Optimal Governance of Primary Education in India
November 19, 2005

November 23, 2005

To: Honorable President, Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition of India

1.     Abolish the posts of District Inspectors, Inspectors and Sub-Inspectors of Schools. 

2.     Mandate that the Panchayat Sarpanch form a five-member two-year term School Board for each school. Members of School Board will be the parents of the school going children.  Both parents cannot be on the School Board.  If more than five parents want to serve a School Board, the Sarapanch will conduct an election to choose five members based on polling among all parents of school going children.  Any parent can nominate himself or herself or another person for such election.  If less then five members are so nominated, the Sarapanch will choose the remaining members for the School Board.

3.     Mandate that parents of the children studying in a school be asked to evaluate the teachers - within a week before annual grading of children in each school year based on (i) regularity in attendance of the teacher, (ii) effectiveness in teaching, and (iii) student performance - on a scale of 1 (lowest) through 5 (highest).  The parents of the students will submit these ratings in writing to the School Board.  The School Board will then average these ratings and send its report signed by all members to the Sarapanch.  Teachers receiving less than 2 out of 5 for two consecutive years will be sent for retraining at teacher training centers for half-pay; the letter of authority for such training will be signed by the Sarapanch and School Board members.  The training centers will receive the other half of the teacher's pay.  Teachers receiving between 2 and 3 will not be given their annual salary increase.  Teachers receiving between 3 and 4.5 will receive their standard annual increase.  Teachers receiving between 4.5 and 5 will receive a bonus salary increase (in addition to the standard) for the following year.  After returning from training, if a teacher continues to perform at less than 2 for two more years, he/she will be removed from the school by written order signed by School Board Members and Sarapanch. 

4.     The Panchayat Sarapanch will be responsible to submit feedbacks (signed by him and School Board members) about every school teacher to the state education department which will feed the data into a computer system for schools.  Sarapanchs not submitting such feedbacks within a month after the end of the school year will lose their pay as well as job.  If some School Board member does not sign the teacher evaluation form, the Sarapanch must note it and submit it to the state's education department on time.  The Sarapanch will then seek to replace any non-cooperating School Board member through nomination as well as election if more nominations are submitted than the vacancies in School Board. 

5.     The state's education department will mail salary checks to each school teacher through the block development officers based on reports of Sarapanchs.

Why we need to reform governance of primary schools?

I studied in an Upper Primary School in a very remote village of India.  The teacher was very honest and talented.  He should be proud that two of his students graduated from IIT's, out of about 170000 total graduates these institutes have produced since their inception.  One of this teacher's students was even admitted to several IITs and IISc.  But alas!  This teacher was made to run to appease Sub-Inspectors of schools, who were dancing (due to bribes) to the tune of some village politicians who did not have students in the school!  These politicians ultimately transferred this teacher to another school.  Then the standard of the school deteriorated badly.  Other parents who had school going children then pleaded later with the Sub-Inspector, and District Inspector to get this teacher back to their village.  This is merely one example of how our society is afflicted by people who have little stake in institutions they are exploiting to enrich themselves.  In this example, the village politicians simply wanted to take away the land allotted to the school which was being resisted by the teacher.

The best way to solve the problem is to involve the parties who are directly served by the school.  These are the parents of the children studying in a school.  Most of these parents have a stake in the school and their children's education.  If they do not have any such feeling towards their children, school or teacher then we are doomed as a society.  But my vivid experience in the village level schools shows that most, if not all, parents of school children are deeply interested in good education for their kids. 

My proposal does not call for the Sarapanch or school children to evaluate the teacher.  It calls for evaluation by the parents of children.  This evaluation will be compiled and vetted by the School Board comprising of members from school going children's parents.  The Sarapanch will be responsible to send this annual document to the state education department.  The children will obviously provide their input about the teacher to their parents.  The source of serious corruption in our school system today is the SI-DI being made to feed the education minister and local politicians; they collect money from teachers who abscond from their duties.  The kickbacks collected are not as significant as the massive damage they cause to education of our kids.

Would you be kind enough to acknowledge the receipt of this letter?  I also beseech you to not appoint yet another committee of ministers and bureaucrats to study this problem.  What we should have is a committee of professors from IITs and IIMs who have also studied in primary schools, especially in rural India, to study this proposal to make a binding recommendation to the government.

With profound regards,

Sankarshan Acharya