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India: educators oppose government plans for PPPs and certification

The All India Primary Teachers' Federation (AIPTF), one of EI’s national affiliates, has severely criticised the government’s Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) scheme in education. The AIPTF claims PPPs will commercialise education and undermine efforts to achieve Education For All goals. It has also condemned the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) and its negative impact on the recruitment of quality teachers.

 

Model schools, only for wealthiest students

The Government of India has planned to set up 6,000 model schools in the country, 2,500 of which are to be set up under PPPs. By doing this, the Government is responding to increased demand at school level arising from the enactment of the 2009 Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.

This Act states that each school would admit 25 per cent of children belonging to the economically weaker sections of society and that children’s school fees will be paid by the relevant state Government. The Supreme Court has recently decided that, every year, one in four pupils in preschool/Class-I in such schools must come from poorer backgrounds. This decision will apply to the 2012-13 academic session.

No admissions

In some Indian states, however, private schools have not admitted students this year, alleging that their admissions are complete. Other schools are using other tactics to avoid admitting poor children, arguing for example that admission of these children negatively affects their results.

Currently, children who do not have access to elementary education come from disadvantaged sections of the society. Living mostly in remote and relatively inaccessible areas, they have only restricted access to education and medical facilities.

In March 2012, the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the Department of School Education and Literacy invited entrepreneurs to submit proposals to set up schools in certain regions where education is already provided. This means that children from disadvantaged backgrounds, living in remote, inaccessible areas, would not benefit from these schools. These schools will be out of reach for poor children due to prohibitive tuition fees and other related expenses.

Commercialising education

“By opening school education to commercialisation, the Government goes against the Supreme Court’s views that education cannot be commercial in nature,” said AIPTF Secretary General and EI Vice-President S. Eswaran. “AIPTF is firmly opposed to the Government of India’s commercialisation of education through PPPs. It demands that all PPPs plans be immediately abandoned.”

AIPTF has pleaded with the Government to repeal the PPPs scheme, as it goes against society’s interests, particularly for its economically weaker sections. The scheme would further widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.

“As the Government continues disregarding our demands on that issue, AIPTF has decided to picket the Parliament in the monsoon session to draw the attention to this anti-poor policy, i.e. PPPs plans,” Eswaran said. “AIPTF is hopeful that it will be successful on this issue, as it already achieved success in 2009 with the adoption of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.”

Teacher Eligibility Test

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has also introduced a Teacher Eligibility Test (TET), supposedly to improve the quality of the teaching workforce and consequently enhance students’ learning outcomes. Nobody holding a Diploma in Education or a Bachelor in Education/Elementary Education can become a teacher at primary and upper primary levels, either in a government or private school, without passing the TET with at least 60 per cent of satisfactory answers.

This test is conducted both at national as well as at the State level. If a state decides not to organise the test, its schools will take into account the results of the test conducted by the Central Government.

“Although the introduction of Teacher Eligibility Test is a valuable initiative on the part of the Central Government, it has serious implications for young teaching aspirants, their guardians or parents and society,” explained Eswaran.

Test of theoretical knowledge

One of AIPTF’s main criticisms of the TET is that applicants are tested on their theoretical knowledge about child development, their understanding of children’s stages of development and of the diverse learners’ needs, and pedagogy. This test is based on the assumption that those who are strong in theoretical knowledge with respect to these aspects of the teaching profession will be able to teach effectively in the classroom.

This assumption is erroneous, said Eswaran, with mastery over the content and the delivery of the content representing different skills. “Academic reasons hardly justify the TET, because it is not selecting effective teachers. We, however, need to select effective teachers who can improve the quality of education.”

The uncertainty linked to success in the TET, combined with the time required to take and pass the test, is driving many people away from the teaching profession.

“About one million quality teachers are needed in India in primary and upper primary schools,” underlined Eswaran. “In that regard, the TET hinders the filling of vacant teaching positions for the elementary level. This is a severe obstacle to achieving quality education for all by 2015.” AIPTF therefore requested that the Government abandons this test, he said.

India must invest more in education and quality teacher

“Deregulation and privatisation of public services, and, especially of education, reduces access and increases inequalities in society,” highlighted Aloysius Matthews, EI Chief regional Coordinator for Asia-Pacific.

“India, like all countries in the Region, must prioritise investment in public education as the most effective way to stimulate economic growth and social stability and cohesion. This is why the educators’ global community is behind our Indian colleagues in their struggle to ensure quality education in their country, at all levels, and decent working conditions and salaries for quality educators.”

Impact of economic crisis

The Resolution from the Asia-Pacific region adopted at the EI 6th World Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa, in July 2011, also recognises that the deteriorating economic circumstances in many countries in the Region is jeopardising the capacity of national governments to maintain and increase public investment in education, social services and public infrastructure.

It deplores that progress made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially Education For All, in the region is being jeopardised and undermined by the effects of the global economic crisis and of natural disasters.

EI acknowledges that national governments must recognise the value of entering into partnership with trade union organisations in planning and implementing programmes for economic recovery and development. Together with international financial institutions, governments must cease undermining the already inadequate terms and conditions of employment of many education and other public service workers in the Region as a means of restoring national economies.

To read Eswaran’s statement on the AIPTF position on the status of PPPs in education, click here

Eswaran’s statement on the AIPTF position concerning the implications of the teacher eligibility test is available here

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