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Monday, 12 August 2013

Teacher Attrition Rate

Ensuring students have access to qualified teachers is a universal struggle. Today, teacher attrition is a major subject of concern that schools and students are facing.

It is widely recognised that teachers are central to a student’s success. They play an important role in conveying cultural and social values. They also play a large role in education quality and student learning outcomes. However, teachers are quitting the profession every day. As per the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE – June 2013), there is a requirement of 5,000 teachers a year.

 

Why are teachers leaving?

 

Low Wages

Teachers are not paid well and are unable to provide for their families. The average Middle School Teacher in the country is paid a little over Rs. 15,000 a month (www.payscale.com). It is important to understand that this average also includes expensive private schools where teachers earn significantly more as compared to many of the schools where Learn, Out of the Box operates. With minimal, or no increments they cannot afford a living, and a fair percentage leave the profession to pursue higher paid jobs.

 

Testing Pressure

Schools also face competition from other schools when it comes to academic performance. The main criteria that sets one school apart from another is their students’ test scores. This leads to the school management pressuring their teachers to raise the students’ scores. A lot of teachers crack under this added pressure and end up getting demotivated. Teachers get the impression that they are not able to make a difference if the scores do not improve and end up choosing other professions.

 

Poor Infrastructure

A high proportion of schools function in single-room or two-room buildings with very few amenities. Most schools are in rural areas and sometimes do not even have boundary walls, usable toilets or functioning blackboards. This creates a challenging and unsustainable work atmosphere for many teachers.

 

Professional Development

The scope of growth is scarce for these teachers, as they have very little access to better resources and there are hardly any workshops or trainings undertaken to develop their skills further. This encourages them to apply for other degrees and qualifications and eventually join different professions.

 

Staff Shortage

Many of the schools we work in are highly understaffed and the teachers are required to do other administrative work in addition to their teaching duties. It is also common for teachers to get forced into teaching a subject that is not of his/her preference or training.

Better Opportunities

There are endless opportunities in other professions where young teachers can earn far bigger salaries. Moreover even within the education sector – teachers often move from low-paying private schools to better paid teaching positions at other private schools, government schools, or institutions. This high turnover of teachers in turn affects students.

 

High Teacher-Pupil Ratio

On average, each classroom has about 45 students (Learn, Out of the Box average), for a single teacher to handle a class of that size adds to the pressure. This also leaves the passionate teachers dissatisfied in not being able to get what they’re trying to teach, through to the students.


All these above issues add to teacher attrition and what we need to understand is that this high teacher attrition rate impacts the quality of teaching as well as learning. We already know that teachers are crucial to a student’s success. A limited supply of teachers increases the need for other teachers to step up and teach subjects that they are neither prepared nor qualified to teach, as mentioned in the reasons for attrition. This, amongst other reasons leads to poor teaching and handicaps students who might want to specialise in these subjects in the future.

From my personal interaction with teachers in the field, it is a little disheartening to see a large percentage of teachers not motivated enough to stay in the profession. I have met teachers who are young and indecisive about what they want to do in life, so they end up teaching until they figure things out. Many of the teachers were not satisfied with their salaries at schools and relied more on their tuition classes after school to make ends meet. A few teachers were actually passionate to teach for a living but they had families to look after, faced pressure from their parents to “become someone” and had to look into other professions.

The problem is that the older generation of teachers, who have been in this profession for over 20 to 30 are now on the verge of retiring and the profession does not offer the “new” generation of teachers with sustainable salaries or sufficient job satisfaction.
Children are like saplings that can be pruned easily. While young, their ways and nature can be moulded. But as they grow older, they are less malleable and more difficult to change, like a tree is difficult to straighten once it is crooked. Therefore these teachers have a huge role to play in the moulding process of the children.

Teacher retention and attraction policies need serious attention. Can we think of ways to overcome this issue?