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NEW DELHI: A fifth of all elementary school teachers in the country do not have the requisite qualifications to teach young children. If this doesn't shock you, take a look at what's going on at the state level.
In a wide swathe starting from all eight states of the North-East (including Sikkim), through West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and up north in J&K, the share of qualified teachers is much lower, ranging between 29% in Arunachal Pradesh or 30% in Nagaland to 68% in MP and 70% in Jharkhand. It is through these untrained hands that the foundation of education is being laid in children.
What is even more worrying is that according to district information system for education (DISE) - it's a school education database managed by the National University for Educational Planning - this condition has persisted for past many years.
In Odisha, the proportion is 79% while in Uttar Pradesh it is 78%. Karnataka (96%) and Punjab (88%) show decline in proportion of qualified teachers.
It's essential that teachers, especially of smaller children, be professionally trained, stresses Anita Rampal, professor at Delhi University's department of education.
"Just knowing a subject or being a graduate is not sufficient qualification to become an elementary school teacher. You need to be trained in understanding the learning process of children, their diversity, and you need to develop necessary teaching skills under trained supervision," she said.
The situation in the eight North-Eastern states has been like this for many years. Elementary schools in Assam, the biggest state of the region, are running on just 39% trained teachers, virtually the same share as in 2006-07. Arunachal Pradesh has slid from having 35% trained teachers in 2006-07 to 29% now while Mizoram is facing a calamity - its share of trained teachers has plummeted from 61% in 2006 to 40% currently. Tripura and Sikkim have seen improvements, but at a worryingly slow pace.
Bihar has one of the lowest shares of trained teachers, because teachers training colleges remained closed for about a decade, says Rampal, who explains the condition in North-East as arising from lack of teachers training colleges. In 2006-07, the share of qualified teachers in Bihar was 62%, which has now reduced to 43%. In West Bengal, too, the situation is fast sliding as the share of qualified teachers went down from 75% in 2006-07 to 49% in 2013-14.
In Chhattisgarh, with 59% share of qualified teachers, and in Jharkhand with 70%, there has been only a marginal improvement in the past seven years. A similar situation exists in J&K where only 51% teachers were qualified in 2006-07 and now this share is 52%.
School education is in the concurrent list of the Constitution with both, the states and Centre having power to deal with it. A large proportion of funds are provided by the Centre through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a centrally sponsored scheme. The regulation of teachers' qualification is done by a Central statutory body, the National Council for Teachers' Education. While it is mandatory for states to appoint qualified teachers to schools, clearly, the law is being brazenly flouted.
The trend towards appointment of contractual or para- teachers which acquired great popularity through the 1990's has also contributed to the decline in teachers' qualification standards, experts believe.