Using technology to bridge teacher shortage gap

India is beginning to change gears on development and Prime Minister Modi has spelt out his vision for an emerging India. The country sees itself as an emerging regional power with growing global influence and if it wants to realize this dream, it will need a larger base of educated and skilled youth.

Unfortunately, achievements of education in India is measured in numbers rather than on quality and efficacy of education. The government loves to trot out numbers of primary and secondary schools in India, the number of students enrolled and the number of teachers employed, across the country. The problem lies in the emphasis on numbers and not quality. This misplaced emphasis is holding back India from developing faster as a nation.

India faces some serious challenges on its path to emerging as a developed nation and these challenges need to be addressed on priority.


Global Shortage of quality teaching staff

On World Teacher’s Day, UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) along with Education for All (EFA) released a Global Monitoring Report highlighting the current and projected shortage of qualified school teachers, globally. The report presents a grim picture of shortage of trained teachers that is required for meeting the global aim of achieving Universal Primary Education (UPE).

According to the report, in order to meet the goal for UPE, the demand for trained teachers is expected to rise to 4 million by 2015. Of these, 2.6 million teachers will be needed to merely replace the existing workforce, while the remaining 1.4 million will be new staff.

By 2020, the demand of teachers will rise to 12.6 million, of which 10.2 million will be teachers for replacement and 2.4 million will be new posts. By 2025, the total requirement will further rise to 20.5 million, with 17.5 million for replacement and 3.0 million new posts. The projections for 2030 show a demand for 27.3 million posts with 23.9 million for replacement and 3.4 million new posts.

Most countries that face severe shortages are located mostly in the Sub-Saharan region and the African continent. The government spending by most countries on education is still low. By 2011, only 41 out of 150 countries had spent 6% or more on education. This has only aggravated the teacher-pupil ratio.


India should adopt technology as teaching and training aid

The report presents a vast opportunity for India to offer well trained teachers to global communities, after meeting its own demand for qualified teachers.

Today, technology has matured to a point where mass adoption of technology as training aid is possible and India must step up its investment in this direction.

The challenges with training manpower in India is the vast geographical size and the associated differences in culture, language, and infrastructure, which prevents any uniform approach to standardization in training and teaching methodology.

Most teachers at the school level still follow the age-old method of teaching which is neither inspiring nor motivating for young children. In the traditional approach to teaching, there is no mechanism to encourage young minds to experiment, explore and analyze, as a process of learning. Standard class room lectures do not address the issue of varied levels of learning capabilities in children.

Technology today, can address this problem by providing standardized teacher training, by taking over most of the teaching content using standardized training content, modern teaching methodology, and instant monitoring and self-assessment of teaching skill improvement.

Unfortunately, teacher recruitment and training is a state subject and therefore, any standardized approach to training will meet with stiff political resistance at the state level. As a result, there is a serious difference in quality of teachers and teaching methodology between states, with no universal mechanism to monitor teaching quality or skill assessment. Technology can help bridge this gap.

The use of technology can also address the training needs of candidates living in far flung and difficult-to-access areas and with mass adoption, bring down the per capita cost of training. In India, the distance between locations is a hugh challenge and technology can help bridge this physical gap.

If India, has to emerge as a powerhouse in teaching, then all states must come to accepting a common approach to teacher training using technology as an essential tool.


Need for modern training methodology

States are focusing on mass recruitment of teachers with the objective of providing jobs to vote banks and with little emphasis on assessing teaching aptitude or interest of the potential recruit. The system is not geared to asses this and therefore, the quality of teachers recruited is usually lower than what it should be.

Technology can step in here to assess aptitude and interest at the time of recruitment itself, which will ensure that only those candidates get recruited who meet the minimum standards and contribute towards building a base on which India can actually start exploring the possibility of exporting its teaching community.

But first, all states have to come on board to accept a universal content for teacher’s training and assessment, based on globally accepted standards and must accept common certification that is globally recognized. This will ensure the teachers not only meet the minimum standard of teaching required but also raise the bar for teacher quality. This will also help teachers explore job openings overseas, the demand for which shall continue rising till 2030 and beyond, as the UNESCO report shows.

The demand for quality teachers in the SAARC region itself is high. By 2015, Bangladesh will require around three lakh teachers, while Pakistan will need around 15 lakh. India is well poised to reach out to the region and provide highly qualified and trained teachers to meet and raise the level of teaching in the region. In fact, India could also act as a hub for providing teacher training programs for SAARC countries, in addition to offering its services to other nations, as well.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has spoken well to identify the global opportunity for skilled labour by 2020 and India’s potential to meet this demand. However, he will need to do more to bring all states on board to share his vision and the opportunity and get all states to adopt technology and universal teacher’s training, which will not only improve the job prospects for respective state citizens but also raise the overall standard of teaching in India.

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