Focusing on the educators
Investing in education is critical to reach the world’s agenda for sustainable development, as well as to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and foster citizens who can tackle future global challenges. It is time we put teachers at the center of education investments.
Around the world, education systems are facing massive challenges when it comes to teachers. In many low and lower-middle income countries there are not enough teachers, and large numbers of them have not received sufficient training and support.
The Global Partnership for Education estimates that it costs, on average, US $371 dollars to train a teacher in its partner countries. Its ambition is to train 3.5 million teachers, who could reach 140 million students. This will represent about 1 in every 6 dollars – about 16% – of the budget the partnership hopes to spend over the next five years. This will make an incredibly important contribution to meeting the trained teacher gap, which is one of the cornerstones of reaching the other education goals and the SDGs.
Teachers in India have built a powerful legacy of learning through the nation’s crest and troughs—from Aryabhatta and Savitra Bai Phule to Rabindranath Tagore and S. Radhakrishnan. Today, India is home to approximately 9.7 million teachers across 1.5 million schools.
They continue to be a major marker of socio-economic development and are a critical piece in our quest to be a global powerhouse of learning. The pandemic offered a true reflection of this, as teachers around the country adapted to virtual mediums to ensure that learning did not stop. They emerged as critical catalysts of change by converting their homes into online classrooms, going beyond the call of duty to arrest learning loss, and focusing their energies on helping students navigate the new normal and become self-learners.
For India, however, the challenges of education go much deeper. Limitations such as lack of accessibility, poor quality of learning material, demographic differences and shortage of teachers in schools demand more profound interventions and critical action plans. A recent UNESCO report states that India has nearly 120,000 schools with just one teacher each and that 89% of these single-teacher schools are in rural areas.
The report also estimates that India needs nearly 1.2 million additional teachers to meet the current shortfall. This calls for urgent measures and increased investment in the teaching community to bring more qualified and empowered educators into the Indian workforce. Accelerated government efforts such as the National Education Policy 2020 have been at the forefront of this need, having enshrined crucial tenets of ownership and autonomy to teachers, while also recognizing, documenting and sharing innovative pedagogies devised by them. With the policy outlining the need to build vibrant teacher communities for better networking, India is taking large strides in the education space.
(The author is a retired Principal and an Educational Columnist)