On the one hand, the education sector is booming. The number of schools is increasing, the number of children in school is increasing, and the number of children finishing school is increasing. There is a less significant increase in the levels of learning, particularly in schools serving relatively disadvantaged sections of society. But certainly, there is more talk around this issue, and more attention paid to doing more to bring these levels up to more acceptable and meaningful levels.
On the other hand, teaching remains in a state of crisis. Fewer people are choosing to be teachers, most find themselves in the profession because of necessity or convenience, and in some areas of the country, there are simply not enough teachers of the right kind. Training of teachers remains inadequate and patchy. While new-age schools advertise snazzy classrooms and “holistic curricula”, very few sell themselves on the strength of their human resources – the teachers. The education development index shows that the teacher-pupil ratio varies widely, from close to one teacher for 50-odd students in Karnataka to one teacher for 17 students in Sikkim. Mr. Kapil Sibal has repeatedly noted that the key to progress in education is the availability and even deployment of good teachers. It is with a view to doing this that several new teacher education programs have been initiated. But schools are mushrooming at a far higher rate. And clearly it will be a while before there are enough teachers available to fill the needs of these schools – which are based on individualized attention, a high degree of teacher involvement and engagement with students…all of which depend on having a much better teacher-student ratio. But while we work on that, the promise of these new-age schools will have to be fulfilled by the teachers we have, the teachers we are. Are school managements doing enough to support the increased demands on these teachers? When lofty promises are made, lofty ideals must be lived up to, if these promises are to be kept!