Covid-19: Lack of teachers, presence of proxy teachers will impede e-learning in schools

Radheshyam Jadhav | Updated on June 08, 2020

Distance teaching: A teacher at Shiv Nadar School imparts an online class to students   -  COURTESY: SHIV NADAR SCHOOL

It is not only an internet connection but lack of teachers and presence of ‘proxy’ teachers that will certainly impede e-learning experiments by States amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

According to data presented by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) to the Lok Sabha in November last year, secondary and higher secondary schools in India have 2,13,608 vacant teacher posts (as of 2018-19). It means that 23 per cent posts are vacant against 9,14,771 sanctioned posts. Bihar has 44 per cent vacant posts against the sanctioned ones.

Ironically many of those who have been employed as teachers in government schools don’t go to schools but have appointed proxies who may not have even basic qualifications to teach. The World Bank study titled ‘Getting the right teachers into the right schools: managing India’s teacher workforce’ released in 2017 reveals that schools in a few Indian States are witnessing a scenario where proxy teachers have taken over teaching.

“… Alarming problem reported by a few States in the study is that of proxy teachers, whereby a teacher appointed by the government illegally appoints another person to work in her/ his place for some consideration. Proxy teachers are more common in remote and rural areas, but are also found in urban areas,” states the report. It adds that the extent of the practice of proxy teachers could not be determined during the preparation of the study, but it was openly discussed during focus group discussions. In several States, people talked in hushed tones about proxy teachers, observed the study.

“The State governments must not push e-learning without understanding the ground realities. There are various issues in promoting the online education system. The governments must appoint expert committees and seek expert views before jumping to any conclusion,” said Bhau Chaskar of The Active Teachers’ Forum (ATF) in Maharashtra.

The recent survey by the ATF revealed that only 27 per cent parents of the students surveyed in 1,186 schools had smartphones in Maharashtra. Of the total 1.67 lakh students in the State who participated in the survey, only 11.61 per cent had laptops or desktops at home. In urban areas, only 14 per cent of parents had smartphones, compared to 20 per cent in rural areas.

Published on June 08, 2020

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