Quality Teaching is Key to Raising Education Outcomes for Disadvantaged Children
by Renu Singh, Guest Post
With less than a 1,000 days to meet the MDG Goals, India still has 290,000 children who are not enrolled in school and every year 13 percent of children drop out in Grade 5 alone.
Meanwhile, across the country families are choosing to send their children to the private low fee charging schools that have proliferated in both rural and urban areas, instead of free government schools. The Young Lives longitudinal study in India reveals that in 2002, almost a quarter (23 percent) of 8 year olds within their sample in Andhra Pradesh were enrolled in private schools, this had increased to 44 percent of 8 year olds by 2009-10.
Teachers play a critical role in determining educational outcomes for children. But India is still struggling to meet the pupil-teacher ratio prescribed by the 2009 Right to Education Act, and a shortfall of over 700,000 teachers still remains to be met.
Analysis of Young Lives school survey data reveals that it is not a teacher's experience, age or qualification that affects student outcomes, but teacher practices such as regularly correcting children's work that has a significant effect. Teachers' attitudes towards their students, as well as their perceptions of their schools, have also emerged as important determinants of children's test scores. Surprisingly, we didn't find any significant difference between teachers who had qualifications such as a B.Ed or M.Ed and those with a general degree. In short, it is what teachers believe and do in the classroom that has the maximum impact on students' learning outcomes.
Serious equity concerns exist regarding school choice, with government schools becoming the only available option for the poorest children. Thus teaching practices and teachers' behaviour such as regular attendance assume greater importance, since they have the greatest impact on the poorest children and most disadvantaged students within in government schools.
It is time to invest in revamping the current pre-service and in-service teacher training and ensure that teachers are provided with the mentoring support that enables them to enhance their competencies. Professional standards need to be introduced so that teacher training institutes across the country are able to ensure that teachers have the requisite knowledge and skills to meet diverse needs in the classroom.
There is an urgent need to shift from a focus on pure credentials, such as education-related qualifications, to an examination of the content and process adopted by teachers in the classroom. Teachers' beliefs and attitudes will also need to be given critical attention. Greater accountability and feedback mechanisms need to emerge, involving teachers, children and communities.
Teaching Quality Counts: How Student Outcomes Relate to Quality of Teaching in Private and Public Schools in India, by Renu Singh and Sudipa Sarkar, Young Lives Working Paper 91, 2012
Renu Singh is an education researcher and Country Director for Young Lives in India