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School head can make a big difference: study

Aug 11, 2013

A motivated head-of- the-school can make a big difference to improve the quality of education, says a new study.

New Delhi. Two new studies on School Management and Teacher Cadre Management, released by Save the Children, have revealed interesting insights into how schools can be made better and how the quality of teachers needs to be treated as a serious issue.

The study on School Management for Quality Inclusive Education reveals that although there is some improvement towards making schools more inclusive, there is was no substantive evidence of linkages between different levels/layers of decentralisation and how it facilitates quality inclusive education.

However, the study has highlighted that even where the overall education mechanism does not provide for true decentralisation, a motivated and highly committed head of the school can and does make a big difference. A combination of a good head teacher and a team of good teachers is the ultimate formula of a well-managed, sensitive and engaged school.

The study has highlighted that while school level committees have been created in almost all the states they are involved mainly in supervision of civil works, mid-day meals, monitoring enrolment and attendance of children, mobilising resources for school supplies According to the study, committees in a few states also monitor the attendance and regularity of teachers but they are not involved in academic monitoring or providing academic support to schools.

According to Prof. Govinda, “The study revealed that the cluster, block and district levels structures provide uneven support and have not worked to improve decentralised school governance to improve quality inclusive education and they perceived their role as ‘supervisors’.”

Latha Caleb, Save the Children’s Director of Programmes, commented that, “There is a need to build mechanisms to synergise collective sense of ownership of a school besides increased decentralised community mobilisation efforts to improve enrolment. We must prioritise quality inclusive education as a desired outcome of decentralised school governance.”

The study has highlighted that the pro-active involvement of community and a highly motivated head master could bring a change in the education system. This is a two-way process. The literature also points to the need for synergy between all three – head master (the school as an institution), the VEC or SDMC (parents and community) and the Panchayat (local self governance institutions). Where the three came together then school governance improved.

The research reviewed state policies of eight states. There are huge variations in terms of implementation. On one hand there is Nagaland where a community school structure has resulted in effective supervision and mobilisation of community funds, monitoring teacher attendance, financial and administrative monitoring (except academic supervision). And there is Kerala with the Panchayat having a major say in the school functioning. This is in contrast to Bihar where the VSS’s are yet to be elected and their role in school management still to be identified and acknowledged or Tamil Nadu where decentralisation as a conscious strategy is yet to be addressed.

The study on the quality of Teachers, their recruitment, training, management and performance underscores the need for all the state governments to formulate a teacher cadre management plan to meet the teacher supply and demand, particularly in light of the Right to Education (Free &Compulsory) Act.

According to the report, in terms of processes of management, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and north eastern states have instituted mechanisms to rationalise teacher cadres. Delhi has a system of Teacher Availability Index to deal with issues of teacher transfers. Andhra has ‘good’ practice of rationalisation teachers which is aimed at ensuring that subject-specific teachers are available for Upper Primary Schools. Chhattisgarh also follows a system of listing vacancies subject-wise. Gujarat follows a system of block-wise redeployment of teachers in schools where the Parent-to-Teacher Ratio is more than 1:40.

Latha added that, “Each state should evolve effective strategies to make teaching an attractive profession and to ensure the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers in areas of crucial importance like Upper Primary Schools.”She also said that the whole scenario of teacher education system in India is trailing with enormous weaknesses. “Thus a forward looking policy for teacher cadre management and recruitment taking a realistic account of current scenarios in each district is an essential task. Better attention must be paid to the retention, deployment and condition of services of teaching personnel.”

The study recommends that special incentives need to be provided to teachers attached to ‘hard to staff schools’, based on location and local situation e.g. conflict areas. Furthermore, ‘learning communities’ must be established within schools, so that teachers are motivated to continue to grow and learn along with their students. Benchmarking standards for continuous professional development through in-service training is another area that needs attention, according to the study.

The two studies were published under the European Union funded project: “Exchange of International Best Practices Leading to Innovation in SSA”.

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