Education has always been a powerful agency in any society. It is considered as an indispensable instrument for bringing positive change in the social, political, economic and cultural life of people. The whole process is shaped by many important agents, and teacher is the most significant amongst all of them. Every good school is as good as its teachers; few would contest that teachers are a very important determinant of how much students learn in school. In fact, research shows that, among school-related factors, teachers play the most critical role in student achievement. According to Economist Eric Hanushek a child taught by a good teacher gains 1.5 grade-level equivalents, while a child taught by a not-so-good teacher only gets half an academic year’s worth. And hence how to improve teacher performance has been the focus of lively policy debate.
According to many experts one of the reasons for this is the quality of teaching. The biggest reason for the poor teaching is that they are being paid only to teach and cover the syllabus. They are not really being appreciated and incentivized for providing education to develop critical thinking. The other aspects that contribute was teacher absenteeism, misbehaviour and attrition. In fact, teacher absenteeism is a big concern in India, especially in government primary schools. It is one of the crucial obstacles to overcome, to improve education. Researchers found teacher absenteeism to be at a disconcerting rate of 25 percent in government primary schools and reported that at the time of unannounced visits, only 50 percent of the teachers present were teaching.
Further, teacher motivation is also seen as an obstacle in improving learning outcomes. As mentioned earlier, some studies suggest that teacher absenteeism, misbehaviour and attrition reflect low teacher motivation, whereas other studies are based on data from interviews and focus group discussions, in which teachers are asked directly about their motivation. Nonetheless, there are some general trends in the levels of teacher motivation across the developing world. Better incentives for teachers, investments through stronger training programmes and fundamentally addressing the issues at stake in the teaching-learning process are some of them.
According to, Duflo et al.(2012), monitoring combined with financial incentives can witness a reduction in teacher absenteeism by 21 percentage points in rural India and increased student test scores by 0.17 standard deviations. Muralidharan and Sundararaman (2011) had used a structural modelling approach to analyse teacher response to incentive pay, found that performance-based pay for government teachers in India led to an increase in student math and language scores by 0.27 and 0.17 standard deviations respectively.
Apart from incentivizing, it will be important to think of a culture of meritocracy and incentivize professional development of faculty. Teachers will need to be trained on use of technology, the evolving methods of teaching, the new pedagogy and the evolving realities of business, so that they can prepare students for the future of work!
Learning is a changing process since knowledge is not something static. For this reason, teaching should be boosted and should move beyond traditional and theory-based foundations; it should also be research-based and should have data-driven-evidence to provide more knowledge. Given the central importance that education has in any society, teachers are expected not only to be competent but also to be professional in their related fields and subject matters.
Good quality teacher training and professional development programs alongside motivating environments will have positive impacts on the teaching and learning improvement.
Let’s create a motivating environment for our teachers – for a good and motivated teacher can inspire hope, ignite imagination and also instill love for learning!
(The author is Amita Chitroda of Schoolguru Eduserve)