Friday October 20, 2017

Time to fix teacher accountability


By Harshmeet Singh

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Almost everything that can go wrong with our public education system has gone wrong. Even the revolutionary Right to Education Act only focuses on secondary factors such as increasing the student enrollment ratio, school’s infrastructure and mid-day meals while keeping mum on factors such as the quality of teaching inside the classroom and teacher accountability.

Though the gross school enrollment ratio has touched the high 90% mark in the country, India is still home to 37% of the world’s illiterate population, according to the Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring report by UNESCO. While there can be many factors leading to such dismal numbers, absence of teacher accountability in India’s Public Education System owns the largest pie.

Absence of teachers from classrooms is a common feature of most public schools in the country and even when the students are fortunate enough to get a teacher, there is hardly any learning inside the classroom. This can be concluded from the 10th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2014) which shows that half of the students in class 5th aren’t able to read a text meant for 2nd grade. These numbers do not strengthen our claim of an emerging global superpower.

Low teacher accountability in the country is attributed to a number of reasons including indifferent teachers, powerful teacher unions and absence of moral accountability. In January last year, the AAP government in Delhi had to roll back its proposal to increase the working hours for teachers in the public schools of the National capital since the move came under severe criticism from the teachers’ community. With the public school teachers getting 2-3 times the pay as compared to their counterparts in private schools, inadequate monetary compensation can’t be a reason behind their lackadaisical attitude. On top of this, the teachers also enjoy a large number of holidays which neutralizes the claims like a stressful schedule doesn’t allow the teachers to be at their best inside the classroom.

There is absolutely no parameter to mark the teachers’ performance in our public schools. The ‘no fail till class 8th’ rule in schools has further dissolved whatever accountability the teachers might have had in case the students failed.

In comparison, the US education system has a robust teacher accountability system in place. The teachers are marked on the basis of their performance in each session. While 60% of teachers’ grades are in hands of the school administrator, the rest depend upon the academic performance of the students. The teachers are marked based on the grades they achieve. For example, 65% – 75% makes a teacher ‘developing’ while 75% – 90% makes a teacher ‘good’.

A teacher getting less than 65% grades in two consecutive sessions loses his/her teaching license and would be required to regain the license by passing a set of 3 rigorous written examinations if he/she desires to continue as a teacher in the country. This continues throughout their teaching careers.

In addition, every teacher needs to spend at least 35 hours a year undertaking professional development activities such as lesson planning or attending workshops which would be helpful inside the classroom. Such provisions are nonexistent in India.

The ‘work hard – take accolades, don’t perform – leave’ rule doesn’t apply to public school teachers in India. Someone has to take accountability for the dismal performance of our public education system. If not the people responsible for it, then who else?


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West Bengal Topper’s name Archisman Panigrahi Appears in Jadavpur University Merit List without Applying

Jadavpur University
West Bengal Class 12 topper Archisman Panigrahi tops the Jadavpur University merit list without applying to the varsity. Wikimedia

Kolkata, July 14, 2017: West Bengal Class 12 topper Archisman Panigrahi is in a unique predicament, his name tops the Jadavpur University merit list in four subjects without him ever applying to the varsity.

“I never applied to Jadavpur University but I came to know through a friend that my name figured in the top in the merit list for physics, chemistry, geology, and mathematics. The marks and birthdate were not mine,” the student said.

He said he has informed the varsity authorities.

“I have written to the dean highlighting that I had not applied and I can see my name on the top,” he said.

According to varsity vice chancellor Suranjan Das the matter will be taken up with the cyber crime department of the police. (IANS)

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Indian Students from Dehradun University win Global aerospace competition CanSat in Texas, US

Indian Students, Dehradun University
Indian Students from Dehradun University win Global aerospace competition CanSat in Texas, US (Representative Image). Pixabay

Dehradun, June 28, 2017: Students from University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) here have left behind 39 teams from across the world by winning the first position at the global aerospace competition CanSat held in Texas, US, this year.

The 23-member multi-domain team included students of Aerospace Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Computer Science Engineering, Material Science Engineering, Instrumentation and Control Engineering and design studies.

The winning team had worked under the guidance of their professors — Ugur Guven and Zozimus Labana.

“UPES students winning CanSat parallels the recent successes of the Indian space programme and prepares students for the role they will have to play when they eventually join the booming aerospace sector,” Guven said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Organised by American Astronautical Society (AAS) and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), CanSat is an annual design-build-fly competition with space related themes.

ALSO READ: Muslim Women in India Can Become Change Agents With Education

It tests students’ analytical, creative, decision making, problem solving and collaborative skills besides their domain knowledge and expertise.

It also calls for the utilisation of unique skills from different disciplines, which help to augment the multi-disciplinal skills of the contestants.

CanSat 2017 saw participation of institutions like Princeton University, University of Manchester, University of Alabama, VIT University and National Aviation Academy. (IANS)

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The no detention policy in schools needs to go away. Now.


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By Harshmeet Singh

Gone are those days when you could encourage the kids to study harder by telling them that they would fail if they don’t study hard. The ‘no detention upto class 8th’ policy was perhaps one of the most contentious provisions of the Right to Education Act. Though several voices have been raised against this provision, it is still alive and applicable. The purpose behind introducing this policy was to give a push to the holistic development of students and to keep a check on the dropout rates. But the declining levels of reading and writing across the country point towards an entirely different story.

By protecting our students against a probable failure, we are letting go of the chance to prepare them for the tougher times to come, both in and outside the school. The students are being made to believe that lack of inputs would still give them what they wish to achieve. In 2012, a committee of CABE (Central Advisory Board of Education) was formed to look into the feasibility of continuing the no detention policy.

The committee stated, “We need to stop, re-assess and then move forward. At this stage, it would be prudent to reiterate the need for assessment of the learning outcomes, and make it consequential by linking it to promotion or otherwise to the next class beyond grade 5”. It also supported the view that degrading learning levels is one of the negative consequences of this policy.

Promoting the child to the next class while his or her knowledge base isn’t good enough is disastrous. The RTE act has tried its best to retain kids in the school, without ensuring that their purpose of attending a school is fulfilled. Since the policy only extends up till class 8th, most of the students are ill prepared to handle the rigor of classes 9th and 10th.

Most of the government school teachers seem to be content with the no detention policy. The no detention policy means that even if they don’t teach anything to the students, they will still maintain a clean track record of 100% students passing the grade. A drop in the teaching standards can be attributed to this ill-conceived provision.

Interesting, the act even fails to mandate a minimum attendance for the students to the eligible for the next grade. So even if a student shows up for 30 days in the entire year, he or she will still be promoted to the next class. In such a scenario, how would you encourage the students to take their studies seriously?

In government primary schools, the implications of this policy are all the more weird. The students, who aren’t taught anything all year long, have no option but to leave the answer sheet blank in the final examinations. The teachers, in order to justify the final results, fill up the answer sheets of the students themselves! And this is how a student who can’t read a class 2nd text reaches class 8th and inflates the literacy rate of the country!

With no academic requirement needed from the student’s end to pass on to a new class, the Right to Education should more aptly be named as the Right to attend school.