For quite some time, the hiring of teachers on a temporary basis or short-term contract has become a new casual teacher culture in the education system across the country. Given the teaching-learning processes revolving around the inputs provided by teachers, the assessment of the overall efficacy of the education system due to the varying state of teachers is imperative.
The mammoth size, cultural and regional diversities, multilingualism, etc. in the Indian education system call for its well-organised functioning which can only be realised through the wholehearted participation of teachers in the teaching and associated activities. Contemplating the prevailing scenario of education in the country, it seems necessary to have an honest introspection of the state of affairs.
Engaging specialised personnel for sharing their expertise with the students is a welcome step for enriching their knowledge base and has been practiced by educational institutions for a long time.
Various enabling provisions exist for such temporary engagements to make up for the learning gaps. This means that these arrangements aim to supplement the classroom teaching processes carried out by regular teachers completing the given syllabus in respective subjects.
Hence, there is a regular teaching by subject experts for creating base competence and supplementary teaching by practicing experts for augmenting the competencies through sharing on-job field experience and/or sharing contents beyond the syllabus.
It needs to be understood that the teachers in regular employment in institutions are for the long term and get paid as per the scale prescribed by the regulatory authorities till their superannuation. Temporary teachers or contractual teachers, meanwhile, may be on a period basis remuneration or for an academic session or for one to five years with consolidated remuneration.
It has evolved into two broad classifications of teachers namely regular teachers in prescribed pay scale and casual teachers on a period basis or consolidated remuneration.
The situation is by and large similar at all levels of education with slight variations as per specific requirements of the school education and higher education. Also, there are differences in approaches to fulfilling teaching-learning obligations in public sector institutions and private sector institutions at respective levels i.e. primary, secondary, and higher.
Going by the scenario around, the hiring of teachers on a temporary basis is ubiquitous. And, the quality of teaching processes being a direct function of teacher performance, the implications of temporary/period basis/contract/ad-hoc type hiring of teachers must be understood for desired corrections. This must also be seen from the perspective of uncertainties associated with the survival of these persons.
The absence of assurance of income in the long run culminates in an improper state of mind of temporary teachers and gets reflected in their inadequate involvement in the mentoring of the students.
Importantly, the process of seeking education is carried out only once by every student, and a lack of effectiveness in teaching creates deficiencies which warrant special efforts by individuals to overcome them.
In the majority of cases, the learning gaps continue with these educated ones and lower the quality of the education system as a whole.
Studies show that the temporary contracts in teaching compel individuals for multiple engagements to have decent earnings and it results in lesser involvement of teachers in institutions and negatively impacts student achievements.
The impact of adhocism is predominantly seen in students from low-income groups who attend the institutions with insufficient financial backup.
Unfortunately, these temporary teaching arrangements are also now witnessed in public sector education institutions along with private sector institutions which have been operating on self-financing mode.
The precariousness of the situation can be assessed from the UNESCO Education Report for India-2020 stating that 42 pere cent of teachers in educational institutions work even without a contract and get less than Rs 10,000 per month.
These numbers may be quite large in private sector institutions, where teachers are usually subjected to an improper working environment, wage cuts, late payment of wages, no service benefits, and sacking without notice.
Because of short-term and uncertainty in hiring, the training of teachers also gets restricted and the absence of training limits the quality of classroom deliveries.
At the same time, there is a loss of professional pride due to low wages and temporary engagements do not allow them to make long-term planning for themselves as well as institutional development.
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COVID-19 has added a new dimension to online teaching and the technological advancements are harnessed continually to provide learning opportunities to all to the extent possible.
Gradually, online teaching is getting accepted as a new norm and appears effective in certain circumstances.
Undoubtedly, the penetration of digital e-learning in education is a consequence of technology and should be welcomed. But the extensive virtualisation requires rethinking in case it leads to automating the education system to the extent that the machines replace teachers.
The government must provide incentives for all kinds of innovations of human-friendly technologies that increase productivity as well as employment opportunities.
Digital interventions must be used for teacher training and encouraging student-centric education and act as a supplement to classroom teaching only.
The scenario of casual arrangements of teaching call for immediate interventions to improve the overall quality of education.
At present, the country is fortunate to have the National Education Policy (NEP)–2020 which has categorically highlighted the concern for having a good quality of teaching human resource and their periodical training for constant upgradation of the education processes.
But the real challenge lies in the execution of reforms to ameliorate the state of teachers in the country. This essentially demands enhancing the expenditure on education by the Government which has also been stressed in NEP.
Bringing the focus on improving the state of teachers holds the key to capitalising on the demographic dividend available to the country and concerted efforts in this direction are bound to yield prosperity and happiness around.
(The views expressed are personal)