In effort to combat teacher absenteeism, India may be taking excessively strict measures against educators


In a latest development, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that a school in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar has installed CCTV cameras inside classrooms to monitor the learning process.

According to Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, the move will not only benefit students but also teachers.

Laying emphasis on the fact that such a move will address teachers absenteeism, Sisodia, according to IANS, said, "Teachers face allegations of absenteeism from classrooms. No one will now be able to wrongly accuse teachers of skipping classes."

 In effort to combat teacher absenteeism, India may be taking excessively strict measures against educators

Representational image. ANI

Teacher absenteeism is definitely a grave issue but the way India has dealt with it is highly debatable.

In Kumaon, Uttarakhand, government school teachers were instructed by the state government to take selfies with students and post them on WhatsApp groups in order to mark their presence in school premises. A similar order was issued by Maharashtra state education department to government schools, which riled up teachers.

“District magistrates and the education department have been asked to take measures to improve education facilities in the division. This is just the first step in this direction. We hope this will curb absenteeism among teachers,” Kumaon commissioner Rajiv Rautela had told Times of India in 2018.

This, however, was not isolated instance to combat teacher absenteeism. In 2015, the Uttarakhand government had asked all government schools to install biometric machines to prevent teacher absenteeism.

In another such measure, the deputy commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir's Kishtwar district issued an order on 17 June, 2019, making it compulsory for government school teachers in the district to produce an attendance certificate signed by parents of students and the sarpanch. The order also stated that if teachers failed to comply with the order, their monthly salaries would be withheld.

Naturally, such moves to monitor attendance have drawn criticism and resentment from teachers across the country.

A teacher expressed her concern about the Kishtwar order and spoke to the Indian Express on condition of anonymity. “It is totally against civil service rules. Half-a-dozen agencies in the district are monitoring the attendance of a government school teacher — from the Zonal Education Officer to Chief Education Officer and Director Education Officer. I don’t think there are these many bodies to check the attendance of employees in any other department,” the teacher said.

The problem of teacher absenteeism has been reiterated time and again, in various reports. According to a UNESCO report, “a representative panel of 1,297 villages found almost 24 percent of rural teachers were absent during unannounced school visits in 2010”.

While one cannot deny the importance of professionalism on behalf of the teacher, it is equally important that the government considers factors that are causing increased absenteeism by teachers and tries to rectify them.

A recent study by the Azim Premji Foundation pointed a key difference between 'teacher absence' and 'teacher absenteeism'. According to the report, whenever teachers have a legitimate reason to be absent, it qualifies as 'teacher absence'. The study also stated that there can be various official reasons for absence — training, authorised leaves, performing departmental work, addressing children with special needs and so on.

'Teacher absenteeism', on the other hand, is when teachers do not have a legitimate reason proving their absence. The two are often confused and lead to strict action against teachers. By imposing too many checks on teachers and keeping them dissatisfied with their jobs, one is ultimately damaging India's education scenario.

Teachers are important actors in ensuring quality education and the government must back them with respect and decent salaries. This can be one of the ways by which we can improve the dismal state of Indian education.

Updated Date: Jul 10, 2019 23:58:51 IST