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To be a teacher

Implementation, Right to Education, Teacher education and training

Prashant Narang



Mandated by Right to Education Act, 2009, the National Council for Teacher Education requires school teachers to not only have certain minimum academic qualifications, but also to pass a test to be eligible for teaching. The criteria for Classes I-V is 50% marks in Senior Secondary, a Diploma in Elementary Education and passing the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) and for Classes VI-VII is a Degree in Elementary Education and TET.

The question is: why TET? If the successful completion of the Diploma does not guarantee teaching ability, it raises questions of credibility on the certificate granted. Shouldn’t promulgation of an additional entry barrier be instead preceded by review and reform of the existing entry barrier? Secondly, does TET certification guarantee good learning achievements of pupil taught by the TET qualified teachers? The purpose of certification exams such as IELTS or TOEFL that assess one’s proficiency in English is precisely that–potential recruiters can rely on the exam outcome. However, a number of research studies show that there is no correlation between learning achievements and the mandated teacher qualification criteria in primary schools. Learning achievements have a correlation with teacher motivation (read ‘incentives’), not to qualifications and knowledge.

There is no reason why instead of a two-tier entry barrier to the teaching profession, the Government should not allow and certify various reputed private parties such as Pratham, Azim Premji University etc. to offer voluntary certification of the prospective teachers. So for example, to prove one’s language proficiency, one opts for either TOEFL or IELTS. Similarly, there could be multiple alternatives to TET, say for different skills or level of difficulty or subject knowledge.

Opponents may argue: (a) private schools are likely to hire under-qualified teachers to save money; (b) poor parents of first generation learners lack the capacity to demand competent teachers; and (c) how will the government ensure then quality teaching in public and private schools?

Please note that there are 12 lakh vacant posts for teachers in the Government sector alone. Multiple tier entry barriers create supply shortage thereby escalating the salary costs. In addition, every compliance rule has administrative, enforcement and adjudication costs. Instead of raising the bar ex ante, better learning achievements can be ensured with monitoring, assessment and incentives. Schools should be assessed, accredited, rated and ranked – instead of RTE mandated infrastructure-norm based recognition, schools could be assessed by a third party on several parameters including learning outcome of pupils and parental satisfaction, like the way it is designed in Gujarat. This would create incentives for private as well as public schools to ensure quality teaching and provide more information to parents to decide better. Let’s not ignore the fact that private budget schools compete with public schools that charge little or no fees and provide free uniform, books and stationery. There are good reasons why poor parents appreciate quality of education provided by these private budget schools and prefer them over public schools.

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