BY MUKHTAR AHMAD FAROOQI
Education is the basic way of proliferating the human development process of any country. Under the sphere of education system, elementary education is supposed to get the highest priority being the base of any formal education. Rationalization of teaching staff and Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) are the most hotly debated topics as far as reforms in educational system both at national as well as state level are concerned. Day in and day out several leading dailies of valley come up with headlines and bylines about PTR and quality education despite the fact that most of these persons framing these headlines have little knowhow of why and how of PTR. The series of news reports that they publish to highlight the rationalization issue is in its crude form. PTR is the average number of pupils (students) per teacher at a specific level of education in a given year. It is calculated by dividing the total number of pupils enrolled at the specific level of education by the number of teachers teaching pre-dominantly at that level. Despite the major strides achieved particularly in access to primary education, the condition of primary education has not yet reached the satisfactory levels even after launching several flagship schemes like SSA and drafting various Educational Policies like NPE 1986,92 etc. each focusing on certain aspect. Even though these policies and schemes have been able to reduce dropout rate, increase access, bring inclusive schooling at door steps, infrastructure development but learning levels at every level are not satisfactory as per the recently NAS (National Achievement Survey) conducted by both Govt. and NGOs independently. Among the various challenges, improving quality and increasing learning achievement have been the prime focus of all governments and still we lagging far behind, the primary reason for which is that PTR has been ill conceived as far as its practicality is concerned. Covid-19 pandemic has added to this already messy concept and application of rationalization
In this write-up, we will examine how this issue needs to be relooked in consonance with decreasing student enrollment in public educational institutions. According to our Right to Education Act 2009, the 30: 01 pupil teacher ratio (PTR) has been prescribed at primary level in both rural and urban areas. Directly or indirectly our educational system means student teacher ratio has an effect on school management. There have been several studies conducted which reveal that the pupil teacher ratio is important but number of teachers against each class is equally important for preserving and increasing the standard of the school education. Let us examine some instances where PTR is ambiguous as far as its contextual application and needs a relook in terms of intended use. In a primary school there are six classes from K.G to 5th standard and in maximum schools the number of teachers is either 2 or 3 irrespective of number of students enrolled in the school. There are 28 listed subjects which means that one teacher has the responsibilities of teaching 14 subjects and engage 3 classes at a time whether the number of students is as per PTR or less than the national norms. Similarly if there are suppose 60 students enrolled in a Middle Level School in different classes, then two(2) teachers are enough there as per current PTR national norms of 30:1 which will in practicality create a nuisance because in a Middle School there are 9 classes and 46 listed subjects that are to be taught meaning in this case a teacher has to engage 5 classes at a time even if the number students in each class is in single digits and teach 23 subjects each day thereby dedicating less time to each subject than required apart from doing other activities related to maintenance of records and preparation of MDM. While these things happen rarely but there is no doubt that some schools are overstaffed and some are understaffed as per the reports published in newspapers as per the prescribed norms. The thing is that in above cases, student teacher ratio is under the ideal figure (i.e., 30:1) but still it creates nuisance because whether there are only 2 students in a class or 25, the teacher has to use same approach to teaching and dedicate similar amount of time in both situations for desired learning outcome.
It is becoming a serious issue in the educational fields of the children yet it is not maintained properly or looked in this context. As far as recruitment and over all rationalization of teaching staff is concerned, then the 30:1 is alright but when considered in actual classroom transaction context, then this PTR needs reconsideration. PTR should be replaced with CTR (Class Teacher Ratio) in all contexts and class size should be given due consideration while rationalization of staff. With due respect to media fraternity, some self-styled media houses and personnel working there have created a sort of hysteria among common people about this ambiguous term PTR that they start lecturing the professionals working in the field with treatises like there were only 10 students still you are complaining about staff shortage without having an iota of knowledge about class size and CTR. In my opinion, there should be at least 10 teachers (9+1) Upper Primary Schools if the number of enrolled students is within or below national PTR norms and 4 teachers in Primary Schools else increase the teaching staff in the ratio of one teacher for every 30 students in addition to the already 10 or 4 for Upper Primary and Primary Schools respectively. If these suggestions are put into practice, then we can talk of qualitative performance check of teachers and learning outcomes.
It’s pertinent to mention that people are always considered with the PTR in public schools and nobody is bothered about the irrational PTR in private schools who violate RTE Act 2009 with respect to maximum PTR for elementary classes. Most of the privately managed schools have average PTR of 40:1 or 50:1 which is almost 10-20 more than the set norms resulting in serious deficiencies on the learning outcomes of those students. Despite charging all types fees during lockdown, PTR of these schools was around 60-80 which otherwise should have been less than the offline classes.
From above discussion, it is evident that the pupil teacher ratio is important but number of teachers against each class is equally important for preserving and increasing the standard of the elementary education. So PTR in its present form needs reconsideration and should be replaced with CTR (Class Teacher Ratio) so that it does not prove to be a nuisance when considered in the context of actual classroom transaction. We try to look at PTR in terms of intended meaning rather than the context of its use thereby making its application ambiguous. The rest of the world is talking of flipped classroom approach and latest assessment strategies and we here are still obsessed with multi grade teaching because in elementary education of ours teachers are compelled to maintaining administrative and organizational works that has direct impact on their professional performance Due to this misinterpreted and ill-conceived construct , some teachers are overburdened having direct impact on the academics while others are enjoying cosy posting both in terms of PTR as well as teaching load.
Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org