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Teacher training requirement for Examination Board Affiliation: Boon or Bane?

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May 14, 2015

Teacher training requirement for Examination Board Affiliation: Boon or Bane?

Following on the success of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) the Government of India now wants to rapidly expand – indeed universalise – secondary education under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). Given the sheer numbers, the universalisation task is massive and needs both government and private schooling provision. It needs a facilitative environment to encourage the growth of private secondary education and of public private partnerships.

Instead of a facilitative environment, private secondary schools face a number of significant obstacles in terms of fulfilling some onerous or unfeasible norms. These norms and conditions for getting state government recognition and NOC and for getting affiliation with an examination board are well-meaning, and are intended to bring quality in education. Unfortunately, there are serious problems for schools in complying with some of the norms. In this article I explore the mandatory requirement for examination board affiliation that all teachers in a school be trained.

Teacher training criterion for
recruitment versus other criteria
for recruitment

In certain states there is a great shortage of trained teachers. However, some examination boards insist they will give affiliation only to schools in which all teachers have already completed B.Ed. degrees. It is not enough to show that its untrained teachers are currently enrolled in B.Ed. Which they will complete within 2 years. The constrained supply of trained teachers thus adds to the schools’ (and parents’) woes by denying them examination board affiliation.

Surely a critical criterion for recruitment as a teacher should be that the applicant is competent to teach her/his subject, in terms of subject-matter knowledge and ability to teach that subject. Secondly, in English-Medium schools, it is an irreducible requirement that the teacher be able to speak and write in English. Neither of these two things is made mandatory by government policy, but possession of a B.Ed. certificate (or equivalent) is mandatory, even though possessing a B.Ed. certificate is no guarantor of teaching competence or of competence in spoken and written English.

When a state has a real dearth of persons with the requisite subject-matter knowledge and English language proficiency, making B.Ed. a compulsory requirement creates a monumental problem for English medium schools that want to bring quality. They are forced to choose applicants who have a B.Ed. but who may not be subject-matter competent or proficient in English.

This is compounded by the problem that there is no provision for English medium B.Ed. colleges, to prepare teachers for teaching in English medium schools. For example, in Uttar Pradesh, after candidates have been selected for B.Ed. admissions, they are allocated to the available B.Ed. Colleges randomly; there is no provision that if a B.Ed. College wishes to prepare teachers for English-medium schools, it can get candidates whose own earlier education has been via English medium. Thus Englishmedium schools have a very difficult time finding competent and trained persons who can teach subjects effectively in English.

When examination boards insist on the strict application of the mandatory teacher training rule (when they receive an affiliation application from a school), it leads to three problems:

  • It virtually rules out the expansion of secondary schools in states with severe shortage of B.Ed. trained persons (e.g. Bihar). This is constraining the supply of secondary schools at a time when the government avowedly wishes to universalise secondary schooling in India.
  • In states where there is no shortage of B.Ed. trained personnel (e.g. where a lot of private B.Ed. colleges have proliferated) such as in UP and Rajasthan, the insistence of examination boards to appoint only trained teachers, forces schools to give preference to applicants who are otherwise less competent (e.g. in a written test taken by the school) but who have a B.Ed. qualification. This is reducing the quality of secondary education, in the name of raising quality.
  • The examination boards’ insistence on recruiting only trained teachers forces schools to make unsuitable appointments. For example, in states or cities where there is a shortage of trained English medium teachers, the examination board’s insistence to appoint only trained persons leads English medium schools to give preference to those applicants who have B.Ed. training but are not English-medium educated.

In other words, the examination boards’ insistence on trained teachers forces schools to give over-riding importance to the training criterion above other recruitment criteria which are not made mandatory by the government but which many schools may consider to be more important for school quality, such as the candidate ‘being competent’ and (for an English medium school) ‘being proficient in English’.

The tragedy is that in the name of quality (which is seen to come from using trained teachers), the expansion of secondary schooling access is de facto being constrained; and even quality is not being improved since – in order to fulfil the trained teacher requirement especially in places with a general scarcity of competent persons – schools are compelled to give preference to incompetent or unsuitable persons who have the B.Ed. qualification.

Are trained teachers
more effective?

  • The teacher training requirement is made mandatory under the belief that trained teachers are more effective; that requiring schools to hire only trained teachers will raise the quality of schooling in India. However, there are two powerful reasons to question this rationale for making training mandatory: Firstly, in India generally teacher training is of very poor quality (next bullet point) and secondly, research internationally and in India shows that students taught by trained teachers do not necessarily have higher learning achievement levels, i.e. there is no clear evidence that trained teachers are more effective than untrained teachers.
  • We get a glimpse of the quality of teacher training from the recent dismal performance of B.Ed. qualified teachers on the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) where the pass rate was typically less than 3.7% 1 . This highlighted the pitiable quality of teacher training in India. This matter became the subject of a parliamentary question in which the Education Minister replied that the disappointing performance of trained teachers in this test was due to the large number of low quality teacher training colleges that have sprung up in India in the recent years2.
  • Research internationally and in India shows that while teachers who are more competent (whose subject-matter knowledge is higher) are more effective, teachers who have teacher training qualifications are not necessarily more effective in imparting learning than those who lack training qualifications.
  • These facts taken together suggest a rethink on the (well-intentioned) teacher training conditionality for granting affiliation to secondary schools. There is no robust logic or evidence underpinning this condition, since research shows that trained teachers are not more effective than untrained ones.
  • Government and examination boards’ insistence that schools appoint only trained teachers is obliging schools to behave perversely: given the great scarcity of competent trained individuals, strictly applying the teacher training norm is forcing schools to sacrifice more competent or more suitable candidates and to prefer recruiting lower quality/ less suitable personnel who otherwise have B.Ed. degrees. And this in the face of evidence that teacher training in India is of very poor quality and secondly in the face of evidence from around the world and from India that trained teachers are no more effective than untrained teachers. It is tragic that in the name of quality, unwittingly schools are being compelled to reduce the quality of education.
  • The introduction of the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) by the government is a praiseworthy response to this very concern about the quality/competence of trained teachers. However, when less than 5% of trained teachers pass this test, it denotes the serious shortage of competent teachers and highlights that training does not guarantee teacher competence. Thus the mandatory requirement to recruit/appoint trained persons will only slow down the expansion of secondary education in India without any compensating gains in terms of improved quality of secondary education. This being so, the strict application of the mandatory training requirement needs to be dropped or considerably loosened. At the same time, the existing efforts by the government and its agencies need to be stepped up to improve the quantity, quality and monitoring of teacher training institutions and to improve the teacher training curricula, to make training effective.

1 The pass rates of teachers in the Teacher Eligibility Test have been very disappointing. In Bihar in May 2012, only 2.8% candidates passed the TET. In Tamil Nadu in August 2012 less than 1 per cent (0.37 %) passed the TET; In Andhra Pradesh in July 2012, only 0.61% passed Paper I and 0.19% passed Paper II of the TET, and so the state government decided to re-test the teachers in October and to increase the Multiple-choice test time from 1.5 hours to 3 hours. The pass rate this time round was 3.0%, (3.7% in Paper I and 2.3% in Paper II).

In the Central government’s TET, the pass rate among B.Ed. qualified teachers was less than 6.5%. Some states’ response has been to try to increase the pass rate by reducing the percentage mark required to pass (for instance, Assam has reduced the pass percentage from 60% to 55% mark).

2 The then HRD (Human Resource Development) Minister, Kapil Sibal, speaking in the Rajya Sabha on 26th April 2012 blamed such poor results on the low quality of private teacher training institutions which greatly outnumber the government ones; he reported that there are 1178 government teacher training institutions and 12,689 private ones, highlighting that the quality of these institutions needed to be improved. The National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) gives affiliations to B.Ed. colleges in all parts of India.

Geeta Gandhi KingdonGeeta Gandhi Kingdon is Professor of Education and International Development at the Institute of Education, London University, and was until recently a Research Fellow at the Department of Economics, University of Oxford. She lectures in Development Economics and her research interests include Economics of Education, Labour Economics and the Economics of Happiness, mostly in countries of South Asia and Africa. Her work is based on microeconometric analysis of survey data and has resulted in more than 25 papers in peer reviewed Economics and Development Economics journals. She is on the Editorial Board of three academic journals and does extensive academic refereeing as well as advisory work for governments and donor agencies.

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