The low number of qualified teachers has always been a major lacuna of the Indian educational system. This is one of the many flaws in a system which is 'a mixed bag of glaring gaps and remarkable successes' (Pandey, 2006). As the author points out, the literacy rate in the country has shown a remarkable growth from 18.38% in 1950-51 to 65.38% in 2000-01 (74% in 2010-11). However illiteracy is still significant and a substantial number of children do not attend school. There are disparities in schooling levels across rural and urban areas, across genders, and for marginalized communities like SCs and STs. One of the major issues listed in the article is that in 2002, the national average for the number of qualified teachers in government-managed primary schools has only been 2.47.
It is widely understood and accepted that a low pupil-teacher ratio enables individual attention by teachers and therefore can increase student achievement. It enables better absorption and understanding of the subject. Thus a low pupil-teacher ratio is an essential for long term and broad based academic achievement.
Azim Premji Foundation's own previous studies have underlined the criticality of the pupil-teacher ratio in classroom learning. In a survey study of 766 lower primary schools in North East Karnataka, we found that a PTR of less than 30:1 has a high correlation with superior school performance. The chance of strong performance declines with increasing PTRs, and when PTR is as high as 40:1, schools have a less than 2% chance of turning in a strong performance.
The Government of India has recently mandated a set of rules within the framework of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009. RTE has placed education in India within a rights based framework whereby the government is duty bound to provide educational opportunities to all children upto the Elementary level. The rules that govern areas in education therefore fall within the purview of this rights based framework; which means that every one of the issues within the RTE is a right. One of the important injunctions in RTE relates to the pupil-teacher ratio. The RTE mandates a maximum PTR of 30:1 to be maintained in each school individually. In fact, "It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings."