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First ever workshop in India to set performance standards for teachers
" What comes first – student retention and learning achievement OR good quality education and teacher accountability? Many experts feel that this “chicken and egg syndrome” needs to be tackled from both "

By Vikas Verma

Hyderabad July 14, 2006 : What comes first – student retention and learning achievement OR good quality education and teacher accountability? Many experts feel that this “chicken and egg syndrome” needs to be tackled from both the ends. While the “egg” as in student retention and learning achievement has many people rooting for it, the “chicken” as in quality education and teacher accountability is yet to be fully addressed in India.

India is committed to providing free and compulsory education for all children up to fourteen years of age. Out of approximately 200 million children in the age group 6-14 years, only 120 million are in schools and net attendance in the primary level is only 66 per cent of enrolment (Source:- Elementary education in India , Priorities for 11th Plan by R. Govinda National Institute of Educational Planning Administration, New Delhi )

Although there has been much talk in recent years over the enormous increase in enrolment of children in primary schools, in some of the states teacher-pupil ratio is far above the norm of 1:40 (e.g. Bihar had the ratio of 1:80) pushing even the national average to 1:42. This is due to inability of state governments in recruiting teachers fast enough even against the existing positions. Almost all states have backlog of vacant teacher posts.

The result is that not just that the teachers have to contend with crowded classes, they also have very minimal infrastructure and academic facilities. Around three out of four primary schools in the country involve multi-grade teaching requiring the teachers to be innovative in simultaneously teaching students of several grades. A substantial proportion of schools do not have even a proper building, leave alone other facilities like sanitation and water. This complex situation in which the teachers have to work gets further compounded when one considers the figures for single teacher schools. All this obviously has a clear reflection on their performance. Combined with absenteeism and no accountability the situation assumes seriousness.
Consequently learning achievements amongst children are low and independent surveys and studies suggest that even after five years in primary school, many children are unable to sign their names.

With 150,000 more teachers to be appointed in the current year (as per Union Budget 2006-07) the issue before the policy makers is clear - how to improve teachers’ performance? And how to enable teacher resource and training institutes like CRCs-BRCs-DIETs to be accountable and bring about improved teacher performance? In response to this UNICEF is supporting an MHRD initiative called ADEPTS (Advancement of Educational Performance through Teacher Support). Conceptualized in consultation with MHRD, ADEPTS brings together NCERT, MHRD, national and state level experts and institutions.

For the first time in India this historic movement started its journey through a consultation held in Hyderabad between 11th & 13th. July 2006. Delegates from the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Lakshdweep, Goa, Pondicherry, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala participated along with experts from the department of Elementary Education, NCERT, New Delhi.

Inaugurating the consultation Mr. Michel Saint- Lot, UNICEF Representative for the States of AP and KN said, “If India has to achieve the MDGs of education then we need motivated, trained and inspired teachers who will give the child the time and the luxury of making mistakes. This in turn implies sufficient practice for children and not just rushing them to finish the curriculum. Training institutes have a major role in helping teachers do this.”

The process is scheduled to last for six months and by the  end of December 2006 the initiative will have consulted all the 35 state & union territories to arrive at looking at the crucial issue of standards for teacher performance.

This is being done by
1. Identifying  performance standards for teachers, and for all others who are supposed to enable and support teachers (At present these are missing or are plain rudimentary)
2. Reviewing present situation and assess the gap between desired standard and present performance of teachers and support/development system (in service training, and especially, CRCs, BRCs, DIETs)
3. In light of these, drawing  up focused and appropriate strategies / programmes to bridge the gaps

It is hoped that by the end of this year Indian policy makers would have addressed the issue by having consensus on strategic inputs. A good start is half the battle won.

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