Cover Story

Are teachers LEAVING?

The Brainfeed survey busts some myths related to teacher retention in Indian schools. Why teachers leave is a question that haunts almost every school leader. To understand more, Brainfeed surveyed about 500 principals in July 2022

The biggest myth doing the rounds is – male teachers are leaving educational institutions (Read schools) in droves. This has been busted in the Brainfeed Survey on Teacher Retention 2022. A whopping 71 per cent of the 500-odd respondents said it is not the case. Similarly, another misbelief that teachers leave schools citing ‘overload of work’ too is shattered as 70 per cent of the respondents did not agree. These are two positives that school managements can be assured of.

The right to education becomes meaningful only when it is backed by quality teachers, so in that sense, it becomes the right of students and parents to have quality teachers at their service. A major question that all school managements encounter is which parameter should be the topmost priority during recruitment? Speaking to Brainfeed, Neha Roy, 58, a Geography teacher, states, “It is such a paradox. This generation is intelligent but does not want to go that extra yard. During interviews when we ask prospective Geography teachers if they would be fine to take up a crash course in geospatial technology, they back out.” It was not surprising to know that domain knowledge remained high on the priority list as 47.5 per cent of respondents gave domain expertise as the greatest challenge while recruitment.

What is the greatest challenge in the recruitment of a good teacher?

India has the youngest population in the world with 65 per cent under the age of 35 but are they entering the teaching profession? 32 per cent respondents felt the younger generation is looking out to enter other sectors. Dr B Gayethri Devi, Principal, Little Flower Public School, Bengaluru and Secretary, Karnataka ICSE Schools’ Association says, “Gone are the days where an institution would find teachers who have chosen this noble profession by choice. Today, especially in Bengaluru, the IT sector with its lucrative pay packages has lured one and all into the IT sector.”

There is a category of women entering the profession not out of passion for teaching but as their second new profession. Dr Gayethri says, “Mid-life crises with marriage, children and responsibilities take a toll and women opt for teaching.”

This Generation of graduates is not entering school education

This can be a wake-up call for policy makers as well as private school managements. 49.2 per cent of the people we asked felt that a limited number is entering the field. The reasons could be many, mainly, career growth and salary structure are two issues uppermost in the minds of youngsters. Susheel Kumar, Principal, Darshan Academy, Kaithal says, “Respect and salary are two aspects that encourages a teacher to have a long standing association with a school.”

Unlike other professions, when a teacher leaves a school mid-term, it can have an adverse impact. It is a nightmare for principals of schools. While good salary ensures that a teacher stays, the lack of it can hit schools hard. Rama Devi C V, Principal, Unicent School, Hyderabad suggests, “Mid of the year recruitments from schools within 2-2.5 km radius should be banned.”

Teachers like to work in an organisation where

Leadership is paramount
The school may be of repute, infrastructure state-of-the-art, salary decent and workload reasonable but if the leadership is not supportive, teachers will not stay in a school for long. 61 per cent respondents echoed a similar sentiment. “Respect comes on top of the priority list for teachers. It is in their DNA. A strong leader at the helm sets a culture in a school. It all trickles down from the top,” says Revathi Srinivasan, a teacher from Chennai.

Teachers consider a school, a great place to work if
Teachers get optimal job satisfaction when

Several studies in the past have proven that no amount of money can retain a person if the work environment is not conducive. Just as any profession, teachers too give a lot of importance to job satisfaction. It is a well-known fact that women form the bulk of the teaching community and don several hats. Good salary and a culture that supports their growth is a fine combination for a teacher to stay put.

If one wants a teacher to work for a long period in a school, two aspects need to be kept in mind; make them feel valued and important and ensure their economic and intellectual dignity is upheld.

Teachers leaving the profession citing workload

47 per cent of the respondents gave a thumbs down to the question if workload was the reason for teachers to leave the profession. The academic year is very structured with teaching followed by assessment, extra-curricular activities, sports competitions, inter-house competitions, marking important days to name a few. A teacher does multi-tasking and only the adept survive. Dr B Raut, a senior Economics teacher says, “Teaching is not every one’s cup of tea. People who love teaching do not feel the workload. Newcomers realise within a few months that teaching is not just entering a class. Those with empathy remain.”

In your experience, teachers leave an institution

There is a marked difference in the perception of people towards the profession. During the pre-independent days and in the initial years of post-independence in India, the teaching profession was held in high esteem. Salary did not figure in the radar as much as it is now. With the growth of an aspirational India and upwardly mobile generation, the freshers aspire for good salaries. Sociologist Raghuram K states, “Till the 1980s, there were few options but with the advent of the New Economic Policy in 1991 and with the opening of the Indian economy, a slew of options emerged. Medical transcription, ITeS sector opened new vistas with call centres opening in all major towns which led many to sunrise sectors.” He goes on to add, “The five-day work culture offered by the corporate sector with a pick-up and drop facility which was unknown in India lured youngsters.” The trend still continues. 59.3% of the respondents said that an increase in salary was one of the main reasons to leave their previous institutions.

Do you agree that male teachers are leaving the profession?

Myths busted
Contrary to popular belief that male teachers are leaving schools, the survey reveals that this is not true. 71 per cent of the respondents said that this happens to a limited extent. Also, another fallacy that heavy workload is driving teachers away from the profession is also incorrect.

Is withholding academic certificates a reason for not joining schools?

There is a unique system of obtaining academic certificates from teachers by the school managements at the time of appointment which are returned when he or she leaves the school. This practise is unique to schools and is not found in several other professions. 37.3 per cent felt it could be a reason for people leaving or not entering the profesion. “I felt stifled and caged at the thought of handing over my certificates. I would not part with them at any cost. After all, there is something called trust,” fumed Priya Nair, a fresh post graduate in Economics. The young generation is not so comfortable with the age-old practise.

What is the average number of years a teacher works in your school?

While the challenges are many in retaining teachers in schools, one finding that would cockle the hearts of school managements is the average years a teacher stays in a school is five and more years. 47.5 per cent of respondents stated so.

Retaining teachers in schools became all the more challenging in the post-Covid times. Many left the profession during the last two years. Salary and respect – these two aspects are what teachers today look out for. With India growing and making a mark in the comity of nations, the educational landscape too is changing and teachers are the fulcrum.

Reactions

“Workplace and workload if it is conducive, it is easy for a teacher to work.”
– Principal, Abhaya School

“Growing competition among schools is one of the reasons for teacher poaching. School associations can play a vital role where all reach to common understanding.”
– On e-mail: shriwastavsunil@yahoo.com

“Not as lucrative as other professions. Law is loaded in favour of parents and students but the stress on teachers is ignored.”
– Caroline Diane Ross, Principal, Spring Fields High School, Hyderabad

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