Detailed data obtained from the Tamil Nadu Government on this is interesting and revealing. Mr. T.K. Chandrasekaran, a retired Government official in Tamil Nadu, filed a Right To Information (RTI) application with the Tamil Nadu Government in 2009 asking for the following information:
- Number of teachers teaching in Government or Government aided schools in Tamil Nadu
- Number of teachers teaching in Government or Government aided schools in Tamil Nadu who send their own children to Government schools
- Number of teachers teaching in Government or Government aided schools in Tamil Nadu who send their own children to Private schools
Mr. Chandrasekaran says he has received information from most of the districts over a two-year period. It has taken patient and persistent follow-up with every single District Education Officer (DEO). On occasion, he has had to go to the higher authorities including the State Information Commissioner, before the DEO acted on his request. The whole exercise, he says, cost him over Rs. 40,000. In one instance, the DEO of Kancheepuram district said he would provide the requested information only if a fee of Rs. 4,099 was paid to cover the costs of compiling and sending the information, which Mr. Chandrasekaran promptly did. He later filed a complaint against that DEO with the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission which ruled in Mr. Chandrasekaran's favour and ordered the DEO to refund the amount to him!
Many DEOs provided the data requested. Some went beyond their call of duty and not only provided the data requested, but also listed the names of the individual teachers and their children as well! A few of the districts are yet to furnished the information, despite repeated reminders. Very little data has been received so far from the Chennai Corporation which runs the Government schools in Chennai.
Although data has been received from many districts, it is unclear if the data provided
- includes data on the schools and teachers in every single government school in those districts, or if some government schools have been left out;
- refers only to Government school teachers or if it also includes teachers in Government-aided schools in Tamil Nadu.
The single-handed effort by Mr. Chandrasekaran, as a public-spirited and concerned citizen, in unearthing this data is most commendable. He has compiled all the information he has received so far and graciously shared it (data compiled by him is available in a spreadsheet). I have also crunched through the data provided by him to come up with district-wise summary spreadsheets for high school and higher secondary school teacher data and primary and middle school teacher data. Further details can be had from Mr. Chandrasekaran (who can be contacted via email at tkcsekar2009_AT_gmail_DOT_com). He has the hard copies of all the responses received from the districts and communication with the DEOs, if someone is interested in documenting all of it.
Based on the data provided by him, which spans both rural and urban Tamil Nadu, here're the findings:
Out of a reported total of 47,030 primary and middle school teachers in Government schools, 36,322 teachers (77%) were reported to have school going children of their own. Of these 36,322 teachers,
- 27% (9,757 teachers) sent their children to Government Schools and
- 73% (26,565 teachers) sent their children to Private Schools.
For perspective, there are 214,440 teachers in Primary and Middle Schools in Tamil Nadu including Government Schools, Government Aided Schools and Private Schools (Source: Tamil Nadu Govt. Policy Note on Demand No. 43 School Education, 2011-12 page 10).
Out of a reported total of 50,782 high school and higher secondary school teachers in Government schools, 32,595 teachers (64%) were reported to have school going children of their own. Of these 32,595 teachers,
- 13% (4,281 teachers) sent their children to Government schools and
- 87% (28,314 teachers) sent their children to Private Schools.
For perspective, there are 130,000 teachers in secondary and higher secondary schools in Tamil Nadu including Government Schools, Government-Aided Schools and Self- Financed Schools (Source: Tamil Nadu Govt. Policy Note on Demand No. 43 School Education, 2011-12 page p29).
The data obtained by Mr. Chandrasekaran till date amounts to a sample of
- 17% (36,322 / 214,440) of all (Govt and Private) Primary and Middle School teachers, and
- 29% (32,595 / 130,000) of all (Govt and Private) High School and Higher Secondary School teachers in Tamil Nadu.
The percentage sampled would be higher if taken as a percentage of Government and Government-aided school teachers alone and still higher if taken as a percentage of Government and Government-aided school teachers who have school going children of their own. This is a fairly large enough sample for the data to be taken very seriously.
The data clearly indicates that a substantial majority of teachers in Government Schools in Tamil Nadu don't trust the quality of education in the schools they themselves are teaching in. They are voting with their feet when it comes to educating their own children. If the teachers have lost faith in Government Schools, what about the bureaucrats, politicians and policy makers who are responsible for funding public education as well as making policy decision relating to education? It would be interesting to collect similar data for all our MPs, MLAs and Central and State Government officers across India to find out whether their children and/or grand children are studying in, or studied in, Government schools or Private Schools. If the it turns out to be predominantly Private Schools, as I suspect it will, the politicians and policy makers will have a lot of explaining to do.
We must systematically compile similar data for every other state in India to obtain a nation-wide picture of the preferences of Government and Government aided school teachers when it comes to educating their own children. It would be worthwhile to file similar RTI applications in every state in India to obtain data for those states.
The nation-wide District Information System for Education (DISE) could collect this data as part of the annual national school census conducted by them. Since the 2011-12 school census conducted by DISE is already underway, it may be too late to incorporate it this year.
Data of this kind has tremendous value in helping us think about ways of improving our education system and making policy decisions about it. In the absence of data, inertia and dogma tend to overwhelm the debate on what can be done to improve education in India, resulting in choices and policy decisions which are not optimal, given our past history, current circumstances and national educational goals.
The data unearthed by Mr. Chandrasekaran is extremely important in the context of the debate on the role of the Government and the Private Sector in helping us achieve the national goal of providing a quality education for every single child in India by 2020.