Recently, there has been a lot of interest in student outcomes, partly because of independent surveys like ASER and PISA consistently echoing depressing reality that Indian children are lagging seriously behind in basic reading and math. I believe that in order to improve student outcomes, certain systems and processes need to be introduced diligently.
As the adage goes, if you cannot see the problem, you probably cannot solve it. Keeping that in mind, let's honestly examine the problem itself. India has close to 1.5 million schools, including nearly 0.5 million private schools. A significant number of students going to public schools belong to low income and marginalized communities. There is very less parental support in education available to these children and hence, the responsibility upon a government teacher is much higher than a one in a private school. While there is not much evidence to say that infrastructure has an impact on learning, it would suffice to say that every school needs basic amenities like toilets, classrooms, dining rooms, playground, play material and, needless to say, sufficient human resources at acceptable levels of competence.
Teachers can be held accountable for the outcomes and the school management can be held accountable for the support ecosystem that they create for staff.
Once we have the basic infrastructure in every school, management must ensure that every student progresses in basic reading and math. Teachers play a central role in that, hence their skills must be enhanced and fine tuned. That would require fixing our teacher training processes so as to ensure there is a sustainable and consistent pipeline of talented educators. Once they are onboard, they require proper direction under an able authority to boost student outcomes--something which will require constant mentoring and regular meetings/trainings in school.
An honest measurement of outcomes is another key to the issue. It must be done by a competent authority independently, as well as impartially, as such data can be the key to putting things in perspective. Teachers can be held accountable for the outcomes and the school management can be held accountable for the support ecosystem that they create for staff. Teaching and measurement of outcomes must be delinked and done by separate entities, which would trigger a massive change in the system.
Honest measurement of outcomes and then linking them to staff performance assessment can alter the future of our younger generation in a big way.
Just criticizing ill-performing teachers isn't a solution; we must go beyond that. A well-crafted incentive structure which rewards expected behaviour and discourages unacceptable conduct must be put in place. Introducing variable pay into the salary package of the staff is something to start with--linking the same with student outcomes would be a game-changer.
Honest measurement of outcomes and then linking them to staff performance assessment can alter the future of our younger generation in a big way. This requires a change in policy which addresses and emphasizes student outcomes. It might possibly attract some union pressure, but it is a necessary change for India's overall development.
Written By Phanindra Alla--a 2013-15 Teach For India Alumnus who is currently working with the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation.
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