A strong education system is the backbone of any country and teachers are the vanguard of national development . Considering the current poor status of education in the country, the Indian policymakers really need to focus on the crux of the problem, which is the poor quality of teachers in our schools. The Indian government, up till now, has been more intent on getting the children to schools than on improving the quality of education, which is not possible without better quality teachers. In this context,we had asked you in our last Saturday Poll what measures could help improve the teacher quality in India. 61% of you believe that introducing performance based pay can be effective in improving teacher quality. The second most preferred measure was provision of additional training to teachers who are unable to pass the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET). 10% of you also felt that government school principals should be given powers to reward or punish teachers according to their performance. A few of you have also suggested that subsidising private school education for low income groups will be a good solution to this problem.
However noble, teaching is a profession. Teachers enjoy all the benefits of employment; in fact more than those in other forms of employment. They go through the normal processes of recruitment, get pay and promotion, get retirement benefits, plus get summer and winter vacations, which no other professional or employee enjoys. So it is only reasonable that they should be held accountable by introducing performance based pay and empowering school leaders (principals) with powers that heads of departments in other establishments and agencies enjoy. Since private school teachers do not enjoy the kind of protection that government school teachers have against termination of employment for non-performance, linking their pay to their performance is the only way of making teachers in government schools accountable. Such a system will incentivise good performance by rewarding capable and committed teachers.
Another major intervention has to be the provision of the right kind of training to the existing teachers. The rules managing the establishment and running of teacher training institutes as well as the teacher training curriculum in India are casualty to meaningless regulation and bureaucratic ineptitude to lead nodal educational agencies. The National Council for Teacher Education controls the number of teacher training colleges, effectively obstructing competition among institutions to attract candidates through better quality training, and has not produced any commendable research in pedagogy. As a result, both teachers and teacher educators are found to be wanting in quality.
Reform measures such as these require better appreciation of the problems afflicting the school education sector and the political will to adopt solutions that may not be populist. Unfortunately, however, the focus of our policymakers has been more on input than on outcome, which has led to a continuing deterioration in the quality of education, especially in government run schools, in the last few years.
The poll referred to in the first paragraph is our Saturday Poll posted on our social media on 18th January, 2014.