Identifying the Deadwood

A real teacher cannot be declared deadwood unless he hesitates to take up the challenge of teaching
Identifying the Deadwood
Representational Pic

The school education department recently decided to identify the non performing employees or dead wood in the department and recommend their names to the government for action.

The department has justified the decision citing that the government in different meetings has asked the school education department for identifying non-performing or dead wood employees of the department for their consideration under article 226(2) of J&K CSRs.

The Principal Secretary School Education Department, Bishwajit Kumar Singh in a letter to Director Education Kashmir and Jammu has stated that the department has a huge number of employees and majority of them were not performing their duties to the level of expectations. Singh has stated that the sluggishness of all such employees has led to large drop out and lower outcomes in the department and raising questions that a department having around 1:10 Teacher Student Ratio was producing poor results.

For the department, it is easy to target the teachers serving in schools which sans every basic facility only because of the sluggishness of the department to fill the infrastructural gaps. If the government schools witness a decrease in enrollment, the blame cannot be put on only the teachers but the whole department.

The students and their parents do not reject the government schools because of the staff available but because of the facilities which the department has failed to provide to the students in these schools.

We cannot expect a parent to enroll his kid in a school where he has to attend the class under open sky or has to manage it with the students of the other class in the same room with no proper seating arrangement. In this case the department needs a serious introspection and stop putting blame on the teachers.

In the letter, the principal secretary has completely blamed these so-called non-performing or dead wood employees of the department which are yet to be identified. The department however has not revealed about the modus operandi for carrying forward this exercise.

Now, the point is how the employee, be it in the teaching or non-teaching section of the department, will be declared as dead wood. For a while, let us exclude the non-teaching employees which otherwise are less in number as compared to the employees in the teaching section of the department. It is a fact that most of the non-teaching posts in ZEO and CEO offices are manned by the teachers and get exempted from any accountability in terms of the academics in schools.

If we talk about the employees in the teaching sections, for me, the department has categorized them in two categories. The first category comprises those who remain posted in schools situated in towns, cities and obviously the hard zones which are not easily accessible. Majority of these teachers are always seen struggling in real sense to bring reforms in the government education sector at primary level and later replicate the same reforms at middle and secondary level.

Another category of teachers comprises those who have never been to schools because they are more than equals and permanently accommodated at other places as per their conveniences. These employees are either posted in offices at zonal and district level while some are deputed in District Institute of Education and Trainings (DIETs) and State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT). This influential lot do not teach the students in school but claim to train the teachers and are given the designation of teacher trainers or teacher educators. A question gets raised here that any teacher who has failed in his or her career to groom any student at primary, middle or high school level. How can the same person be designated as teacher trainer or teacher educator and is assigned to teach the teachers who are already teaching students in schools. Majority of these influential teachers were exempted from routine transfers, their posting in hard zones or their contribution in improving academic standards in schools.

In my opinion, this is the basic loophole which has deteriorated the functioning of the department to the core. People can have disagreements on this point and I agree to disagree as well. The teachers posted in DIETs SCERT have no accountability in terms of academic performance of the students and the enrollment in the schools. The role of these influential teachers remains confined to teacher training. And whether there is any outcome of these trainings or not, nobody knows that. And there is no accountability in it as the so-called teacher trainers continue to remain posted in DIETs and SCERT for years together. There is no cut in increment, no suspension, no explanation for this influential lot of teachers, masters and lecturers when it comes to the poor performance of the students in Board exams or the meager enrollment in the schools. All these teachers are exempted from any such kind of the departmental action. On the other hand, the teachers who are serving in schools from 10am to 4pm bear the brunt and become the soft target of any departmental action. The crux is that the teachers posted in schools are answerable for poor result of students in Board exams, less enrollment and poor learning outcomes of the students while on the other hand, the teachers posted in offices, DIETs and SCERT are not answerable to any of these queries raised by the department. In other words, they have no role in the basic academics of the schools.

Now coming to the point, the department has begun the exercise to compile the list of the dead wood or non performing staff. The point is whether the exercise will be applicable for the teachers serving in schools or those enjoying their prolonged stint in offices. Will there be a same yardstick for all the teaching staff or again the influential lot posted in DIETS, SCERT and other offices will again be exempted from the department action, government needs to answer this. Posting in DIETs should have been on the basis of skills and abilities of teachers but it is done mostly under influence of politicians and bureaucrats. It is because for these people DIETs and SCERT have been turned into resting places.

The department is in the process of compiling the list of dead wood employees to bring accountability in the system. I believe that instead of putting all the blame on those teachers serving in schools that are too far off, the department should immediately reshuffle the teaching staff posted in DIETs and SCERT. In addition to it the department should go for an academic audit of DIETs and SCERT to ascertain the contribution of these influential teachers and the implementation of training held at these institutes.

Once the posting of teaching faculty in DIETs and SCERT gets streamlined it will make these teachers accountable and answerable like other teachers working in schools across J&K. Over the years, it has been observed that the school education department has made these premier institutes as resting places and a particular lot of so called teaching staff has been posted there for years together in violation of set norms. The people posted in these institutes are designated as teacher educators but have never been posted in schools to have a firsthand experience of teaching students and assessing their learning levels.

The same category of the teaching staff sabotages such reformative decisions to enjoy their prolonged stint in DIETs and SCERT. The irony is that the officials at the helm of affairs also succumb to the pressure and all the reformative decisions take a back seat which tells upon the performance of the department. There are hundreds and thousands of dedicated and hardworking teachers who have always taken a lead. From the past two years it was really heartening to see the way our government school teachers played their role in the prevailing situation. The efforts of these teachers have really given recognition to the teaching community as well as the government-run schools.

But at the same time, the government has failed to bring accountability in DIETs and SCERT which obviously has brought a bad name to the department. The staff which claims to have contributed to the academics of the students during their stay in these institutes should not hesitate if they are sent back to the schools to directly teach the students instead of training teachers about how to teach students. Otherwise it will not be wrong to say that the department already has a good chunk of non-performing people who manage their prolonged stay at DIETs, SCERT and other offices to avoid teaching in schools. Because teaching in schools comes with responsibilities and teachers become accountable for everything which sans in DIETs and SCERT, as what has been observed over the years.

If the department fails to streamline the shuffling of staff at DIETs and SCERT and identify the deadwood in these institutes, it will be a clear indication that the department is just playing only tactics. Instead of starting an exhaustive exercise, the department should reshuffle the staff in DIETs and SCERT on priority and post them on their actual postings (schools) which will bring some sense of accountability and responsibility among these staff members.

Besides other routine transfers, the school education department should make the shuffling of the teaching staff in DIETs and SCERT as a regular exercise. I believe a real teacher cannot be declared as dead wood unless he hesitates to teach in a school. It is finally a classroom and the students there that make a teacher.

Greater Kashmir