By Mangal Pandey
Due to emerging diverse needs across the education segment, a new category of education providers have emerged in the last decade. These private schools are affordable, low-cost, and budget-friendly, with around 92 million children currently enrolled. Moreover, it is estimated that approximately 162 million kids will enrol in affordable private schools by 2031.
With India being one of the biggest markets in the world for low-cost private schools, it is pivotal to analyse the quality of education and those who impart it: the teachers. For most early educators, teaching is an extension of their love for children. However, on the job, with minimal training and qualifications, they face myriad of issues they feel ill-equipped to handle.
Challenges faced by Early Childhood Educators:
Work structure: Pre-primary teachers in affordable private schools are paid the least when compared to other teachers in the same school. The argument generally given for it is that they teach the youngest but if fails to recognise that these early educators put in equal, if not more, rigor and work. With salaries as low as Rs 4000 a month, they work for long hours in a day. Additionally, the qualifications of these educators are also bare minimum. Taking care of children is considered somewhat menial and easy by society which leads to a lack of respect for educators.
Due to these issues, many aim to become primary or higher-grade teacher. The latter is not only perceived as more respectable, it also pays better. This leads to constant attrition of teachers from Pre-Primary grades to Primary or Secondary grades.
Qualification: While the available training programs have often been questioned for credibility and quality, there has been little change in quality and regulation in the past decade. Various studies by grassroots organizations show that there is little difference in classroom quality between an NTT-trained teacher v/s one that is not. Moreover, there are no regulations on the qualification required to be an early educator, providing no incentive for teachers to get trained professionally.
Teacher Agency: Pre-primary teachers have barely any control in choosing what curriculum to teach in their classrooms, how to teach, and even what training to take up for their growth and development. School leaders often take these decisions, and teachers are the ‘executors’ instead of being ‘designers and facilitators of learning.
Considering the crucial role played by affordable private schools, it is important to improve the quality of education and provide adequate training to educators. Within the classroom, focus on imparting training covering child development, psychology, language and classroom activities is crucial. Diverse modules with audio-visual content and authorized certifications can motivate and add value to the educator fraternity. Moreover, building peer network groups of early educators can give them a break from school activities and allow them to focus on learning.
Most teachers of pre-primary sections need the Nursery Teachers’ Training (NTT) program by ECE. The NTT course needs to upgrade course structures, making it visible and comparable, and enriching it with the latest methods and research. In addition, a defined framework to monitor the training provided in private and government institutions for early educators is critical. A NAAC like framework, specifically designed for Early Education training institutes, should be explored and put into practice. Currently, the course duration, fee structure, quality of faculty, and measurement of learning are different, confusing an aspiring teacher new in the field.
Last but not the least, with a global digital boom, it is time to explore and incorporate digital avenues in this segment. Online training and programs on harnessing the digital and technological opportunities to leverage early education for the children can go a long way.
With the educational landscape going through a shift, it is crucial to build a robust early education system at affordable private schools in India. It is one of the first steps for providing a strong educational foundation to the children, as it is one of the largest education providers in India.
The author of this article is co-founder, CEO, Key Education Foundation