We all know that teachers have the most significant impact on student learning. For this reason, it is crucial to recruit and retain qualified teachers as we seek to build up the proficiencies of the next generation. However, the staggering shortage of teachers has created an imbalance, leaving schools with thousands of vacancies each year. Data has shown that this ongoing shortage is adversely affecting the education system in India.
Teacher Shortage in Rural India
Teacher shortages are defined as a diminished teacher-to-student ratio that affects access to education for many children. In other words, though positions are open, there aren’t enough candidates applying for them. But the shortage of teachers in government schools has reached alarming levels. Even some reputed private schools are struggling to fill their vacancies each year. In public schools, as teachers retire, they’re not being replaced fast enough by younger applicants. Because of this multi-generational gap in the workforce, students may not get the quality education they deserve. Many schools lack the infrastructure, resources and the required number of teachers. Studies show that this has resulted in more than 500,000 elementary schools nationwide lacking teachers, and 14% of high schools employed non-state certified teachers or contractual teachers. These are pre-pandemic numbers, with a recent study showing that a total of 19% or 11.16 lakh teaching positions in schools lie vacant in the country, 69% of them in rural areas.
Key factors contributing to the teacher shortage
Salaries and compensation
Teacher compensation impacts the supply and quality of teachers. Salary levels affect the distribution of teachers, which affects the level of schooling and the quality and quantity of individuals pursuing a teacher-training program and becoming teachers. Higher wages may also influence teacher attrition; teachers are more likely to leave low-paying positions than high-paying positions. Teachers who work in districts with low salaries may be less experienced or qualified than those who work in districts with a higher salary schedule.
Lack of Preparation
School districts and private schools alike have tried homogenising and easing standards for teachers because of surging demand for well-trained instructors. As a result, some school districts have had to hire graduates without the requisite certification or classroom experience. Complete preparation for teachers means more than just solid pedagogical knowledge. Increased confidence, support, and collaboration improves the likelihood that a teacher will remain in the profession.
The different norms and rules of the school and treating teachers as professionals can play an essential part in decision-making for leaving teaching in a particular school or district. In particular, teachers’ feelings of being treated as professionals are strongly associated with the administrative support, resources, and influence over policy within schools. Education systems must pay attention to the fact that teachers are not held accountable for how they spend their time at school and have a sense of being heard.
Impact of Teacher Shortage
A shortage of teachers hurts everyone involved in our educational system. Not just students, but also teachers and the public education infrastructure itself. It is important to remember that this isn’t just about getting more teachers in classrooms or just improving teacher pay. It’s really about improving teacher quality, so the learning experience matches the rising expectations for student achievement in today’s world. The quality of teachers has a direct impact on academic achievement. Low retention rates delivered to the teaching profession reduce teacher effectiveness and morale, diminishing student learning outcomes.
The teacher shortage makes it difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and increase the profession’s prestige, both of which hinder the goal of professionalizing teaching. Moreover, the uneven distribution of teachers means that specific parts of the population are not receiving the same educational opportunities as others. The teacher shortage hinders sustainability and challenges the vision of providing a quality education for all students from a diverse range.
Ways to Redress the Teacher Shortage
A strong public education system is key to fostering economic growth and innovation in any state. Raising teacher pay is one way to cultivate a talented workforce to support it. When teachers feel a sense of belonging, they become more engaged and feel empowered to share their voice. On the other hand, teachers who feel uncared for and whose voices aren’t heard often “burn out” by leaving the profession.
In light of the widespread effects on public education and society at large, it is imperative to understand this crisis and address it immediately. To design policy interventions or plan institutional action, we must first understand the factors contributing to the growing shortage of high-quality teachers. Only then can we help the next generation of students across India realise their full human potential, and the entirety of their aspirations.
Square Panda aims to tackle this problem by leveraging technology and world-class training to transform under-resourced schools and Anganwadi centres into learning spaces. Know more about our work. Visit ecce.squarepanda.in