The country faces a shortage, most acute in rural areas, of over 10 lakh teachers. Many jugaad solutions have been adopted to address the gap, but the problem lingers. One would assume, in such a situation, that the government would focus on getting the teachers pipeline flowing, with teacher education being key. But, a look at past Budget numbers stirs concern. To be sure, education is a state subject and that means the states should be doing more; but, the Centre, too, has a role to play, one that it shouldn’t try to pawn off to the states. Growth in overall allocation to education has slipped while overall allocation to teacher education has crashed—an IndiaSpend analysis shows budget funding for teacher training has fallen 87% between 2014-15 and 2019-20, from Rs 1,158 crore to Rs 150 crore.
The draft National Education Policy (NEP) points out that the country’s teacher education space is beset with “mediocrity” due to commercialisation, and “a general lack of commitment to the need for rigour and quality” for teacher preparation. As per AISHE data for 2015-16, of the 17,000-plus single-programme colleges in India, nearly 90% were teacher training institutes, over 10,000 of which, as per the 2012 Justice JS Verma committee report, are essentially selling degrees for a price. The NEP calls for shutting these down, and pushing teacher training courses in all multi-disciplinary universities, and all Model Multidisciplinary Colleges. It also calls for gradually shifting to a four-year integrated B.Ed where the prospective teacher is trained in education and a core subject (history, mathematics, sociology, etc). By 2030, it suggests, existing genuine teacher education institutes must become multidisciplinary educational institution, most of which are public universities, and till the time existing graduates aim for a teaching career, all institutions offering the four-year teacher education may offer a two-year B.Ed. as is done now. Further, it emphasises that teacher education needs to become multi-modal, offered through part-time, evening or blended courses, and even online, with the freedom for teachers/prospective teachers to choose the mode that best suits them. It talks of a continuous professional development approach that lets teachers acquire cutting-edge skills. The draft NEP also speaks about strengthening academic support institutions—the State Councils of Educational Research and Training, District Institutes of Education & Training, Block Institutes of Teacher Education, etc.
To revamp the existing teacher education ecosystem in this manner, massive government funds are crucial—indeed, the draft NEP acknowledges this, saying, “substantial public investment will be required”, and that an estimate must be made “every year for the next 10 years and provided on priority”. It does talk of philanthropic efforts too, but, largely, the funding must come from the government. The Centre needs to seriously relook its spending on teacher training. Else, the country educational development will remain stunted.