Sunday, September 14, 2008

‘Teaching’ Plan

Making the ‘goodness’ of teaching much attractive

The other day I happened to participate in a colloquium that dealt with the growing concerns of severe shortfall of teachers across the country. I was quite impressed by one of the speakers, who proposed a very radical thought: teacher’s remuneration should never be market-driven, for that would surely distort the supply of teachers. They would teach, if not for anything else but solely for the remuneration it proffers. His apprehension was that the system would get a lot of teachers not by default but more by design. Teaching, according to him, required some amount of sacrifice and then beyond doubt, this hard duty would fail to attract those who are mentally built to take it up as a virtuous vocation.

In fact, the gentleman’s remark puts forth a classical dilemma. It is for all of us to observe that on one hand, almost every other profession is moving towards market-driven wage rates, whereas teacher’ compensations remain only and wholly untouched! Probably that is the reason why there is a huge deficit in teaching staff, across primary, elementary, secondary and higher education sectors. If studies are to be believed, India has a massive shortage of teachers, estimated at 25 lakh (eight lakh teachers just in primary and middle schools) at the national level. Due to this sorry state of affairs, around 45 per cent of Indians still remain illiterate! And to make the matter worse, if one and all in the age group of 15-20 start attending school, we would require about 38 lakh teachers to maintain an acceptable pupil-teacher ratio of 1:30. How so ever much we try to deny, the unfortunate fact is that very rarely do educated Indians prefer to take up teaching as a vocation, for reasons known to all of us. The central figure (which serves as a remunerative benchmark) is Rs 4,500 for primary school, Rs 5,500 for secondary level and Rs 6,500 for senior secondary level and in many private schools, the pay is even much lower. In the given circumstances, it does not come as a surprise that the popularity index of this profession has dipped from bad to worse.

The fact remains that we just cannot run away from realities. If the economics of every other profession is veering towards ‘market determinism’, then it has to be the same for teachers as well, otherwise we will end up finding tutors in schools and conversely, the teachers' undertaking private tuitions! If it is true that a higher package would drive hordes into the profession, it is also just as true that our chances of getting good mentors would go up considerably. Case studies from many developed economies vouch for this variant of success. Over there, teaching is not only highly remunerative but also the most coveted; this additionally explains why these economies exceptionally succeed in attracting the best brains into the teaching and research fraternity.

The unfortunate fact is that in today’s world it is price that determines the eventual appeal and associated stature of a profession. The moment we pay less to our teachers, they are invariably looked down upon. Additionally, it is not my case that great teachers are in adequate supply and merely by provisioning better pay packages we can incentivise them. Undeniably, great teachers are rare and an entire nation cannot be educated by them alone. Teaching implies sacrifice and lest we forget, even in this age of market driven economics, sacrifices come at a high price! Let’s pay our teachers their due.


1 comment:

  1. Teaching especially for working ladies should be customizable maybe hourly basis and fix days a week. This will discourage private tuition system too.