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Acute teacher shortage belies success in primary education

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ACADEMIC activities at government primary schools across the country are being seriously disrupted due to shortage of teachers. Despite national promise and necessary budgetary allocation for attaining primary education for all, the government-run primary schools have shortage of 53,000 schoolteachers. According to a report of this newspaper some 8500 primary schools suffer from acute teachers' crisis. This is not a good picture in the days of so much so success stories. The glaring negligence to elementary education shows why the rural literacy rate still remains as low as 27.7 percent. The shortage of teachers forces the existing teaching staff to overstretch which is affecting the quality of education and in some schools one schoolteacher is responsible for all affairs - taking classes in all five grades, maintaining secretarial activities and conducting exams. Primary schooling provides the basic structure of education but improper schooling at elementary level produce incompetent manpower. When 50% of our graduates are unemployment why this whimsical inactivity in recruiting new teaching staffs which is causing irreparable damage to the education system national wide.

The tragedy is further reinforced by the information that assistant headmaster's position fell vacant at 32,000 primary schools. A headmaster has a vital role to play in almost every activity in schools - management of members on the staff, implementation of the academic calendar, monitoring of school discipline, arranging co-curricular activities, daily schedule, and the general atmosphere of the institution. There are around 63,000 state-run primary schools in the country where more than 2.19 crore students are being taught by 3.22 lakh teachers. Educationists have long been pointing out that shortage of teachers is a big hurdle to ensure quality education and that the only way to overcome this is to recruit adequate number of qualified teachers.

Every year, a huge number of posts fall vacant temporarily, but for a significant period, because of training, retirement, resignation, and death. Besides, many female teachers take maternity leave while others take leave for medical reasons. Also, there was a long-standing wrangle over the qualification for teachers to be promoted to the post of the headmaster. The government recruited teachers from time to time, around 1.45 lakh in the last seven years alone. But if we follow the student-teacher ratio as per our National Education Policy-2010, we will have to hire more teachers.

It will be prudent for the government to recruit schoolteachers as early as possible as lack of teachers damages the path of potential progress of the nation. To recruit qualified teachers, who will impart knowledge, morality, and patriotism among the youngsters, the government should form an independent recruitment commission like Public Service Commission as nothing more important than nurturing today's children. But that should be done without further delay.

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