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LEARNING THE HARD WAY

A teacher shortage is plaguing India’s education system

Reopening of the primary schools after months of closure due to COVID-19 outbreak, in Ahmedabad
Reuters/Amit Dave
Seeking teachers for school children.
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For the past two years, ed-tech startups in India have been tirelessly working to keep school kids up to date with their school curriculum. With students now slowly trickling back to physical classrooms, the scope of both offline and online classes is growing. One gaping hole, though, gets in the way: teachers.

Over the decades, India has opened plenty of schools but hasn’t recruited enough teachers: The country has around 120,000 single-teacher schools, of which nearly nine in 10 are in rural areas, according to a 2021 Unesco report. Needless to say, these schools give the idea of quality mostly a miss.

The Unesco report shows India requiring a whopping 1.2 million more teachers to meet the shortfall.

“In order to bridge this talent deficit, it is important for every educational institution to work towards training teachers to use technology, as well as, hone their teaching styles to impart impactful, effective lessons,” Himanshu Dandotiya, business head at Edureka’s learning platform Veranda Acacia, told Quartz.

Offline teachers moving online

For existing teachers, the pandemic and the subsequent push online was nightmarish. Neither the instructors nor the learners were equipped with devices, good connectivity, or the tech-savvy, to navigate this transition. These classes were also easier to ignore, and assessing performance was no easy feat.

“The pandemic-induced disruption in traditional education has shown how unprepared educators are to deliver learning and skilling outcomes for the 21st century,” said Sanjay Viswanathan, chairperson and CEO of hybrid learning platform Ed4All.

On the other hand, those who got the hang of teaching online often quit their school jobs and moved to startups indefinitely. Initially, the pay and flexibility were a huge draw, but as losses piled up, teachers’ salaries were hit. Many were even fired.

Besides, some K-12 players came with a tall order: 1-1 tutoring. “This translates into needing thousands of trainers. And for such models, yes, it is challenging to have a continuous supply of top quality trainers,” said Kashyap Dalal, co-founder and chief business officer of professional skilling platform Simplilearn.

Consequently, there is now a paucity of teachers both online and offline.

Skilled professionals as teachers

One way to increase the number and quality of teachers is to allow more professionals to enter the country’s teacher pool. Some reforms have been made to allow industry experts to become professors without a PhD at the university level. Professional skilling platforms like Simplilearn already hire working professionals to teach, Dalal said.

Schools should also rope in subject experts, experts believe.

“Imagine a world where learners are taught science by scientists, the arts by philosophers and artists, and languages by native linguists and not generalist educators,” Viswanathan said. “Education will see an influx of professional experts who will broaden and deepen knowledge creation and sharing so that learners can become better equipped to manage the jobs and demands of the 21st century.”

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