Amit Dutta, Chief Strategy Officer, Ampersand Group

Amit Dutta is the Chief Strategy Officer at the Ampersand Group, a multifaceted, end-to-end solution provider with key interests in education, skill development and livelihoods, Ed-Tech, and consulting services. The Group owns the successful franchise of the K12 VIBGYOR Schools across several cities in India and has a passionate focus on its vision to democratize education, healthcare and employment opportunities for one and all. Amit , in his previous role was a Director with the Human & Social Services practice of KPMG in India and focused on the area of social inclusion and social protection. In his over 18-year consulting career, Amit has led several development sector programme advisory assignments with Central Government Ministries, State Governments and International Development Agencies.

 

India is home to one of the largest student populations in the world. There are currently around 26.4 crore students enrolled in 15 lakh schools across the country, but there are not enough qualified teachers to teach them. As per the latest UDISE data, India has 96.8 lakh teachers with a teacher-to-Student Ratio of 1:24 as against Brazil and China’s 1:19. In response to an RTI query, the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development revealed that over 10 lakhs  teaching posts were lying vacant in government elementary schools in 2020. Around 1.1 lakh schools are single-teacher schools in India as per the latest UNESCO 2021 State of Education Report in India. The report suggests that the teacher vacancies have now grown now to 11.16 lakh, and 69% of these vacancies are in rural areas.

Additionally, the existing teachers may not have enough skills to adapt to the changing education environment and evolving student needs. A May 2020 UNESCO report revealed that around 2.7 million teachers in India were unprepared for dealing with the challenges related to school closures and altered methods of teaching. The data emphasises the scale of the challenge as teachers were forced to adapt to online learning without having the necessary training. The changes were immediate, and teachers were expected to pivot without preparation.

The shortage of qualified teachers is one of the chronic ills that have been afflicting Indian schools. The government has tried to address this by mandating all government schoolteachers to possess the minimum qualification laid down by the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE). Additionally, NITI Aayog’s Three Year Action Agenda identified the role of pedagogy in improving learning outcomes. This demands that pre-service training take a front seat in teacher recruitment, along with qualifications.

To provide ongoing training to teachers, there have been several initiatives undertaken by the government. These included the launch of Digital Infrastructure for School Education (DIKSHA), a portal that provides access to a repository of useful content, and a capacity building programme called National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA). These initiatives have provided an opportunity to train teachers better, however there is scope for much improvement According to July 2021 report by Boston Consulting Group titled “Equipping, Enabling, and Advancing Digital Education in India”, 60% teachers have identified the need for better content. They pointed out difficulties in finding relevant, high quality, curated content, especially for some underserved subjects and in some low-coverage languages. Additionally, 75% teachers citied the need for better internet and access to digital devices.

Most of the current teacher training programmes of the Government are geared towards in-service teacher training, and there are not enough induction programmes to create a new pool of qualified teachers. The second issue is that the courses on online portals have limited content and that content is not engaging enough to ensure high course completion rates. The third issue is that there is still no system in place for accurately assessing a teacher’s ability and providing a personalised career development path.

Why is teacher training needed now more than ever?

Globally, education is undergoing a massive and rapid transformation, in response to the pandemic. For Indian students to fully benefit from these changes, there is an urgent need to build the capacity of schools to offer quality education offline and online.

Each K12 teacher can potentially impact at least 1,000 students in her lifetime (assuming she teaches a class of 25 pupils annually over her ~40-year career). The National Education Policy (NEP 2020) recognises that motivation and empowerment of teachers is required to ensure the best possible future for our children and the country. The students are now exposed to a variety of informal learning channels such as YouTube and learning apps, outside classrooms. Since many teachers have not been formally exposed to these new-age learning channels, tools, and techniques, they are unable to engage with a student, which leads to many teachers losing motivation.

As we enter the post-pandemic phase, education system is formally embracing many more digital learning tools and methods. Hence, it is even more important that every teacher is provided with appropriate training, skilling, assessments, certifications, and career guidance to help them adapt.

It is important to develop an integrated mechanism for Continuous Professional Development of Teachers with the following features:

  • A single unified online system that offers comprehensive end-to-end coverage of all aspects for the lifelong learning and personalised career progression
  • Offers a dynamic and intuitive learning environment which allows for self-paced learning, live classes, group activities and online assessments and certifications
  • A highly scalable and reliable cloud-based system accessible from the computer or mobile in online and offline mode
  • Includes a peer-to-peer platform for teachers to interact, engage and learn from each other
  • Integration with SMS and email services for notifications and alerts
  • An intuitive user interface that is simple to use for teachers who are not computer savvy
  • Engaging modular content, with regular updates and interactivity that fosters experiential learning and higher course completion rates
  • Integration with government systems and databases for information exchange
  • Totally secure role based and/or domain-controlled access with 256-bit data encryption

Such an integrated and inclusive teacher training mechanism can be created using public-private partnerships (PPPs).

PPPs have the potential to close the gaps in quality and access by leveraging government infrastructure and introducing private sector technology and expertise to provide better-quality training services across geographies and populations. Edtech and learning apps designed using new-age technology bring an enormous opportunity to automate, scale and personalize the learning experience for teachers.  Edtech solutions focusing on the learning needs on teachers are few and far between in India and this continues to be a largely underserved market with tremendous opportunity for generating impact with quality solutions.

A PPP model can thus, bring about a visible shift in the quality of teachers and, thereby, creation of engaging classrooms and improvement in access to education. In the long run, a well-designed PPP model can help close the learning gap for students in underserved communities and improve learning outcomes.

In conclusion, it is important that all stakeholders recognize the importance of well-structured teacher development programmes which are in tandem with evolving technologies and changing business environments. We owe it to our teachers, students, and our country to ensure that our teachers have the training and ongoing support they need to prepare students for the post-pandemic future.

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