How many teachers are there in India?

Learning with Obstacles in India

It was a historic day for India: on April 4, 2009, the constitution stipulated that schooling for children between the ages of six and 14 is a fundamental right. Schooling is also free and compulsory up to the age of 14, it said. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never tires of emphasizing that India can only guarantee further economic growth and the rise to a superpower if its children are well educated. "We have to offer them a good future, because only then will our people become our greatest weapon."

Despite all the good intentions, the reality in India is very different. About 80 percent of the schools in the country are state-owned. Routine reviews keep coming to light that in some of the poorer states, nearly forty percent of teachers do not show up regularly. The problem is the low wages: A primary school teacher earns an average of around 12,000 rupees a month, which is less than 200 euros.

Gloomy picture

Since so many teachers are lacking, in more than half of the classes in rural regions there are students from different grades, often in class sizes of 50-80 students. Lessons often consist of stupid memorization. The renowned educational scientist Indu Shahani from Mumbai, who has been on many committees to improve the school system for over 30 years, is nevertheless optimistic. "Indian students want to learn no matter what obstacles are placed in their way," emphasizes Shahani.

Learning in the country

Education is a status symbol in India. Therefore, parents try everything to enable their children to get a good education at a private school. Even if they only have a low income and some of them have never attended school themselves. Many go into debt.

Education spending too low?

The Indian government is well aware that educating the entire population is a major problem. She is repeatedly criticized that her budget for education is too tight. In the current budget it is 7.8 billion euros. That is less than four percent of the gross domestic product. Even if India still has the most illiterate people in the world, there is progress. The number of people who can read, write and do arithmetic has increased from 65 percent to 74 percent in the past ten years.

Educator Indu Shahani does not believe that spending more on education can solve India's multiple problems. "There is absolutely no doubt that education and health are India's most pressing problems," she says. "But simply buttering money into the system does not help. You have to adapt many strategies to the times."

Students of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kota

Elite competitive

For many years, investments were made primarily in the elite universities, such as the "Indian Institutes of Technology", which annually offer world-class education to 8,000 engineering students. Only two dozen universities are funded by the central government. More than 200 universities and about 20,000 colleges fund the respective states. That is far too little, because not even ten percent of the students who could continue studying after school get a place at university. The newspapers are full of exam-time suicides among young students who failed to meet the high expectations of their families.

So the few who graduate each year really belong to India's elite. Many of these top graduates are therefore drawn to the USA, Great Britain, Australia or Canada, where they quickly feel at home thanks to their excellent English skills. To stop this "brain drain", the Indian Minister of Health Ghulam Nabi Azad recently presented a new plan. According to this, every medical student who goes to the USA for further studies should come back to India, otherwise he is not allowed to practice in the USA. "In the last three years we have lost almost 3,000 doctors to the United States," warns Nabi Azad.

Education for girls is the greatest challenge

Although India had a woman at the head of the country in the 1970s, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, women are underrepresented in most areas of public life. Discrimination begins at the latest when it comes to school education. In large families, girls 'schooling is often sacrificed in favor of boys' schooling.

In a patriarchal society like the Indian one, the prejudice persists that in old age only sons can provide for the family. The girls would get married and would then no longer be part of the family. Indu Shahani has a simple answer to this: "It cannot be said often enough: when you train a boy, you invest in an individual. But when you send a girl to school, you invest in a family, and sometimes even in one whole village. "