Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017

Psychometric Test for School Teachers

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November 28, 2017

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Psychometric Test for School Teachers

Teaching has been considered the most noble profession on the planet. Teaching school children is the noblest of them all. Aristotle once said, ‘Those who teach children are more to be honoured than those who produce them.’

But of late, this profession is under immense scrutiny after the tragic incident of the murder of a seven year old in a reputed school of Gurugram. For weeks, one could find headlines labelling private schools as ‘Yumraj’ and ‘Hatyare’. Almost all the private schools are painted with the same brush and are being labelled as profit mongers with no quality checks for child security.

After this sad incident, it seems as if all authorities have woken-up from hibernation and there has been a mad rush of issuing circulars, notifications, guidelines and checklists for schools, teachers and support staff. To name a few there came ‘Guidelines for Safety of Children in Schools’ from Gurgaon Police, Notifications from Ministry of HRD, Checklists from Directorate of Education Haryana and many more. But CBSE tops the chart issuing a compendium of Circulars. CBSE ordered its affiliated schools to complete psychometric evaluation of all staff – teachers, non-teaching employees, sweepers, bus drivers and conductors in two months time via a circular dated 28 September 2017. The circular came more like a ‘Fatwa’ without even considering its intricacies for once. It is like the CBSE officials are trying to save their skin by putting in postulates which are a far cry for the executers.

Let us understand the nature of this test in detail. Psychometric tests are a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals’ mental capabilities and behavioural style. These tests are designed to measure candidates’ suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude (or cognitive abilities). These tests measure a standardised sample of behaviour and describe them on a numerical scale. The scale thus puts the qualifying parameters for the candidate. The definition sounds good and can give a feeling to implement it sine qua non. Now the question is – How to get it implemented in 19500 schools affiliated to CBSE? Schools affiliated to the CBSE have around ten lakh employees, spread over 26 countries, including around 1,100 Kendriya Vidyalayas, 600 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, 2,700 schools run or aided by state governments and 14,900 private schools.

It is a huge task and a time-taking process. Evaluation will ideally take a minimum of half an hour to one hour per person. The process may take months for a school to complete. Moreover, you cannot have a standard test for teachers, non-teaching employees, sweepers, bus drivers and conductors. Availability of trained psychiatrists is a big issue in cities let alone small towns. Even the good hospitals of metropolitan cities in India face this crunch. Schools located in remote areas, such as the Navodaya Vidyalayas, and villages may find it virtually impossible to get trained psychologists.

One of the proposals is to have an online computer based test, which will give an instant result. This too is becoming a laughing stock as expecting the support staff to appear for an online test is still a distant dream for our country. In all likelihood an online examination will be in English. The language too will become a hindrance for non-teaching staff and teachers of languages other than English. Having a pan-India level test will need immense amount of effort for translation of the questions in vernacular languages. Achieving this in two months – is it possible? Another challenge is that Psychometric Evaluation also involves the use of cards and expressions followed by a few questions to understand a person’s cognitive ability and personality trait. If the expert feels that the person is faking the answer, the person may be subjected to a detailed evaluation, which will further delay the process.

Renowned psychologist Mary Lawson of McGill University, who is also an expert in the field, criticised the psychometric test by highlighting two major flaws – Firstly, the validity and reliability of personality tests are not universally accepted – even among psychologists. From the tests’ origins in the US military, then their widespread use in the corporate sector (loved by human resource departments), research has repeatedly indicated that they neither always test what they claim to test, nor consistently produce the same results even when a person is re-tested, perhaps just a month later. Secondly, using the tests is a vote of no confidence by the Board of Studies. This is particularly worrying given that one of the things these faculties teach is ‘educational assessment and evaluation’. It would seem that the wrong solution is being applied to the wrong problem here.

Let’s have a look at the biggest drawback of the system. To become a teacher in our country is not an easy task. A candidate has to complete his/her education up to Bachelors or Masters level which involves appearing for entrance examinations at various university levels or qualifying the cut-offs. Thereafter, possessing a Diploma or Degree in Education is a prerequisite. These courses have portions of psychology as a mandatory part of the curriculum. On completion of the same, a candidate has to qualify Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) conducted by CBSE or state governments. TET examination tests a candidate on psychological questions similar to the lines of a psychometric test. These tests have a reasonably high passing mark criterion. In order to seek a job in a government school or the likes of a Kendriya Vidyalaya, the same candidate has to take another entrance examination conducted by the government or the institution. These exams also have a significant portion of psychometric analysis questions. Private schools have their own employment rules. After passing the above said test, a person has to undergo a panel interview, a demo teaching session and a probation period ranging from six months to two years. After undergoing scrutiny at so many levels, the psychometric test is making a mockery of the education industry. Peter Russel of University of Cambridge said, ‘Personality tests are at best scientifically controversial and definitely fakeable.’

Chapter X of the CBSE Bye-laws in its article 55 states that, ‘in case there is a shortage of teachers in a particular subject or qualified teachers are not available in a remote area, the Board may consider requests for exemption from minimum qualifications under special circumstances for some years.’ This statement is in itself contradictory to give any test to a teacher. This clearly shows the haste in which CBSE issues such guidelines before studying its own constitution. Another challenge to the said exam is – Who will bear the examination cost? Is it the teachers, the School Management, the Board or the Government? The obvious answer is – the onus will lie on the teachers as they are the ones who are the most vulnerable of the lot. Initial reports suggest that the cost of the test will be around five thousand rupees. In areas where a teacher’s salary starts from the same number and a fourth class employee earns a salary of around a thousand or a little more, this cost will definitely burn a hole in their pockets.

Schools have teachers with experience of more than two decades who have put their entire life in the nation building exercise. Putting them to psychometric test is like asking a doctor with 20 years of practicing expertise, to undergo a test in order to qualify for the profession. And if by any chance he cannot get the ‘desirable’ score, label him unfit for the profession. What a mockery our policy makers have made of this noble profession. Believe me no teacher wants even an iota of harm to their students. After parents, it is only the teacher who becomes happy at a child’s success.

If there has to be a psychometric test for professions, it has to be for all. Let there be fair play. Let’s have it across professions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have similar tests for politicians?

I am an Engineer by my first degree. I worked with an MNC in Mumbai as a Quality Engineer. My keen interest in teaching brought me to the doorsteps of Education Industry. I am currently working as a Sr. Teacher (PGT) English in one of the reputed schools of Haryana.

I am a CBSE Resource Person for Challenging Areas in English Core (Class XII), Life Skills, CCE, Gender Sensitivity & Classroom Management. I possess a rich experience in training Students, Teachers, Head of Departments and Principals. I am also an active career counselor.

I have ample experience in applying appropriate teaching and assessment methodologies, and an expert at designing and developing educational objectives and preparing teaching material.

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The Progressive Teacher