‘Impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something’ is one of the common definitions of ‘teach.’ By extension, a teacher is a ‘person who teaches.’ Indeed, the realm of this noble profession is enriched with many who inspire, engage, build, and guide countless students, among others, beyond the confines of the campus.
Deservingly, on Teachers’ Day, celebrated on September 5 in India, platitudes pour in for the educators across the country. Nagaland is no exception. However, the celebration is also a gentle reminder of how this profession needs protection from both external and internal challenges.
First are the seldom-highlighted private teachers at all levels of education. One will hardly come across congratulatory notes for someone who secures a job as an assistant professor or a teaching position in private institutions, from primary to higher education levels, as this column commented earlier. Conversely, if the position is in a government institution, those congratulatory messages overflow.
However, does it imply that those who teach at private institutions are less qualified or do not deserve recognition? Definitely not, especially when comparing the performance of government and private institutions at all levels of education. Besides, looking at official data from the UDISE+ Dashboard, in 2021-22, out of a total of 4,610,65 students in Nagaland, over 61% (2,73,491) were in private schools, while the remaining 38.4% (1,70,219) were in government schools.
However, out of 31,914 teachers, 19,057 (61.3%) were in government schools, and 12,339 (38.7%) were in private institutions. At face value, it can be safely inferred that with more students and heavier workloads, private teachers are producing better results. When contextualised with the comparative remunerations of private and government teachers at all levels of education, this performance is phenomenal.
It is also understandable that work in the private sector is dependent on market forces, most importantly, the supply and demand factor. Accordingly, in a market that is essentially an “employer’s market,” with management dictating the recruitment process and employment periods, remuneration does not commensurate with one’s qualifications.
Hence, teachers in this sector crucially require a ‘new deal,’ which could be effected either by teachers themselves or through external intervention.
Meanwhile, government schools are often criticised, especially when results are declared. But it is also pertinent to contextualise the social mandate these government schools serve. For instance, schools in far-flung or underrepresented areas play a vital role. It is also to be noted that nearly 40% of students depend on government schools to receive their education. Therefore, government schools need to exist regardless of their results.
This, however, does not mean the sector is devoid of any problems. Apart from results, other persistent issues include absenteeism, engagement of proxies, posting matters, shortages on one end and excesses on the other. Besides, irregularity of salaries for some sections of teachers is a recurring issue. To tackle these issues, the State Government has initiated steps such as communitisation and rationalisation, without much success.
Addressing the myriad challenges faced by both private and government teachers is of paramount importance. It is imperative that the valuable contributions of each educator at all levels of education, are recognised, irrespective of the institutions they serve. To tackle these issues effectively and ensure the continued growth of the teaching profession, comprehensive measures must be taken.
Government authorities should establish clear guidelines and policies that consider the concerns of all stakeholders, fostering a fair and supportive environment for educators.
Equally vital is the proactive engagement of teachers themselves in finding solutions to the persistent problems plaguing the profession. Collaborative efforts between educators, institutions, and policymakers will be crucial in resurrecting and revitalising the revered vocation.
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