Amid reports of falling educational standards owing to the pandemic, a new study highlights glaring gaps in India’s education structure. Reporting a poor teacher-student ratio, it projects that India needs to add 11.16 lakh teachers to its workforce. Additionally, there are close to 1.2 lakh schools running with a single teacher, and 89 per cent of these schools are in the country’s rural areas.

The study was a collaborative effort between a team from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and UNESCO. Based on calculation from the Periodic Labour Force Survey carried out by the National Statistical Office the report points out that while the overall number of teachers (95 lakh) seems adequate, it obscures some disparities.

For instance, while the national average pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) for all schools was 26:1 in 2018-19, secondary and senior secondary schools have PTRs between 43:1 and 47:1.

The report also calls attention to the abysmal working conditions of teachers, especially in the private sector. 69 per cent of teachers in the private sector work without job contracts. The researchers also calculated that the average salary in the country’s private sector is ₹13,564 for primary and secondary teachers. Rural private school teachers earn ₹11,584; this number slides down further to ₹8212 per month for women teachers in rural private schools.

These numbers will be crucial for academics and policymakers, at a time when the government is rolling out its National Education Policy 2020. Regional disparities must be bridged along with a renewed focus on senior classes, which the report shows to be lacking in many ways. Teaching is hardly considered a desirable job in this country, and the report shows why. Lack of job security and financial remuneration mean skilled and qualified teachers are hard to find. These factors combined severely impact the quality of education.