Teaching is Nation Building: Indian Context

Why should we consider teaching as a nation building activity in India.

If we look at the Indian educational scenario today, significant changes have happened since Independence. We have more schools, more educational programs, better infrastructure and visionary people. Still there is a huge gap between the demand and availability. Developed countries like Sweden and Finland, known for the high quality of education, have managed to keep education free of cost for its citizens. We are yet to get there in India. I cannot stop myself from discussing the exemplary education system that we had in ancient India but I reserve it for a future post.

India is the second largest education system in the world in terms of the number of children enrolled. Here are some interesting and relevant statistics:

  • There are about 8.6 lakhs schools that offer primary education (it was 6.4 lakhs in 2000)
  • Nearly 132 million children are enrolled in primary schools (it was 113 million in 2000)
  • 60 Million children are in secondary/post-secondary schools
  • The higher education enrollment is about 29 million
  • 8.3 Million teachers are part of the educational process in India
  • The Teacher-Pupil ratios are 28 in Primary, 30 in Upper Primary, 28 in Secondary and 40 in Senior Secondary as compared to 11–12 in Finland or Sweden

While this statistics definitely shows great signs of improvement, the gross enrolment ratio (ratio of number of individuals who are actually enrolled in schools by the number of children who are of the corresponding school enrolment age) remains low at 23.2. The government has identified that the lack of trained teachers and ineffective pedagogy to be the key factors that contribute to low enrollment rates.

So how are these relevant to all teachers? Shouldn’t the Government teachers be the ones worried about such data?

The quality of teachers in terms of their educational background, teaching skills, motivation and their overall understanding of the subject has a direct impact on the retention of children in school. The infrastructure could be good, the administrator could be an excellent person but if the teachers aren’t good, the motivation to come to class dips down. There have been studies that show that schools with more number of inexperienced teachers have higher drop-out rates. We not only need more teachers but we need more motivated and committed teachers to transform the educational setting in the country. Sir Ken Robinson likens teaching to theater where the relationship of the audience with the actor is the actual theater and everything else is extra. The analogy with the educational process is stronger as the teacher learner relationship is at the heart of education. Over time, many things have been added to it like timetables, curricula etc but real education is what happens between the teacher and the student.

In your childhood days, do you remember that you liked a subject because you liked the way the teacher had taught you that subject? You looked forward to next day’s class because of teacher, didn’t you? That one motivated teacher can have a significant impact on the lives of students.

The quality of teachers impacts the educational system at multiple levels, some of which include:

  • Retains children in school
  • Impacts student success and achievement
  • Impacts employability and career of students
  • Gifted education relies very much on teacher quality
  • Benefits school reputation thereby attracting brighter talent to schools

If we look at the bigger picture, motivated teachers are an inspiration to student, who in turn become better learners and attain good position in the society. Educating a child can bring a transformation to the social and economical status of a family and a good inspired teacher can bring about this transformation. Hence focusing on the teaching process contributes to nation building in a significant way.