice of individuals.

What are the lessons learned from the pandemic on school education?

The pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of private schools. Not all private schools are bad. Many are of good quality and are truly bothered about the education and welfare of their students. But an overwhelmingly large proportion of private schools are run only for commercial purposes.

For example, running a private school is a business in India. During the past 18 months, they have done nothing to engage children. But they have always demanded fees.

On the other hand, many government schoolteachers have often reached homes and communities to teach students. So, these schools have lost all trust and a few have even collapsed. This has boosted enrolment in the government (public) school system. 

Read more: Long term Impacts of School Closure – Explained, pointwise
What needs to be done to improve school education?

There is no substitute for an equitable, strong and vibrant public education system. So, the energy in the public-school system with this rising enrolment must be effectively harnessed.

India now needs to incentivise smart young people to take up the teaching profession and train them well. Apart from that, India also needs to upskill the existing teachers.

Source: This post is based on the following articles

  • Teacher, you learn too: Filling school vacancies is essential. So is doing this professionally rather than politically published in Times of India on 6th October 2021.
  • The pandemic is a reminder of education being a public good published in Livemint on 7th October 2021.
  • Learning disabilities published in Business Standard on 7th October 2021.
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