April 2021

IZA DP No. 14251: Teacher Shortage in India: Myth or Reality? The Fiscal Cost of Surplus Teachers, Fake Enrolment and Absences

This paper examines the widespread perception in India that the country has an acute teacher shortage of about one million teachers in public elementary schools, a view repeated in India's National Education Policy 2020. Using official DISE data, we show that there is hardly any net teacher deficit in the country since there is roughly the same number of surplus teachers as the number of teacher vacancies. Secondly, we show that measuring teacher requirements after removing the estimated fake students from enrolment data greatly reduces the required number of teachers and increases the number of surplus teachers, yielding an estimated net surplus of about 342,000 teachers. Thirdly, we show that if we both remove fake enrolment and also make a suggested hypothetical change to the teacher allocation rule to adjust for the phenomenon of emptying public schools (which has slashed the national median public-school size to a mere 64 students), the estimated net teacher surplus is about 764,000 teachers. Fourthly, we highlight that if government does fresh recruitment to fill the supposed nearly one-million vacancies, the already modest national mean pupil-teacher-ratio (PTR) of 22.8 would fall to 15.9, at a permanent fiscal cost of nearly Rupees 48,000 crore (USD 6.6 billion) per year in 2017-18 prices, which is higher than the individual GDPs of 56 countries in that year. The paper also highlights the volume of schools with extreme PTRs, and estimates the cost of teacher absence, pupil absence and fake enrolments. Overall, the paper highlights the major economic efficiencies that can result from an evidence-based approach to education policy making.