Archive for November, 2018

A dollar for the teacher

Recently, the Delhi Government decided to penalize a secondary (government) school Mathematics teacher by announcing a pay cut for a year with ‘non-cumulative’ effect.

The official position was that the teacher “exhibited lack of sincerity, integrity and devotion to her duty, which is unbecoming of a government servant and tantamount to gross misconduct as per the provisions of Rule 3 of CCS (Conduct) rules, 1964”.

The gross misconduct was not equipping students of her classes to achieve reasonably good scores in their exams and not showing “concern and initiative for her students”.

The next day, the Directorate of Education announced that this was a ‘stray’ case and there was no intention of turning this into policy. The Government Schools Teacher Association (GSTA) protested vehemently.

This brings down the morale of teachers. We can only teach students. It is clear that the teacher did not try to manipulate results and brought about much improvement during the boards. We will go to court regarding this,” said Ajay Veer Yadav, general secretary of GSTA. Both noted that this was the first time that a teacher’s pay was impacted due to her students’ results.

All this against the backdrop of the Delhi Government not really being able to make a dent in Delhi’s education system.

And yet challenges remain as the results of the mid-term exams held in September showed. A dismal 70 per cent of students in Class X and 50 per cent in Class XII failed to clear the exams. There were 19 schools that recorded zero pass percent in different streams.

The decision to cut pay is startling. It may be a precedent for something bigger or perhaps just a desperate/rash move which will not see the light of day for larger political reasons in election year. But it is an uncomfortable thought. What are we equating the profession to? How desirable is a move like this? Where is the organized face of teachers when it comes to a dialogue on this issue? Why is this not a bigger issue than it demands to be?

All those questions aside, there is a fundamental issue or challenge that appears not to be addressed adequately. Do we believe that teachers can influence, with a fair degree of certainty, what the achievement of learning outcomes or rather the scores obtained by the students will be – can we reduce this to an input-output, production-like process?

The GSTA president has a point.

In accordance with Chunauti scheme, children are separated according to their ability. Her class IX was a Nishtha section, meaning students who cannot read. It was very likely that they would fail, and in subsequent examinations, her students’ pass percentage increased.

So at least one more factor impacts teacher ‘effectiveness’ (defined narrowly in terms of scores for now) – the composition of the groups she teaches and their true grade level vs. their assigned grade level. One could think of many other such determinants (like infrastructure, available time vs. syllabus extent and so on, but is it fair to isolate one ‘factor’ and call it out so cheaply? What did the Directorate or the school do to support the teacher in this case? Did the teacher have a mandate or the agency to provide an early risk assessment or to sound an early warning to the school or the Directorate that there were children at risk of not achieving their learning goals?

What if we started to extend this to all government servants? Or to all people in any private profession? What if pay cuts for “ineffectiveness” was to become widespread – what would happen then?

On the other extreme, what if we were to ask every teacher to go file a Public Interest Litigation against the Directorate whenever and wherever service conditions are not adequate for her to effectively perform her job?

Specifically, are the Directorates of Education, the policy makers and administrators accountable for the dismal performance of education in India? Should their salaries be cut as well? Is this the only solution we have?

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