The Right to Education Act lays down strict guidelines on the student-teacher ratio, as well as on training, according to which the Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) should be 30:1 in primary classes and 35:1 in upper primary classes.
According to a District Information System for Education (DISE) report, in 2011-12 only 34.12 percent of primary school teachers were graduates, while a meagre 17.05 percent teachers were post-graduates.
National convener of RTE Forum Ambarish Rai said the problem is that there are no proper institutions for training teachers.
"There is a huge shortage of teachers, and the RTE mandates appointing trained teachers to fill the gap by 2015. However, the question is: Where will these teachers be trained," Rai asked while speaking to IANS.
"Teachers' training has almost collapsed. Today, teachers' training is being provided by private companies, but the teachers trained by them are not even able to clear the teachers qualification exam," he said.
In 2012, more than 99 percent of those who appeared for the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) failed the exam. The competency test, conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), was taken by 795,000 aspirants last year.
Training of teachers is the mandate of The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) formed in 1995. But the council could not perform any impressive task in imparting teachers' training, says Delhi University Department of Education professor Krishan Kumar.
"Teachers' training has become an ill sector. The training institutes are in ICU, it is like a situation of helplessness," Krishan Kumar told IANS.
He said the status of a teacher has been degraded with many north Indian states hiring ill-trained teachers on contract, as adhoc or "para-teachers".
"In the entire Hindi belt, there is a new phenomena of hiring para-teachers. There is a massive movement going on with teachers across states agitating and protesting on issues like regularisation of jobs and better salaries, but it is not being highlighted by the media. North India has forgotten its teachers," Krishna Kumar said.
The appointment of lower-paid contract teachers is leading to attrition of talent from the field, he added.
A sample survey by NGO Right to Education Forum revealed that para-teachers now constitute a major chunk in many states.
In Bihar, 50 percent of schools have para-teachers, in Andhra Pradesh the figure is 44 percent and in Jharkhand it is 37 percent. Karnataka (28 percent), Uttar Pradesh (23 percent) and West Bengal (21 percent) also have a large number of para-teachers.
The study also says that one out of 10 teachers are sub-contract or proxy teachers who come in place of government-appointed teachers by bypassing the selection process and with no vetting of their qualifications.
These proxy teachers constitute a substantial chunk in Himachal Pradesh (15 percent), Jharkhand (12 percent), Manipur (9.4 percent), Tamil Nadu (9.6 percent), Karnataka (7.6 percent) and Maharashtra (6 percent).
Experts say the only way to improve the situation is through restructuring the training of teachers.
"There is need to regulate and evolve a methodology for teachers' training," said Rai.
He said that recruitment was the second major issue dogging implementation of the RTE as a large chunk of teachers were on contract, while the RTE mandates appointing permanent teachers.
"We have disrespected the teachers' profession. If we start making teachers count the population for the census and work for elections, we are degrading their status. Their dignity is challenged," Rai added.
(Anjalo Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)