Quoted from the NY Times:
“According to the American Federation of Teachers, the state with the highest average pay for teachers in 2003-04 was Connecticut, at $56,516; the lowest was South Dakota, at $33,236.
Or look at it this way: Pick a corporate chieftain — say, Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric. He earns $15.4 million a year. Every single day — including Thanksgiving and Christmas — he makes almost what the average teacher does for a year of taming wild children, staying up nights planning lessons, and, really, helping to shape a generation.”
I read about this up at multiple blogs including AssortedStuff, Think:Lab and Education Wonks and it got me thinking. The Purchasing Power Parity Index (enonomic theory that tries to equate how much it would cost to buy similar things or live a similar quality of life in two places) between India and the US is between 6-8. So a dollar in the the US would get you about the same that Rs. 6 – 8 would get you in India, across a basket of commodities and services. This seems to me a rather conservative estimate, but we will play along with this.
The average teacher salary for Connecticut (state with highest salary) was $56,516, for South Dakota (state with lowest salary) it was $33,236. Taking a simple average of these two for convenience, one may estimate that the average salary for the US as a whole was 44,876. In PPP terms this equates to a salary, given similar educational qualifications, to a number between Rs. 269,256 and Rs. 359,008 per year or roughly between Rs. 22438 and Rs 29997.
According to the 5th Pay Commission that dictate salaries to Central Schools like those run by the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, teachers salaries in India should be between 8000 (Kindergarten level) to 17500 (Post Graduate Teacher level). Many State Boards have salaries that are much lower. Many private schools employ teacher at a fourth of these rates- from my own experience in Punjab, teachers are paid between Rs. 3000-6000 at schools (leaving the premium schools aside) in several cities. If anyone has access to researches data on teacher salaries in India, I would love to have a look at it.This analysis estimates that teachers in India may earn upto 5-6 times lower than their counterparts in America, despite having possibly better qualifications on paper (most applicants for teaching jobs at my school have a master’s degree and two bachelor’s degrees and earn around Rs. 4000 at their current jobs).
This throws up many interesting questions with some comments as answers:
1. Why would a person choose to become a teacher? A BPO job pays twice as much. Even tutoring would probably earn a teacher in multiples of this amount.
- Presumably for the love of teaching itself or for, in smaller cities, the lack of other options. Most probably though, because as pointed out in an earlier post, “Teaching is a noble profession for Women” – the sort of job that gives respectability, time-bound working hours and a regular , stable salary.
- Lack of other options: Several families do not allow their daughters-in-law to take on other jobs/assignments- teaching is passable because of the respectability factor above.
- Teaching is stable. You would probably earn that amount (with an annual increment) as long as you didn’t do something terribly stupid. Most schools are so hard up on good quality staff that they would do anything to retain even an errant teacher with the slightest possibility of being reformed. The downside of course, by the same logic, is that growth in teaching jobs (and associated pay rises) is limited: at best one may become an academic co-ordinator or head of department/primary school before one occupies the dark leather seat as Principal.
2. I say that Tutoring pays many times that much. Why then do teachers teach in Schools?
- Because they get a school-name-brand attached to them and, possibly more importantly, they don’t have much teaching to do in the morning as kids from all the schools are at school. Working in a school them gives them an acceptability and elevates their status as a recognised teacher – bringing in more business. I often wonder – if schools had the policy of disallowing teachers from tutoring on the side, would the applicant pool for jobs at that school take a nosedive?
3. Is this a fair salary to pay teachers? An addendum to the NY Times.
- I don’t want to go into the socio-economic stratifications of Indian Society but keep this response germane to the debate raised by the NY times. It asks whether our teachers who educate the nation should be paid so little when their products are paid in several multiples. It points out that corporate bosses With Indians going abroad and occupying top jobs- it would seem that soon corporate bosses will earn more in an hour than what their teachers in India did in a Year.
For those of you interested in further reading on this- look at this Economic Times article that looks at the huge differences in the salaries of teachers at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) and that earned by grads straight out of campus. And continuing with the Jeff Immelt example, here is an article on CEO salaries in India!