For the first time ever, women school teachers in India outnumber their male counterparts, according to the Unified District Information on School Education (U-DISE) report for 2019-20 released last week. Of the 96.8 lakh teachers in the country, 49.2 lakh are women.
In 2012-13, there were 35.8 lakh women teachers across the country against 42.4 lakh men — marking a rise of more than 37% or 13 lakh over seven years. In the same period, the number of men teachers rose from 42.4 lakh to 47.7 lakh.
There is a catch, though: women teachers top the headcount only at the primary level. The report points out that upper primary onwards, the number of men teachers continues to be higher.
At the pre-primary level, the number of women teachers stands at more than 1 lakh, compared with around 27,000 men. The ratio is more balanced in the primary grades, with 19.6 lakh women and 15.7 lakh men teachers. In the upper primary classes, there are 11.5 lakh men and 10.6 lakh women teachers. From then on, the gap increases. In secondary schools, there are 6.3 lakh men and 5.2 lakh women teachers. In higher secondary, it’s 3.7 lakh-men-to-2.8-lakh-women.
In government and aided schools, the number of men teachers is higher while in private unaided schools, women teachers are ahead.
The trend of men teachers outnumbering women in higher grades is seen across states, with the exception of Kerala, Delhi, Meghalaya, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, among big states. In these states, the number of women teaching is higher than men even in secondary and higher secondary classes.
“Any dynamic and vital profession and I consider teaching as one, must have an equitable distribution of men and women. Children need to learn from teachers who can offer men’s as well as women’s perspectives. Undoubtedly in younger classes, many schools in India prefer women teachers, since they are seen to be more nurturing. However, I think it’s good for men teachers to demonstrate nurture too! Otherwise, we’re demonstrating a sexist bias in favour of women teachers,” said Maya Menon, founder-director of Teacher Foundation.
“In higher classes, where the curricular load is heavier, traditionally both men and women teachers are in demand. There are also differential salaries in India between primary and secondary school teachers,” Menon said. This is not the case in other countries: all teachers regardless of the levels they teach require similar qualifications and, therefore, start with similar salaries. “Male teachers in India prefer to teach in secondary school because they get paid more, especially with government scales. Private schools that have more male teachers tend to be international schools where the pay is better than in other private schools,” she said.
The U-DISE report is released annually by the department of school education and literacy under the Union ministry of education.