Time to fix teacher accountability


By Harshmeet Singh

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?