Unsung Heroes: Servicing our teachers

The Wall Street Journal’s India section has some remarkable anecdotes on how teachers in rural India are, out of their own initiative, providing examples to the government as to how to cope with meagre resources and yet transform education in rural India.  The first part of this post summarizes the article, and later, I mention some statistics to illustrate the difficulties teachers in rural India have to cope with.

The article discusses the experiences of the author in interacting with teachers in Uttarakhand:

1. A certain Mr. Prem Singh Rawat works in a tiny district called Mori, an area where teachers and administrators usually avoid being posted to.  Mr. Rawat has made a makeshift room in his office in Mori (though he lives in Dehradun), and is constantly pressurising his superiors to allocate more resources for education.  Apparently, 129 schools in the district have a total of 164 teachers!!

2. A teacher named Sangeeta Bahuguna has made a simple chart in her school called the ‘School Progress Plan’.  She had listed all her classes and subjects, areas that need to be improved and plans to improve them.  This reflects how, “for the first time many teachers are doing more than passing and failing students, now they are also reflecting on how their students learn.”

3. Another teacher, Ms. Kusum Negi, “is helping the district develop competency-based exam papers – a major change from its traditional text book and recall based tests.”  One example of such a question for Class VII students: “If all of us breathe in oxygen and let out carbon dioxide, how is it that the oxygen is not depleted in our atmosphere?

Though one should be gladdened to read such stories, the infrastructure our government provides to such teachers is disturbing.  I am not even referring to corruption and diversion of funds.  Even a brief look at the number of teachers, and the sheer burden they have to face is sure to alarm those from public schools in urban areas.  These facts are being given from the 2008-09 annual report from the Ministry of HRD:

Total no. of children in primary and upper primary schools: 13.35 crores.

Total no. of schools/institutions for this age-group: 7.5 lakhs

Total no. of teachers for this age group: 22.31 lakhs

I did some rough calculations to draw 2 inferences from these figures:

a. There are approximately 3 teachers (2.9) for every school/institution for this age-group!!

b. Each teacher is in charge of roughly 60 students (59.8)!!

This shows that even though there are many innovative, and dedicated teachers out there, the government simply has not, or maybe cannot provide enough resources for them to make our education mission fruitful by encouraging our teachers to maximise their potential.

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