Are teachers relevant? The question is horrible in nature. But here in India, are they seen as relevant? In the last 60 years though literacy has gone up, it would be difficult to claim if people are any better educated? Haven't we all, at some time, felt that good teaching can improve a lot many things?
Check this paper on Value of Teachers. (Got the link from Greg Mankiw's blog. One more fine blog to read).
This one is one of the finest and most relevant economic papers I have read. Though my economics knowledge is limited, I find this paper relevant, more relevant to our nation India than to the U.S. where the author has researched and published this one.
Quality in teaching in India varies as much as winters in Siberia and summer in Central India. You see a very high standard in institutions like IITs, IIMs, mediocrity in a very large band in between and absolute chaos in a small but substantial percentage of schools. Unfortunately the mediocrity and chaos keep the majority back for their lives in our country. Rural landscape in India has problem of mass absenteeism and this has to do with issues of pay and lack of incentive in opting teaching as a full-time occupation. The paper addresses these and many others issues, only that it is with U.S. in purview.
But we Indians would do well to push some of our economists and policy-makers to find the root-cause of malaise in education sector. We have to fix this soon or be left behind.