Shortage of Teachers in School Education in India: Myth or Reality

By Sandip Datta,  Delhi School of Economics, New Delhi and Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Institute of Education, University College London (U.K)

Without making sincere efforts time and again it is being said that there is a shortage of approx one million teachers in schools in India. While enacting the Right to Education Act in 2009, it was said that there is a shortage of one million teachers which is now reaffirmed while formulating the National Policy on Education (NEP 2020). Appointing additional teachers to the tune of one million teachers requires a huge investment on education but the percentage of expenditure on education to GDP never approaches near 6 percent (at present budgeted around 3.1 percent) which was recommended time and again by the different committees and commissions on education. The NEP 2020, reaffirmed India’s commitment to have a 6 percent expenditure on education but the date to attain the same has not even been specified in NEP 2020 which shows a lack of commitment towards attaining a 6 percent on education to the GDP.

Teachers are the Main Actors

Needless to mention that whatever we envisage achieving in the areas of school education, teachers are the main actor and key to achieving the unfinished task. More than appointing additional teachers, it is also important to know how teachers are currently engaged in schools, how their training needs are identified, and whether the capacity-building programs presently being conducted are as per the requirement of teachers? In most cases, teachers’ training need is being identified at the state level and not by the district level authorities engaged in one of the flagship programs of the Government of India currently under implementation, namely the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. The available data further shows that the percentage of teachers who imparted in-service training has in reality gone down in the recent past. On the other hand, a good number of states, have stopped appointing regular teachers, and instead, appoint only contractual teachers which is also reflected in the recent data on the percentage of contractual teachers to the total number of teachers engaged in school education in India which shows a decline. In the absence of proper planning methodology/module and absence of national-level institutions in the formulation of the annual work plan and budget as a part of Samagra Shiksha, no improvement is expected partly which is being developed based on the same EXCEL Tables being used for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as well as for RMSA.

The Myth and Reality of Teacher Shortage in India: An Investigation Using 2019-20 Data by Sandip Datta,  Delhi School of Economics, New Delhi and Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Institute of Education, University College London (U.K).

Dr. Geeta Gandhi Kingdon of the Institute of Education, University College,  London (UK) has extensively written on different aspects of school education in India by using the data generated through the Unified District Information System for Education-Plus (UDISE+). In one of her earlier papers, namely “The myth of teacher shortage in India” she used UDISE 2017-18 data which is now updated to UDISE+ 2019-20 data. Since the UDISE+ 2020-21 data is now released by the Department of School Education and Literacy of the Ministry of Education, it is hoped that the myth of the teacher shortage would soon be revised based on the latest set of data.

In her recent article jointly written with Sandeep Datta, the authors examine the widespread perception in India that the country has an acute teacher shortage of about one million teachers in public elementary schools, a view repeated in India’s National Education Policy 2020.

Using Official UDISE data for 2019-20, the authors present the evidence indicating that teacher vacancies cannot be equated with teacher shortages: while the number of teacher vacancies (in teacher-deficit schools) is 766,487, the number of teacher surpluses (in surplus-teacher schools) is 520,141, giving a net deficit of only 246,346 teachers in the country.

Secondly, the authors have rightly shown that removing estimated fake student numbers from enrolment data greatly reduces the required number of teachers and raises the number of surplus teachers, converting the net deficit of 246,346 teachers into an estimated net surplus of 98,371 teachers. [Needless to mention that school enrolment in India is very erratic and there are sudden declines and jumps between the years for which no explanation is available. The year 2016-17, see a decline in enrolment which was to the tune of more than 8 million incidentally this was the year when the collection of student-specific enrolment was initiated in-sync with UDISE, and planning was to generate all enrollment-based tables (by age, medium of instructions and category) based on individual student data. In its very first year, student data amounting to 210 million of then 260 million was collected but the initiative was discontinued the following year for unknown reasons. Now discussions are going on as to how to revamp the student data collection as a part of UDISE+].

Thirdly, the authors assume that if we remove the estimated fake enrolment and also make a hypothetical change to the teacher allocation rule to adjust for the phenomenon of emptying public schools (which has slashed the national median size of public schools to a mere 63 students and rendered many schools ‘tiny or small-schools), the estimated net teacher surplus rises to a hoping 239,800 teachers.

Fourthly, the authors show that if the government does fresh recruitment to fill the supposed approximately one million vacancies as promised in the National Education Policy 2020, the already modest national mean pupil-teacher-ratio of 25.1 would fall to 19.9, at a permanently increased fiscal cost of nearly Rupees 637 billion (USD 8.7 billion) per year in 2019-20 prices, which is higher than the individual GDPs of 50 countries that year. [It may be recalled that the coverage of government schools under UDISE+ has recently declined by about 50 thousand schools, on the other hand, more than 36 thousand private unaided schools were added to data collection which also has implications for estimation of teachers’ requirement. Needless to mention that many of the teachers’ positions couldn’t be filled up because of a lack of an adequate number of wulaified teachers as per the central and state TETs].

The paper further highlights the major efficiencies that can result from the evidence-based policy on minimum viable school size, teacher allocation norms, permissible maximum pupil-teacher ratios, and teacher deployment. [this must be reflected in the district planning module/methodology which is overdue since the inception of Samagra Shiksha.

Full-length Article

The Myth, and Reality of Teacher Shortage in India: An Investigation Using 2019-20 Data by Sandip Datta,  Delhi School of Economics, New Delhi, and Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Institute of Education, University College London (U.K).

[Readers are advised to refer to original publications and given complete reference to the material used which can be cited as Datta, S. and Kingdon, G. 2021. The Myth of Teacher Shortage in India. RISE Working Paper Series. 21/072.]

The major outcome of the study by Datta and Kingdon on the shortage of teachers was recently published in The Economic Times (May 20, 2022, Lucknow) under the caption, More Missing than the Missed: There is misbalance, not an acute shortage as projected, of teachers in public schools across India.

Keywords: public elementary schools, pupil-teacher ratio, teacher vacancies, teacher surplus, fake pupil enrolment, teacher absence, India

Para Teachers: Rationale and Concept – Education For All in India

Recent Publications of Prof. Mona Khare on Higher Education

How Much We Gained: A Case of U-DISE+ (Plus)

Recent Initiatives in the field of School Education in India