Foundational learning took a hit amid Covid, only 19% schools have access to internet: UNESCO report

The teaching workforce has a deficit of over 1 million teachers and the need is likely to grow, given the shortages of teachers in certain education levels and subjects such as early childhood education, special education, physical education, music, arts, and curricular streams of vocational education.

While the gross enrolment ratio (GER) for elementary schools has increased from 81.6 in 2001 to 93.03 in 2018-19 and stands at 102.1 in 2019-2020, overall retention is 74.6 per cent for elementary education and 59.6 per cent for secondary education in 2019-20, states the UNESCO 2021 State of the Education Report for India: No Teachers, No Class.

“Quality of education is the core challenge of the next decade when it comes to improving overall educational standards, retention, transition, and equity in academic achievement. Hence the focus of this decade on teachers and teaching,” read the report, which was launched today.

Since March 2020, schools in India have not been functioning physically. Foundational learning, which is the focus of the early classes, is set to slide even further down from current low levels.

The report added, “The use of technology in education for the purpose of teaching and learning has emerged as important, but this has also exposed a range of issues – lack of devices and Internet bandwidth for a significant proportion of students, lack of preparedness of teachers in the use of technology, and lack of resources in Indian languages.”

According to Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE+) data for the 2018-19 school year, a total of 9.4 million teachers were employed across 1.6 million primary and secondary schools (class 1-12) in India. The figures for 2019-20 were nearly 9.7 million and 1.5 million, respectively.

Lack of digital infrastructure and internet connectivity

The overall availability of computing devices (desktops or laptops) in school is 22 per cent for all India, with rural areas seeing much lower provisioning (18 per cent) than urban areas (43 per cent). Access to the internet in schools is 19 per cent all over India – only 14 per cent in rural areas compared to 42 per cent in urban areas.

“In about 15 years, 27 per cent of the current workforce will need to be replaced. The workforce has a deficit of over 1 million teachers (at current student strength), and is likely to need to grow overall given the shortages of teachers in certain education levels and subjects such as early childhood education, special education, physical education, music, arts, and curricular streams of vocational education,” the report said.

Pupil-teacher ratio improved in government schools

The total number of teachers in the system grew by 17 per cent from 8.9 million teachers in 2013-14 to 9.4 million in 2018-19. The overall pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) – reflecting the effort of the state to meet the RTE Act teacher-requirement guidelines – changed from 31:1 in 2013-14 to 26:1 in 2018-19.

In the same period, the proportion of teachers employed in the private sector grew from 21 per cent in 2013-14 to 35 per cent in 2018-19. The proportion of private schools with teacher requirements (as per a PTR of 1:35) has gone down by 10 per cent, while that of government schools decreased by 6 per cent.

Single-teacher schools number is 1,10,971, that is, 7.15 per cent. About 89 per cent of these single-teacher schools are in rural areas. States with a high percentage of single-teacher schools include Arunachal Pradesh (18.22 per cent), Goa (16.08 per cent), Telangana (15.71 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (14.4 per cent), Jharkhand (13.81 per cent), Uttarakhand (13.64 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (13.08 per cent), and Rajasthan (10.08 per cent).

Women make half of the teacher workforce

Half of India’s 9.43 million school teachers are women. State to state variation in the proportion of women teachers in the workforce is considerable.

States and union territories (UTs) where over 70 per cent of teachers are women include several that are ranked high in the Performance Grading Index (PGI). These include Chandigarh (82 per cent), Delhi (74 per cent), Kerala (78 per cent), Punjab (75 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (75 per cent). Other states-UTs with a higher proportion of women teachers are Puducherry (78 per cent) and Goa (80 per cent). Five states have a low proportion of women teachers (40 per cent or less): Assam (39 per cent), Bihar (40 per cent), Jharkhand (39 per cent), Rajasthan (39 per cent) and Tripura (32 per cent).

The data suggests that the teaching cadre is generally young, with over 65 per cent of teachers aged less than 44 years. The median age of school teachers is 38, and the average family size is four.

On average, 86 per cent of schools across the country – 89 per cent of urban schools and 85 per cent of rural schools – are accessible by road. In hilly or mountainous states and union territories, such as in the north-east, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir, the proportion drops to between 59 per cent and 68 per cent.

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