Primary education is the most important phase of compulsory education for developing the cognitive, emotional and social skills of children for their future school career. A solid foundation in primary education has a far greater impact on a child’s academic progress than other factors such as family background or gender. Growth of individuals as well as the country as a whole is critically dependent on primary education.
India has one of the largest primary education systems in the world with around 1.5 million schools and over 100 million students enrolled. Over the years, the Government has worked on various initiatives such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid-day Meal scheme, Right to Education Act etc., to strengthen the country’s elementary education system These in turn have resulted in six times growth in the number of schools offering primary education, thirteen times increase in number of teachers and sustained rise in the Gross Enrolment Ratio from 1950 to 2016.
However, learning outcomes did not see a commensurate increase in alignment with higher enrolment rates and actually declined over the past decade. For example, the proportion of children in fifth grade who could perform basic division fell sharply from 42.5% in 2007 to 26% in 2016. Various factors such as outdated curriculum, inadequate infrastructure facilities, low teacher quality and effectiveness, skewed pupil-teacher ratio, etc. are responsible for this decline.
In-class Teacher Effectiveness for Improving Learning Outcomes
Multiple research studies have found that in-class teacher effectiveness is one of the most critical factors affecting student achievement and improved teacher quality has a positive impact. The CII-KPMG paper on “Improving Learning Outcomes by raising in-class Teacher Effectiveness” brought out in December 2017 examines the specific factors affecting in-class teaching in India and provides recommendations to ameliorate the current situation.
In-class teacher effectiveness is a complex combination of various factors such as time allocated for classroom instruction, effective use of teaching resources, teacher training etc.:
(1) Time for Classroom Instruction: Time for classroom instruction includes actual time spent by the teacher preparing for the class and for teaching within the classroom excluding time spent on non-academic duties such as administrative work. A strong positive correlation exists between extent of learning and the actual instructional time that a student receives in class. In India, teachers have to report for multiple non-academic duties such as election invigilation, various surveys, clerical work etc. which increases absenteeism and reduces their time for in-class instruction and preparation.
(2) Teaching Resources: Existing literature documents the positive impact of the use of different teaching resources (both tangible such as charts, maps, posters etc. & intangible such as other sources to discover teaching material) on educational productivity of students. Particularly, new and innovative methods of teaching, for example, playing DVD recordings of live classes taught by expert teachers among others have been found to be effective in improving clarity and retention of students, increasing student engagement as also relieving fear, anxiety and boredom.
In India, barely 10% of classrooms use teaching resources other than textbooks. Numerous challenges in the education system such as poor ability to use teaching resources effectively (for e.g., teacher’s usage of computers is restricted to audio/visual displays and is much less for complex purposes such as lesson planning, student assessment, etc.), indifferent attitudes, insufficient fund allocation for teaching resources etc. result in lower adoption of teaching materials across schools.
(3) Teacher Training: Despite positive changes in capacity building of teachers over the past two decades, absence of effective teacher training is also responsible for poor learning outcomes. For example, decentralization of training led to fragmented structure and lower quality of training.
Variation in performance of bodies appointed to support teacher training, lack of well curated and cohesive training, inadequate fund allocation for teacher training are some of the other challenges.
(4) Systems: Systems are required for selecting, incentivising and monitoring teachers.
Selecting teachers: Multiple issues such as inability to meet standard qualifications leading to increased contractual hiring, insufficient and irrelevant pre-service training etc. impair the selection process.
Incentivising teachers: Monetary incentives such as bonuses, salary increments, additional allowances etc. affect an individual’s decision of entering the teaching profession and choosing to continue it. Non-monetary benefits such as job security, number of holidays, recognition and rewards etc. also have long term benefits on a teacher’s willingness to perform.
Monitoring & assessing teachers: Challenges such as shortfall of resources in middle-management, lack of a robust monitoring system etc. need to be addressed for effective monitoring and correct assessment of teachers.
Integrate teacher training with performance management structure: In addition to factors such as competent salary, bonus, etc., for attracting and retaining talent, teachers need to be incentivised with non-monetary options such as career advancement and professional development.
Access to enough opportunities and programmes on subject matter mastery, pedagogy, adoption of tools and technology is of paramount importance. Timely training is also required.
Designing an effective monitoring mechanism: Developing a system where performance can be assessed by developing measurable parameters and one that is free of stakeholder bias is essential. This can be achieved in two ways – (i) Building an external network of monitoring troopers/resources who have a balanced opinion and (ii) designing competency benchmarks for evaluating teacher performance and monitoring progress periodically against those benchmarks.
Encouraging use of technology by teachers: Providing the necessary formal training to teachers for effective use of tech-tools is important as no such training is provided at the beginning of their tenure. This would assist teachers to determine the teaching level in the class room and provide customized support to students outside classroom, whenever necessary.
Undertaking such initiatives could address some of the current challenges faced by the Indian education system and help in building a strong demographic for income growth.
Source: CII-KPMG paper on “Improving Learning Outcomes by raising in-class Teacher Effectiveness”.