The number of one-teacher schools in the country has decreased marginally, but lack of focused funding for development of one-teacher schools remains a bottleneck.

According to Unified District Information System of Education (UDISE) 2015-16 data, there are 97,923 single-teacher government schools at elementary and secondary levels out of a total number of 11.05 lakh schools in the country. Though the numbers are upsetting, according to a report on single-teacher schools that was tabled in Parliament last year in August, there were 105,630 such schools earlier.

A state-wise analysis of the data shows that there has been a marginal drop in every state, with Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan maintaining their position in top three for two consecutive years now. Another disheartening fact is that as of now, there is no specific grant system for development of one-teacher schools.

In an answer to the Rajya Sabha last month, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said, “The recruitment, service conditions and redeployment of teachers are primarily in the domain of the respective state governments and UT administrations. The Central government provides financial assistance to the state governments and UT administrations for additional teachers under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) to maintain appropriate Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR). The Central government has been consistently pursuing the matter of expeditious recruitments and redeployment of teachers with the states and UTs at various fora.”

It is noteworthy that the only such projects that were provided financial assistance by the MHRD for one-teacher schools in Assam and Jharkhand were scrapped after irregularities were registered in fund usage. The project was started under the Innovative & Experimental (I&E) education component of the Education Guarantee Scheme and Alternative & Innovative Education. “Friends of Tribal Society” (FTS), a voluntary organisation, was provided financial assistance in 2001-2004. A four-member inquiry committee set up by the MHRD for verification of activities and utilisation of funds sanctioned to FTS under the said scheme, in its report indicated that the grant was not being used as per the parameters of the scheme and therefore the release of grants to FTS was stopped.  According to the latest (2015-16) MHRD data, the top three states with highest number of one-teacher schools are Madhya Pradesh (18,190), Uttar Pradesh (15,669) and Rajasthan (12,029). In MHRD’s 2014-15 report on one-teacher schools, Madhya Pradesh had 17,874 such schools followed by Uttar Pradesh (17,602), Rajasthan (13,575), Andhra Pradesh (9,540) and Jharkhand (7,391).

Just like in 2015-16, none of the states can boast of zero one-teacher schools. The states and Union Territories that fared well with zero one-teacher schools are Chandigarh, Tripura, Lakshadweep and Puducherry, while Daman and Diu and Sikkim have only one such school. The 2014-15 data showed that Delhi had 13 one-teacher schools which has come down to eight in 2015-16. Mired with “topper scam” controversies, Bihar made a little progress from 3,708 single-teacher schools in 2014-15 to 3,316 such schools in 2015-16.

According to RTE guidelines, there has to be one teacher for every 30 to 35 students in government and private schools. Though successive central governments have emphasised the need for improving primary and secondary education in the country, effective implementation has always been an issue.

Uttarakhand’s one-teacher schools came down from 1,771 in 2014-15 to 1,449 in 2015-16, Himachal Pradesh went up from 1,119 one-teacher schools 2014-15 to 1,471 in 2015-16 and Jammu and Kashmir, too, witnessed an increase in such schools from 1,430 in 2014-15 to 1,722 in 2015-16. Other states that witnessed an increase in the number of such schools are Punjab (from 1,360 one teacher schools in 2015-14, it now has 1,618 such schools 2015-16) and Haryana (from 888 schools in 2014-15, it now has 1,064 one-teacher schools). Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state showed little progress from 778 one-teacher schools in 2014-15 to 717 in 2015-16.