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Are Indian Teachers Burning Out?


Just about everyone talks about the pressure that students undergo. With the Teachers’ Day round the corner, Brainfeed magazine dug deep to know the issues that teachers face. Though being the crucial pivot and the centre of all interventions in the school system, the teacher, for long has been the unsung hero.

The Brainfeed magazine survey 2018, a first of its kind in the country looks at the myriad issues. The survey throws up a number of facts, the most interesting. In spite of the average Indian teacher getting exhausted by the end of the day, she still has a spring in her feet and heads to school the following morning.

If you want to do a half-decent job in a 45-minute class, you need to spend at least 90-minutes preparing for it was the dictum that Noel Mall, a chemistry teacher, was often told while working in the Republic of Maldives. A teacher who worked in Ranchi for a major part of his life and presently working at the Beijing National Day School in China is a firm believer that a teacher can give his best when he or she is given three periods a day. Nothing more, nothing less.

“It is better to do one thing perfectly than ten indifferently. There is too much pressure on the teacher in India and this is the only reason why I left,” quips Noel.

A large section of teachers feels the same way. Sudha Gorthi, a retired English Language teacher from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sainikpuri in Secunderabad shares,

“Education system is information heavy. Students are overburdened, so is the teacher. Everyone talks about activity based teaching but for that, the teacher needs to be given free time to prepare. In short, the average Indian teacher is over-burdened.”

Sample this: A teacher’s day begins (Read: her day. Majority of the work force are women) anywhere between 7:30 to 8:40 depending on the city and region but most schools across the country start functioning between the said timing. From getting students ready for assembly, taking 4-6 classes, attending meetings, completing assessments, lesson plans, more meetings with respective club committees, preparing question papers, answering queries from parents, dealing with problem kids, going for substitutions and planning for annual, sports and other events takes a toll on the teacher, leaving no time either for herself or for what she is meant for- to prepare well for classes.

Anil Swarup, Secretary at Human Resources Development Ministry, Government of India, recently remarked,

“I know that if I am able to nail the teacher issue, 70 per cent of the problem is solved.”

Meghna, a Physics teacher from Kota says,

“Non-teaching work eats a lot of time, as a result, teaching suffers. What we end up doing is finish the syllabus.”

Staff Room

According to Brainfeed survey, 23% of the 891 teachers said they prefer three periods a day if they were to do justice to their jobs. 55% of the teachers take 4-6 classes a day.

Raashi K K, a teacher from Gurgaon, said,
“There is a misconception that teachers get a lot of free time as there are many holidays. On the contrary, teachers are working round the clock. A teacher’s job does not end once she leaves the school. There is marking answer scripts, preparing for the next day, writing the daily lesson plan, marking homework and preparing question papers.”

Do not take your work home, if you want to lead a stress-free life, so goes the saying. Teachers, if one were to go by the Brainfeed survey do not seem to have the luxury. 39% of the respondents said that they mark answer scripts at home. There is no way a teacher can complete all her work at school, with partaking in so many committees and involving in extra-curricular activities, she ends up taking work home.

Majority of the teachers are unable to spare time to prepare for the next day and almost 70% cannot design teaching aids due to the lack of time.

“How are we expecting innovation in teaching methodology? How can we expect them to adapt new generation temperament in their teaching styles when we don’t give them enough time to understand the minds of students and analyse the required alterations in their teaching style?”, retorts a teacher.

The curriculum in other countries, for instance, in Singapore is well structured and there is ample space and time for the student to understand concepts. In India, there is a lot of talk of using practical methods but is not reflected in the curriculum. The practical aspect is left to the educator to implement. Teachers with much energy and enthusiasm go the extra mile to include student-centric methods into teaching but not all can do that due to lack of time.

Too much on the plate

Is the teacher biting into too much than he or she can chew is the question that is on everyone’s mind?
The answer seems to be in the affirmative. To a question: ‘Do you have time to make teaching aids? 69% of the respondents gave a strong ‘no’ as the reply. Going through the rigorous daily routine is sapping the energy, leaving no time to prepare teaching aids to rue teachers across cities.
It came as no surprise that 39% of the respondents feel exhausted by the end of the day and have no inclination to enhance skills and prepare in a better way. They blame it on the toxic routine that they have to undergo, everyday.
The constant changes in the exam board (read CBSE) too are playing a part in the stress levels. By the time, teachers get accustomed to a set pattern, changes are initiated.

Mira Nambiar, a senior coordinator says,
“Even a minor change can turn the whole academic calendar topsy-turvy.” She adds, “The media is obsessed with the pressure exerted on students by way of exams, expectations and syllabus, few talks about the pressure that a teacher undergoes. I have seen so many teachers quitting or taking a year off unable to handle pressure.”

Bright spot: Teachers still an enthusiastic lot

It is not all negative. In what can be termed as one bright spot, the survey showed that in spite of all the problems that teachers face, they are as enthusiastic today as they were on their first day of the job. A good 54.3% teachers surveyed across India said that they still are enthusiastic to go to school and take classes.

Sociologist Amrita who has worked a lot on what motivates people in doing certain jobs says,
“It has got to do with the Indian mindset. We adapt to hardship and the older generation has an inbuilt strength to soak up any amount of pressure. This generation though is ambitious and wants quick results and is not ready for the long innings.”

Can the younger lot, 26% of the respondents fall under the bracket who has been in the profession between 0-5 years take the crushing workload and endless paperwork?

Suhani Singh, a teacher with 20 years experience says,
“People without a passion for teaching should not enter the field. As far as I am concerned there is more of ‘giving’ than ‘taking’ in this profession, no doubt it is termed as noble.”

Brainfeed Survey Methodology

Teachers’ salary, a contentious issue

While salaries in the IT/ITES sector touch the roof, teachers’ salaries have never become the talking point in business magazines. Of late, the comparison between the two sectors is growing and becoming a hot topic debated at different fora. Why should not teachers be paid the same salaries as IT employees?
The answer to the question has several answers. The system is so fragmented that no homogeneous action is possible and added to the problem is that education features on the concurrent list in the constitution, which means that each state has its own agenda.

While there are several teachers who are under paid, it is also a fact that many international schools in big cities and even in tier 11 cities have started offering good packages. An issue that is now a reality is the gap between the older gen teachers as compared to the younger lot. Experience versus exuberance, passion versus practicality, ambition versus contentment.

The new-gen teachers are tech-savvy. They are technologically armed but lack the tricks of the trade. On the other hand, senior teachers are not tech-savvy but are effective teachers. With each passing year, a sizeable number of teachers retire and in their place come freshers. How will the new India adapt? Can the new set of teachers take forward with them the passion that the older generation had? Given the fact that 26% of the teaching community is in the profession for less than five years shows that their percentage is bound to grow at a rapid pace in the next few years.

With multi-tasking, the new norm, the teachers’ role has morphed and the modern teacher has to play different roles aided with technology. How smoothly will the baton pass on to the younger generation of teachers is something that the policy makers need to address.

Gone are the days when teachers were paid low salaries, times are changing; good teachers are paid handsome salaries. In countries like Singapore, the best graduates are attracted to teaching as there is high prestige and status associated with the profession as is the case in Finland and several other countries. The notion that teaching is the last resort as was the case for a long time in India is now slowly but surely fading.
The way forward is improving the quality of teaching by improving the recruiting process and bettering the continuous professional development programmes. Indian students are reputed internationally and a lot of credit should go to the humble teacher who, in spite of several hardships goes about her job with elan.


How many years have you been in the field?

How many years have you been in the field?26.1% of the respondents have been in the profession between 0-5 years which is a sizeable percent and is a crucial component for the survey as this segment comprises the future.

“I don’t seem to have as much enthusiasm now as I did when I began this job.”

“I don’t seem to have as much enthusiasm now as I did when I began this job.”

Though the survey threw up a number of facts about the education system, the question if they are still enthusiastic when they first entered the profession showed that 54.3% are still enthusiastic. The education system may be beset with several problems but the fact that the majority of work-force is still raring to go augurs well for the sector.

On an average how many classes do you take in a day?

On an average how many classes do you take in a day?

54.8% of Indian teachers take 4-6 classes per day. Another 24.5% of teachers take 7-9 classes per day which is way above the desired norms and it is one of the major reasons for teachers feeling burned out.
Respondents said that the non-teaching work is also a reason for stress. While comparing both statistics, 68.9% think they should take around 4-6 classes in a day and 22.7% believe to schedule a maximum of 3 classes.

Do you mark answer scripts and homework at your house?

Do you mark answer scripts and home-work at your house?

In India, about 38.8% of teachers mark answer scripts at home which essentially translates to taking work home daily. Many respondents felt that if they do not do this, they would be unable to complete their work as they do not have the time at school. This is also coming in the way in preparing for the next day and making teaching and learning aids. 43.4% teachers stated that they are given too many additional responsibilities such as heads of cultural, sports committees and as a result feel exhausted.

How many classes do you think you should be taking in a day?

How many classes do you think you should be taking in a day?

22.7% of the teachers feel that they would be fine if they were given three classes a day and 69% are fine with the 4-6 classes per day schedule that seems to be prevalent today. By and large, the average teacher has no complaints taking a minimum of four classes per day.

Do you feel you should not carry work home?

Do you feel you should not carry work home?

51% of teachers said that they should not carry work home. Yet, they cannot do away. Teachers are caught in a catch-22 situation. Many say that the government should look into this aspect as workload is increasing with each passing day as more activities are included.

Do you feel teachers are given too many additional responsibilities such as heads of cultural, sports committees and as a result feel exhausted?

Do you feel teachers are given too many additional responsibilities such as heads of cultural, sports committees and as a result feel exhausted?

Additional responsibilities such as being included in cultural, sports, NSS, NCC, literary, heritage, science committees though imperative is taking a toll on teachers as they are unable to strike a balance between teaching and overseeing other activities.

Do you have enough time to prepare for the next day?

Do you have enough time to prepare for the next day?

Almost half the teacher population does not have the time to prepare for the next day, leave alone for a long term. 44% said that they just do not have the time to make a plan for the next day and as a result they just go through the motions without innovating or coming up with new ideas and methods to disseminate information and facilitate learning.

To what extent does parental pressure add to stress?

To what extent does parental pressure add to stress?

Teachers are also stressed out due to pressure from parents. 26.9% said that the pressure is a lot and another 55.2% said that they feel pressurized to an extent. With the growing middle class and ever growing ambitions, parents pressure on teachers is also an aspect for their stress levels.

Do you have time to make teaching aids?

Do you have time to make teaching aids?

Do you feel lack of time is the reason for not making teaching aids?

Do you feel lack of time is the reason for not making teaching aids?

Here is why Indian teachers do not prepare teaching aids. They just do not have the time. 69% teachers surveyed said that they are so saddled with other activities at school apart from taking classes that they’re left with no time to make teaching aids.

“My job doesn’t excite me anymore.”

“My job doesn’t excite me anymore.”

“I feel exhausted at the end of the day.”

“I feel exhausted at the end of the day.”

An excited lot- 54.4% of teachers are still excited at the thought of going to school. In spite of several issues, the average teacher is ready to head to school with a spring in her feet, which in spite of the fact that 39.1% feel exhausted at the end of the day.

Ashok PandeyThe issue of teachers burning out is alarming. Saving Indian educators from this turbulent state, Brainfeed recorded the opinions of a teacher’s leader
The Principal of Ahlcon International School
Ashok Pandey

Many teachers have reported that they are paid unreasonably low salary. What are your views on this?

India is a vast country. Education is in the concurrent list. About twenty-five per cent of the schools in the country are in the private sector, and rest are in the Government sector. Each State Government has its pay structure, though they all come under the 7th Pay commission. In the government sector for regular teachers appointed against the vacancies, salaries are, by and large, not an issue. However, most of the state government rely on guest, ad-hoc teachers to fill the vacant positions and these teachers are not paid at par with the regular teachers. In the private sector, schools are varying from low-fee paying to high-fee paying. It is true that in most of these schools teacher’s salaries are not adequate. If some teachers are complaining, they are not wrong.

Based on their performances and outcomes of their teaching methodologies, do you think that some teachers need to improve first before demanding for a better salary? What kind of improvements are needed?

Pre-Service Teacher Training in India is in shambles. First, people with commitment and motivation do not opt for teaching as a career. Even those, who wish to take up teaching reluctantly, half heartedly or as an option in the absence of their first or second choices, do not get adequately prepared to accept the challenges of teaching and learning. That is a tragedy. As a result, the people entering a profession, lack motivation. It is true, therefore, that in most cases the performance of the teachers and the learning outcomes suffer. It is therefore essential that we develop a robust mechanism of school-based in-service education of the teachers. For a teacher to be effective, domain knowledge, ability to communicate and connect real-life experiences with the classroom experiences is crucial. I feel that subject knowledge for the teachers should be the defining criteria for anyone before entering the profession. I also believe, and based on evidence, that in-service teacher training programme, an enabling environment, organizational culture, incentivization, and mentoring can make a significant difference in teacher’s performance.

Do you agree that many teachers are burning out due to exhaustion and work pressure?

My experience is confined to private schools. I would tend to agree that school teachers are under pressure. The workload, teaching-learning assignments, character building and preparing the children for career and life may not cause any burden on the teachers. However, increasing parental aspirations, unreasonable demands, reduced space for teacher’s innovation and the constant fear of reaction are bothering the teacher community. Teachers have to measure each word, action and initiative that they take against its possible fallback or unpleasant repercussions. Another pressure comes from the lack of parental support and cooperation.

Teaching is a great profession. I consider it a divine responsibility. The role that the teachers play in the lives of the children is invaluable and immeasurable. There is nobody else in the lives of children who can guarantee the unconditional, non-discriminating and non-diminishing love for the children. My advice to the future generation of teachers is; do not enter the profession with a grudge and reluctance. However, once you have come to the job, you have no choice but to give your hundred per cent.

Ekta SodhaWith the national survey results highlighting the current scenario in Indian schools, Brainfeed interacted with the school leader
Ekta Sodha
CEO of Sodha Schools and Cadmus Education, India

What are your views on the income of a teacher? Should they demand a hike?

We employ over 270 teachers and these teachers are paid reasonably well but what you got to keep in mind is they are second bread winners in the family. For them, it is more like a part-time job. They want to get out of the house; they want to contribute to the society. They want to feel good about working and they are relatively less experienced. We hire a teacher who has freshly come out of the B.Ed. colleges and they are freshers. We provide them training and within a year or two they are qualified, trained and experienced. So, it’s the best of both worlds. Teacher get a job in a good school and then we spend on the training and on the other hand, teachers, when they finish a year or two years with us, they will go to elite schools where they get higher salary. For the teachers, who feel that they are being paid low, they should definitely demand a hike. But deserving salary hikes need to be identified with the learning outcomes.

Investing in the training of teachers and assessing the demands of higher salary means lot of expenditure by the school leaders. Also, fee-hike for students is being contradicted in multiple ways. Is there any solution?

There’s a whole spectrum of schools. There are cheaper schools, expensive schools and there is a mindset in the society that whatever comes cheaply doesn’t necessarily have a very good quality to it. This is a huge misconception. When I came back from England, my whole idea was to come and establish a chain of schools which serve the needs of the poor but at the same time served quality education. People think that a school with just Rs 500 fee per month cannot have experiential learning, field trips or technological education. That’s not true. If you know how to manage a school, there’s a scope for everything and that’s precisely what I wanted to address when I came into this field. We have designed a model which enables us to provide all facilities to students in low fee structure and we make a decent profit. It’s not atrocious but enough to conduct trainings and workshops for teachers, parents and students. The model is based on the idea that we generate a decent profit but at the same time put back a lot of it to provide the educational essentials in order to grow and expand.

Teachers are expected to create innovation in teaching methodologies. How can we ensure this amidst their hectic schedule?

Relying completely on teachers to be innovative is perhaps very stressful because every day, you cannot reinvent. The school management also has to share the burden of trying to be innovative, trying to have more learning materials and trying to have a pedagogy that justifies all of this. Teachers alone cannot be burdened. Also, how is it possible to do a quality control if I tell the teacher that tomorrow you have to prepare this lesson with an innovative methodology? Who is going to do the quality control and assess adequacy of this lesson and the learning- whether it is on par according to the school’s philosophy and learning standards or not? So, relying completely on the teachers is unreasonable. The management needs to take the sole responsibility in a way that ‘we have designed this learning technique and through this you can teach in the classroom’. In such ways you reduce the pressure on teachers.

Rejuvenate the teachers who are on the verge of burning out

We plan recreational activities and take the teachers out to field trips, picnics just like we do it for students. Like students, teachers also need to be rejuvenated and refreshed time to time. We have trainers who come and do lot of activities with them. Such initiatives are just a medium to create a mentality in them that yes, management is there to support us. Creating this trust in the minds of teachers is the primary goal. The management has to understand that they have to help teachers as much as they can.

How can the management and teaching staff create the required ideal understanding in the schools?

We need to practice a harmony based methodology. The group of teachers who are going through same worries, similar stress; I think it is very good thing to connect teachers with each other and with the management so that everybody understand each other’s problems and work collectively to address these issues. It is insane to send them to the classroom and say that this is your battle ground and you have to fight it alone. That’s not how it works. The junior management, the senior management and everybody has to work as a team in supporting the teachers, support the children.

Rejuvenate the teachers who are on the verge of burning out
We plan recreational activities and take the teachers out to field trips, picnics just like we do it for students. Like students, teachers also need to be rejuvenated and refreshed time to time. We have trainers who come and do lot of activities with them. Such initiatives are just a medium to create a mentality in them that yes, management is there to support us. Creating this trust in the minds of teachers is the primary goal. The management has to understand that they have to help teachers as much as they can.


The Principal of Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, Indore,
expresses her views on the issue.

Punita Nehru

The biggest crime a society can commit is offering a shameful salary structure to its teaching community. Thereafter, expecting them to be “Gurus”, who ought to lead a selfless simple life.  The society does not realize that offering a pittance is leading up to creating Pied Pipers who shall, eventually, lead the children away, taking the society to its doom. Are we ready for that sacrifice?

Further, saying teachers need to improve themselves, first, before demanding a higher salary is blasphemous. If that be the case shouldn’t we start with the leaders of our nation who should get remuneration which corresponds with the quality of work they do! I am sure I need not elaborate further.

There is a dire need for a complete overhauling of our Indian education system. Ours is a diverse and complex society and we, the Country, need to sit and ponder over ‘WHAT’ is needed and ‘HOW’ to go about doing it. Let us not waste any more time or our future generations are doomed. We owe it to our children to hand over a better system.

We need to put our heads together for the following-

  1. Change of curriculum making it more ‘Nation specific’, ‘Use specific and ‘Need specific’.
  2. Teaching and learning processes need to be changed drastically.
  3. Bring Schooling out of the “four walls”.
  4. The teachers training to be changed. Teachers need to be prepared for the new systems which were not there during their times.
  5. Selection of candidates should be an extensive process so that the right people join the teaching profession.
  6. Parents and society need to be oriented to the new relevant system.

Teachers sure are burning out due to pressure, which is many pronged. First, because they aren’t trained well. Theoretically trained to swim they jump into deep waters, barely able to stay afloat in this pool of serious responsibility.  Next, in order to pocket more profit, the management recruit fewer teachers and overload the ones recruited. It is absolutely imperative teachers are given time for enhancing their skills, planning their lessons and concentrating on each child under their care. But is this possible, with classes overflowing with number of children per section? Criminal isn’t it ? How does one expect results out of a scene like this? Teachers are humans, not super beings. Regular faculty Enrichment programs are required for the teacher’s updation. But if we check, schools hardly keep any amount in the annual budget for this. They find It “Expensive”.

Time has come to nurture the roots of society. The roots that are given by teachers. If you don’t, soon hell will break loose and we will be sitting playing the blame game. The Pied Piper would have done his job by then.


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