THE most serious challenges being faced in education governance include teachers’ recruitment and their deployment. In 2008 the Sindh Government introduced a new teacher recruitment policy and since then the government has started recruiting teachers on the basis of standardised written knowledge test, designed and administered by an independent testing agency. This is a positive step.
However, there are still many areas that need improvement as prospect teachers cannot be judged merely on the basis of their knowledge about subjects.
These positive measures will be in jeopardy if existing chronic problems are not adequately addressed by the education department. For example, parallel fake teachers’ recruitment at the district level in cahoots with the treasury department undermines the entire reform agenda.
In the absence of database on those teachers who pass away during service or have retired during two decades. it is an easy route for fake teachers to sneak in the system.
The education department is also grappling with the issue of teacher absenteeism. Despite enough number of teachers, many schools are without teachers. Approximately a total enrollment of students in public schools stands at 4.3 million and a total number of teachers is 149,401, thus the teacher-student ratio comes to one teacher for 29 students, which is fine. Moreover, the teacher-school ratio is that of three teachers to one school.
What are the weaknesses in the system? A pool of teachers is maintained at the subdivision level which doesn’t specifically mention the placement of teachers when the salary bill of teachers is submitted to the local treasury department.
Furthermore, the Sindh Education Management Information System (SEMIS) database also doesn't indicate teacher deployment on a monthly basis. Hence it is difficult to keep check on teachers’ absenteeism.
The redeployment of teachers is another big problem. In cities, there is low enrollment in public schools due to there being a large number of private schools. In some schools, the number of teachers is greater than that of students but they refuse to go to rural areas on the basis of transfer. There is only urban allowance for teachers if they are posted in cities; no incentive exists for teachers being transferred to rural areas.
So without resolving these chronic problems the teachers' absenteeism will remain a challenge.
ASGHAR SOOMRO Karachi Adviser Social Policy and Development Centre Karachi