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More Than Half of Indian Parents Want Their Children To Become Teachers, Survey Finds

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Nov 12, 2018

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There are two things everyone knows about Indian parents: One, that they are often the ones deciding what their children should grow up to do, and two, there are only a few, acceptable options: engineering or medicine.

Now, a global study suggests that’s changing: The UK-based Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Status Index (GTSI) 2018 reveals more than half of Indian parents (54%) polled say they are positive and encouraging about their children pursuing teaching as a career.

This is a bigger margin than any other country surveyed, including China, where 50% of parents say they want their children to become teachers. The survey included 35 countries, and by comparison, less than a quarter of British people said they would encourage their child to become a teacher; at the extreme other end of the spectrum is Russia, where only 6% Russian parents say they would want their children to take up teaching.

Teachers in India form the third-largest workforce among white-collared employees; of the country’s 64 lakh teachers, 29 lakh, or 45%, are women, and the number of female teachers continues to rise.

Although partly because of a government policy, which makes it mandatory to employ one female teacher per two teachers in Indian schools, feminization in the teaching profession is neither a recent development, nor is it restricted to India. (According the US Department of Education’s 2015-16 survey, of the 3.8 million public school teachers in the country, about 77% of them are women–up slightly from 76% in 2012.)

Teaching is perceived as a career that will allow women to balance work with managing homes and children — still perceived as the responsibility and domain of women — thanks to the shorter working hours and long vacations that coincide with kids’ school timings and holidays. It is also perceived as a career uniquely suited to stereotypically ‘feminine’ traits: Schools, especially primary and pre-primary, tend to hire more female candidates, influenced by stereotypes of motherly affection and instincts.

“Women are considered as aptly suited to teaching profession that provides an additional source of income for the family without disturbing patriarchy,” writes N Mythili, an assistant professor at the National Institute of Education Planning and Administration, in a 2017 report.

While women’s domination of the teaching field could be seen as a success story, especially in a country where women’s representation in the labor force is so low, the truth is that education has come to be perceived as a feminine, rather than masculine, field of work. As women have entered it, men have opted for other professions — or simply moved into the upper echelons of education administration — either way, with higher salaries.

Children need both male and female teachers as their role models. Some experts believe that boys who struggle more in the classroom could use an example of male role models to overcome their insecurities. Moreover, the same perks of work-life balance and job security that are thought to be uniquely suited to women, are becoming more sought-after by men who want to spend time caring equally for their families.

So, while it’s great to see Indian parents warming up to a different career choice for their children, it’s important to look at which children we’re encouraging to take up teaching — and why.

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Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.

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