Teachers hold the key to good education. Teaching is all about transferring knowledge from teachers to learners or students. Students carry nothing out of the classrooms but what they learn from their teachers. Issues like textbooks, school environment, physical infrastructure and administrative apparatus are peripheral to learning.
India has about nine million teachers who teach in around 1.5 million schools. The centrality of teachers to learning has been recognised by all. A field survey report of Teachers Educational Institutions (TEIs) by the Azim Premji puts the number of these institutions in the country at a little over 17,000. The study says the demands for teachers for new appointments annually is roughly 3 to 4 lakh, while supply is more than double of it. It points out that these TEIs should be capable of preparing 19 lakh graduates annually but normally only 40 to 60% of this capacity is used. It also concludes that there is an oversupply of teachers for some stages of school education and severe undersupply for others. Anecdotal evidence tells that teachers for subjects like mathematics, English and geography are in short supply. At the same time, not all the teachers certified and trained at these TEIs are employable.
The report says, “The share of private TEIs is disproportionately large. While it is not necessary that all private TEIs offer poor quality education, there is sufficient evidence that the quality of teacher preparation offered is generally poor with a large majority of these TEIs also being accused of being fraudulent”.
Of the 17,000 TEIs, 92% are privately owned. There is a vast asymmetry in geographic dispersal of these TEIs with five states having less than ten institutes while seven states have more than one thousand institutes each. Uttar Pradesh has 4,726 TEIs followed by Rajasthan (1,405), Maharashtra (1,363), Tamil Nadu (1,229), Karnataka (1,102), Madhya Pradesh (1,091) and Andhra Pradesh (1,045). In the North-eastern states with exception of Assam (116), have less than 25 TEIs each. Sikkim has the smallest number, only 8.
The following observation must make the nation’s educators sit up and ponder: “A large proportion of these teaching colleges are not even attempting to provide a good education; instead, many are functioning as commercial shops where even the minimum curricular or course requirements are not met and where degrees are essentially available for a price. The integrity of teacher education cannot be attained without first shutting down this practice.”
The empirical study about teacher education institutions reveals the presence of a large number of sub-standard, dysfunctional teacher education institutions functioning as commercial shops. In such institutions, there is not even pretence of a genuine effort, and even the minimum curricular requirements are not met. This lack of adherence to the most basic norms and standards has been the single biggest reason for the poor preparation of our teachers. The National Education Policy 2020 reiterates that such institutions need to be immediately shut down. We must find the political will and the administrative intent to do so. Improving teacher education is at the core of improving education in India and that needs a full-scale, sustained, grounds-up redesigning of the system – both curriculum and operations.
Total intake capacity of the 17,503 TEIs is sufficient to prepare 18,86,028 teachers. Of these TEIS, around 1,425 are run by the Government, including 600 District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs). The remaining, nearly 15,464 (around 92%), are run privately.
Ghazipur in UP has the highest number of TEIs, i.e., 300 in a district. 298 of these are private. The figure is astounding as the district has 302 regular colleges meant for other courses. A few TEIs show the same plot number in their detailed address. Jaipur has the second highest number of TEIs (259) in a district. Of these, 247 are private. Eight TEIs are in the same locality; in another case five TEIs are in the same locality. The names of many of these TEIs are also quite similar. Bangalore with 204 has the third highest number of TEIs in a single district. Karnataka has a total of 1,202 TEIs. At least three institutes have very similar names. Six have ‘pre-primary’ in the name but data related to programme they offer does not include programmes preparing teachers for the pre-primary stage.
The survey took up 35 private TEIs across 13 districts in five states to understand the corrupt practices by private TEIs—both on institutional and academic areas. It was found that there is flagrant violation of norms by the private TEIs to conduct high quality education for students. Here is a snapshot of some corrupt practices:
1- Private TEIs do not have required number of teacher educators and adopt deliberate corrupt practices to hide the issue. 26 out of 29 TEIs had such practices.
2- Classes are neither conducted seriously nor taken seriously by students. Almost all private TEIs allow students with shortage of attendance to appear for exams; more than 60% allowed students who had not completed their school internships to appear for exams; at least 70% TEIs had an average attendance of students that was below 80%; subject practicums were not conducted at all in more than 30% of the TEIs and action research was unheard of in most. Curriculum labs were not available in more than 50% of the TEIs; around a third of the TEIs did not have libraries, computer labs for seminar halls. Faculty responses showed that the same faculty was teaching in several institutes and many of them were teaching more than one subject.
Some corrupt practices: Same teacher may teach in one college in the morning, in another in the afternoon and yet another in the evening. This is done in order to minimize faculty cost. Under-payment of salaries (less than one for which they sign) is common practice. Managements prefer to engage non-degree holders as they are willing to work on half the standard salary. Records shown to inspection teams are different from one they keep to operate the institution. Fifteen of the 29 respondents who were asked if appointment letters were given, replied in negative. More than 50% faculty said there was difference in salaries for which they signed and what they actually received. In most cases, faculty members who were shown as ‘permanent’ had contractual positions in multiple institutes. Students were allowed non-attendance in lieu of fines that ranged from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 12,000. Some even alleged that students were allotted marks in exchange of pro-rata payment. Students are assured of degrees without fulfilling the mandated curricular requirements.
The report concludes that the teacher education sector has been beleaguered with mediocrity as well as rampant corruption due to commercialization. A senior bureaucrat had this to say: ‘So who runs these private TEIs? They are basically liquor contractors, road contractors, MPs, MLAs.” They study quotes the J. S. Verma Commission (2012) constituted by the Supreme Court which had observed: “A majority of these standalone teaching institutes—over 10,000 in number—are not even attempting serious teacher education but are attempting serious teacher education but are essentially selling degrees for a price.” A former secretary of the Ministry of HRD termed the TEIs as a ‘mafia’ in the education sector, asserting the claim of these being ‘extremely well-connected and deeply entrenched in political and commercial interest.
The study, thus, reinforces the need for a complete overhaul of the Teacher Education sector in India.
For full text of the field study, log onto:
M A Siraj is Bengaluru based seasoned journalist who writes for a variety of newspapers including The Hindu, and news portals.