Let Us Revisit Pupil Teacher Ratio

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Education is the basic way for accelerating the process of human development in any country. Under the sphere of education system, primary education gets the highest priority as the base of 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. One of the leading English dailies of valley previously published a series of news reports to highlight the inappropriate rationalization issue in JK public education sector 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 in the institution pre-dominantly at that level.  For example, a pupil-teacher ratio of 20:1 indicates that there are 20 students for every one teacher.

Despite the major strides achieved particularly  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 of existing deficiencies. Even though these policies and schemes have been able to reduce dropout rate, increase access, bring inclusive schooling to CWSN(Children with Special Needs), infrastructure development but learning levels at every level are not satisfactory as per results of  the NAS (National Achievement Survey) 2017 conducted in various cycles. Among the challenges are the issue of improving quality and increasing learning achievement and we are lagging far behind , the primary reason for which is that PTR has been  misinterpreted as far as its practicality is concerned.

This issue needs to be relooked in consonance with decreasing student enrollment in public educational institutions as allocation of scarce resource including teachers plays a decisive role in overall quality of education provided to the students especially in public schooling system where most of students are from underprivileged class of society. 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 while for the upper primary level, the ratio has been set as 35:1.

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. As the staffing is not allocated linearly, the PTR is smaller for small schools than it is for large schools. Let us examine some instances where PTR needs a relook.

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 the 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. In this scenario, we can imagine what will be the fate of students and instructional planning.

Similarly if there are, suppose, 60 students enrolled in a Middle 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 etc.

This gives a precious indication of the average amount of time and individual attention a pupil is likely to receive from teachers. 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 RK 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 outcomes.

As far as recruitment and over all rationalization of teaching staff is concerned, then the 30:1 is alright in place but when considered in actual classroom transaction context, this PTR needs reconsideration at a larger level. Even though there are sufficient teachers if overall enrollment to available teaching staff is taken into consideration, the main issue, however, lies with their incorrect deployment.

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 5(4+1) 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 5 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.

From above discussion, it is evident that the pupil teacher ratio is important but number of teachers assigned against each class is equally important for preserving and increasing the standard of the primary school education. So PTR, in its present form, needs reconsideration so that it does not prove to be a nuisance when considered in the context of actual classroom transaction. 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 here, teachers are compelled to maintaining administrative and organizational works that leave direct impact on their professional performance.

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