24 April 2006: As part of the Mid-term Strategic Plan and the Millennium Development Goals priorities, UNICEF India is committed to ensuring quality education for all children, especially girls. The current Master Plan of Operations (MPO) in cooperation with the Government of India (2003-2007) supports the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the national plan for the universalization of elementary education, to ensure all children have access to quality education and complete a full course of primary schooling.
The Global EFA Week 2006 is being celebrated from 24 to 30 April 2006 – the focus this year is ‘Every Child Needs a Teacher’. To build on previous successes, the Global EFA Week 2006 is being celebrated from 24 to 30 April 2006 – the focus this year is ‘Every Child Needs a Teacher’. The following key messages will be addressed during the Week:
1). Achieving EFA depends on having enough teachers
2) teachers need to be professionally trained, adequately paid and well-motivated to achieve EFA goals
3) there must be sufficient financing for the expansion of education system
On 21 February, 2005, the Prime Minister of India said that he was pained to note that “only 47 out of 100 children enrolled in class I reach class VIII, putting the dropout rate at 52.79 per cent.” This, he said was “unacceptably high” and attributed the high dropout rate to “lack of adequate facilities, large-scale absenteeism of teachers and inadequate supervision by local authorities.”
19 % of the total primary schools are single teacher schools in India catering to nearly 12% of the total enrolment in primary classes (DISE 2004). Systemic factors - lack of teachers (especially female), teacher absenteeism, irregular classes, overcrowded classrooms, and traditional methods of rote learning – have diminished the quality of teaching/learning and the support teachers and schools can provide children.
As part of a growing move toward greater accountability and transparency, political leaders and administrators have begun to raise the issues of motivation and commitment among teachers and local administrators. While there have been great advances in access, there is a realization that challenges persist and many children actually leave primary school without learning the basic skills of reading and writing.
While the literacy rate of the country has reported a sharp increase from 18.39% in 1950-51 to 65.38% in 2000 -2001, one-third of the population, or nearly 300 million people in the age group 7 years and above are still illiterate in the country. 42 million children in the age-group 6-14 years, do not attend school. There are also problems related to high drop out rates, low level of achievement, low participation of children from disadvantaged sections of society. Approximately 16.64 per cent villages of the country do not have facilities of primary schooling. There are other problem areas such as inadequate school infrastructure, non-availability of teachers in remote rural, hilly and tribal areas, high teacher absenteeism, large scale teacher vacancies, and inadequate allocation of resources on education to meet the expenditure.
Within India, the teacher absence rate ranges from 15% in Maharashtra to 42% in Jharkhand. Again 16.29 per cent schools in the country still do not have two teachers. While Kerala has an average of 6 teachers in primary schools, in states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan the average number of teachers is even lower than 2. Uttar Pradesh still faces difficulty to provide even a single teacher in 921 primary schools. The average Pupil Teacher Ratio for All India is 1:42. Bihar has the worst teacher pupil ratio at 1:83. Though enrolment rates have shot up, there has not been a corresponding increase in the number of teachers.
Teacher absence is more correlated with daily incentives to attend work: teachers are less likely to be absent at schools that have been inspected recently, that have better infrastructure, and that are closer to a paved road. Absence rates are generally higher in low-income states.
To overcome the problem of teacher shortage and teacher absenteeism the para teacher scheme has been introduced in India. Para educators are generally members of the same community in which they teach, and therefore, share many of the experiences and cultural practices of their students, including their primary languages and cultural practices. In India, the state of Rajasthan has successfully overcome the problem of both teacher shortage and teacher absenteeism through these para teachers under the ‘Shiksha Karmi Project’ which is also the origin of para teacher scheme in the country.
In India, the state of Rajasthan has successfully overcome the problem of both teacher shortage and teacher absenteeism through para teachers.
India at present has more than 500 thousand para teachers in a number of states. The Government has pursued a fivefold strategy since the 1990’s to improve the quality of education in general. These include – improvement in the provision of infrastructure and human resources for primary education; provision of improved curriculum and teaching learning material; improvement in the quality of teaching learning process through the introduction of child centered pedagogy; attention to teacher capacity building, especially female teachers; and increased focus on specification and measurement of learners’ achievement levels.
With increased involvement of community in management and running of schools, as well as enhanced teacher support and development, it is expected that the issue of absenteeism will be addressed in time to come.
With its partners, UNICEF is developing and demonstrating a replicable model of quality education that can be scaled up. The project is working to demonstrate the Quality Package in a number of schools and its impact on attendance, completion and learning; and to monitor, document and disseminate the costs, processes and impact of delivering the Quality Package.
The key activities for delivering the Quality Package are; (i) delineating quality in four key areas: school and classroom environment, teaching-learning processes, teacher support, school and community linkages; (ii) evaluating each school’s situation to understand and develop plans on how best to reinforce school effectiveness and enhance student learning; (iii) curriculum development, teacher support and training, and strengthening community involvement; and (iv) developing a child-friendly environment by advocating for child-centred teaching-learning processes, creation of a school government and maintaining high hygiene and sanitation and safety standards.
As measurement of progress is very important, the District Information System in Education (DISE), a UNICEF-supported initiative, has emerged as the official computerized database for monitoring key education indicators (gross/net enrolment, school infrastructure, teachers) – covering 539 districts across India in 2005.
In collaboration with the Education Department of the Government of Gujarat, UNICEF has launched a Life Skills programme in three districts of Gujarat, covering about 147 schools. A total number of 243 teachers have been trained. The four day training programme equips the teachers with the ten basic life skills of self awareness, empathy, problem solving, decision making, effective communication, interpersonal relations, creative thinking, critical thinking, coping with emotions and coping with stress. This has already kick-started the process of turning class rooms into child friendly spaces, with no barriers between teachers and students.