Investing in our teachers will define India’s growth for the next 25 years

Throughout the 20th century, sobriquets for India have shifted from a newly-independent country to a developing nation standing on the shoulders of a strong agrarian economy. With a tech talent demand-supply gap of just 21.1%, the lowest among major economies, and a significant leap in the Global Innovation Index, today India is staking a claim as an emerging innovation hub and a ‘digital talent’ nation for the world. As architects of the future, the foundation for this progress has been laid by the immense contributions of India’s teachers.

Historically, teachers in India have built a powerful legacy of learning through the nation’s crest and troughs – from Aryabhatta and Savitri Bai Phule to Rabindranath Tagore and Dr S Radhakrishnan. Today, India is home to 9.7 million teachers across 1.5 million schools and they continue to be a significant marker of socio-economic development and are a critical piece in our quest to be a global powerhouse of learning.

The pandemic truly reflected this as teachers navigated and adapted to virtual mediums to ensure that learning did not stop. This adaptability continues as newer formats like hybrid learning emerge. However, for India, the challenges of education go beyond accessibility alone. Poor quality of learning material, demographic differences, and shortage of teachers in schools demand deeper interventions and critical action plans.

A recent UNESCO report states that India has nearly 1.2 lakh schools that run with just one teacher each and that 89% of these single-teacher schools are in rural areas. The report also projects that India needs 11.16 lakh additional teachers to meet the current shortfall. This calls for urgent intervention and increased investment in the teaching community to bring more qualified and empowered educators into the workforce. Accelerated government efforts such as the National Education Policy 2020 have enshrined crucial tenets of ownership and autonomy to teachers while also recognising, documenting, and sharing innovative pedagogies devised by Indian teachers. With the policy further outlining the need to build vibrant teacher communities for better networking, India is taking large strides in the education space. Capacity-building schemes like NISHTHA, launched to help teachers create learner-centred pedagogies at the elementary level, have already reached over 21 lakh teachers.

In this endeavour, the role of technology cannot be overstated. The ability of technology in bringing scale, equity and access to learning is unparalleled as democratised digital platforms are enabling teachers to reach and deliver quality learning to students around the world. The burgeoning edtech ecosystem in the country is also making inroads to bridging gaps in access, while also shining the light on made-in-India learning programmes. Effective partnerships between all stakeholders for low-cost, last-mile delivery of quality learning hold the key to setting the course for our collective future.

Armed with the trifecta of skilled teachers, technology prowess, and a legacy that has celebrated teachers for centuries, the next 25 years will be determined by how well we educate our people and invest in our teachers. By equipping them with the best tools, skills, training, and platforms, it is not premature to predict that India’s global tech prowess can make way for its teaching prowess in the coming decades.

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Views expressed above are the author’s own.