5.2m - Elementary teachers in India in 2006-07.
Not only is India the largest democracy in the world, but its education system also dwarfs that of most others. Enrolment across the primary sector increased from 101 million pupils in the 2002-03 school year to nearly 132 million in 2006-07.
This means that parts of the country are now approaching the goal of universal primary education for all. Part of this increase in pupil numbers comes from an improvement in the gender parity index (GPI). The GPI increased from 0.91 (ie, 9 per cent fewer females than males) to 0.93 (ie, 7 per cent fewer females than males) for primary, and 0.83 to 0.87 for upper primary, between 2004-05 and 2006-07.
Girls now make up 48.09 per cent of primary enrolments, and 46.51 per cent of those in upper primary schools.
As in Britain, girls outperform boys in the percentage achieving high grades at the end of primary education. However, unlike here, primary teaching is still more of a male profession, with only about 42 per cent of teachers in primary schools being women. In addition, more of the women teach in urban than rural primary schools, perhaps reflecting the more emancipated nature of life in the big cities. This still means that there are nearly 2.5 million women primary teachers in India, or more than 10 times the number in England. There are also about 250,000 women working as non-professional teachers, of whom around 30,000 have BEd degrees.
Despite the improving trend, education provision is still not uniform across India, with Kerala, Delhi and Tamil Nadu ranked the highest for primary education. These states are seen as educationally advanced states in the Indian context
John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.