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Vol. XXIX No. 14, November 1-15, 2019

Teaching quality in Government schools needs major repair

by A Special Correspondent

Disturbing reports of recent events point to poor quality of teachers in government schools affecting the ability of the education system to produce employable pass-outs. Of the 132 lakh students in schools in Tamil Nadu about 60 per cent go to government and aided schools. Inferior education quality has been producing poor quality teachers, perpetuating a vicious circle.

Over 8,000 teachers had to go without salary as there was delay in getting clearance from the Education Department for extension of these appointments made under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Sikhsha Abhiyan (RMSA). These were additional posts created for strengthening government higher secondary schools and extended periodically. Uncertainty of tenure and delayed salary payments must have affected teaching staff’s commitment to their duties and left children ill-prepared for examinations. This is a case of a well-intentioned scheme failing to deliver due to bureaucratic hitches.

In another instance, the Tamil Nadu Government faced the need to terminate the appointments of 1,500 teachers of government-aided schools as they had not cleared the mandatory qualifying Teacher Eligibility Test (TET). Teachers are already holding the posts and could not pass the test even after four attempts! Yet, strangely, the State Education Department asked the Union Ministry of HRD for a two-year extension of appointment to give them yet another chance to clear the test. Continuance of these appointments is waste of money but would reflect in statistics as sufficiency of teaching staff. In turn, infrastructure would reflect high ranking for sufficiency of teachers in Tamil Nadu while, in reality, a large number of them are useless to serve the purpose. Caution is necessary in interpreting statistical compliances and excellences.

In the foregoing case, poor quality candidates should not have been selected in the first place. It is possibly indicative of corruption in recruitment. Serious malpractice has been detected in one instance in which 12,000 teachers were wrongfully assigned exact pass mark of 50 per cent by evaluators of the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Government Examinations (TNDGE). This body has issued notices to 300 evaluators for alleged boosting of scores in the two-year diploma examinations. It has been found that the illicit beneficiaries would have otherwise scored only 7-10 marks against the 50 given. Had this not been uncovered, 12,000 teacher-candidates would have “passed” the test, acquired the diploma and would have been entrusted with responsibility to educate children. Many earlier batches, that had gone unchecked, could and might have “passed” the test without meriting it, “infiltrating” the teaching ranks.

There is another case of 500 teachers “messing up” evaluation of State Board class XII results due to errors in totalling of marks! Examples are of a student scoring 72 out of 100 getting 27 and another getting 57 instead of 81 – all because of errors in totalling. About 25,000 teachers evaluated 60 lakh answer papers and 4,500 of the students applied for revaluation and of these 30 per cent were found to contain totalling errors.

Creating awareness of the need for education for children is the first battle in the war against poverty. It is gratifying that there are signs of winning this battle. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating that a large proportion of the lower income strata, today, are keen on their children getting good education. The second battle is to give monetary and physical access to education. While Right to Education (RTE) addresses this issue, the quality of free education available in government schools has reduced this Right to mere physical access to school buildings but not necessarily to sound education. The aspiring poor, with dreams for their children, are prepared to forego the free government school education and go to private schools, begging and borrowing for good schooling. The surge in demand has attracted unscrupulous entrants in the private sector offering education without having prescribed facilities and staffing. About 760 such schools face closure either for failing to qualify or not bothering to apply for recognition. Not being able to shut down unqualified schools leaving students stranded, Government gives the erring institutions further extensions. It is in this check-mated situation that 2,000 private schools, which did not meet the criteria for recognition, have approached the Court for temporary recognition to avert dislocation and the case is sub-judice.

Right to Education (RTE) is an important right and carries with it an obligation to ensure education that equips the recipient to join the mainstream economy. Facilitating this right is a formidable challenge in governance. Funding and installing infrastructure are relatively easier. Providing qualified, trained and committed teachers is the hard part of the task. If qualified, committed teachers are there, they cope with available facilities and deliver results. We found in one school in Karnataka, the teacher was handling two different classes, the two groups seated in two halves of the same room. She teaches one group, gives an exercise and while they do the exercise, she teaches the other group. That is adaptation, borne out of devotion to duty and passion to teach.
There is a near crisis in the employment market, as organisations do not find suitable candidates for available vacancies in technical and general categories from entry level to supervisory and managerial levels. There is no dearth of applicants as hundreds apply for the advertised post. Unemployment and unfilled vacancies coexist. Many graduates are not of employable grade. Candidates who make the cut for higher post-graduation programmes are mostly from well-to-do families with an educated background at home. The not so fortunate classes have to put up with schooling under teachers of doubtful qualification, training and commitment. Poor schooling foundation and lack of working knowledge of Hindi and English, have isolated children from the rest of the country and the outside world with all the opportunities they offer.

Induction of qualified, trained, committed teachers seems to be the most challenging factor. It is no use pouring more money to build more school buildings without major reform of the teaching component which is near collapse.

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