Based on data collected from teachers and children in 227 public and low-fee charging private schools in Andhra Pradesh, India, a recent study by Young Lives India suggests that teaching quality considerably impacts students learning outcomes and factors like teacher’s professional qualifications, their attitude and practices towards their students and schools, and absenteeism determine students’ educational performance.
The paper titled, ‘Does teaching quality matter? Students learning outcome related to teaching quality in public and private primary schools in India’, written by Young Lives country director, Dr Renu Singh and Sudipa Sarkar highlights that students who attend private schools score on average 7 percentage points higher in mathematics than students who go to public schools even though 83 per cent of teachers in public schools have professional teaching qualifications (such as D.Ed, B.Ed or M.Ed) compared to just 56 per cent of teachers in private schools.
The study cites the long distances that teachers travel to work as one of the major factors affecting student learning outcomes, since late arrival and absenteeism due to poor transport links give teachers less time to spend with their students. Teacher absence is higher in public schools as 30 per cent of teachers had to travel long distances to school compared to 15 per cent of private schools teachers. The findings also suggest that students had better outcomes if their teachers lived in the same community.
Positive attitudes towards their schools and their students also influence student learning outcomes. The researchers found that 84 per cent of private school teachers were positive about their schools, compared to only 54 per cent of teachers in public schools. The study analyses the consequences and implications of this and found that while 80 per cent of private school teachers regularly corrected their students’ written exercises, only 36 per cent of teachers in public schools did so. Such gaps in receiving feedback make it almost inevitable that students do not perform so well.
Individual attention given to students is also lower in public schools since around 30 per cent of classrooms are multi-grade (i.e. combining students of various ages and different grades in a single classroom) due to shortage of teachers. In comparison, only 2 per cent of private schools had multi-grade classes, meaning teachers were able to spend more time with individual students.
It was also observed that differential treatment was greater in public schools where 77 per cent of students felt that their teacher was unbiased and treated them fairly as compared to 86 per cent of private school students having a positive outlook towards their teachers.
An important finding is that teachers with professional qualifications in education (B.Ed, M.Ed or D.Ed) have higher student outcomes than teachers with just secondary or senior secondary qualifications.
‘Despite having more teaching qualifications, better salaries and subject knowledge, public school teachers are unable to deliver better student outcomes. Public schools continue to be the sole option for most students, so fostering positive beliefs and attitudes is critically important in teacher development programmes. Policy attention towards development of teachers in India needs immediate attention.’ said Dr Singh.
Supervision of public schools remains a matter of concern as the mechanisms for monitoring and mentoring are not strong. The majority of the public school teachers interviewed feel demotivated due to the lack of mentoring and professional support.
The study concludes that enhancing teaching quality should be the focal point of this restructuring to ensure teachers are adequately equipped to serve the most marginalised students. There is an urgent need to reform the existing education system in public schools by having robust appraisal and mentoring systems to develop better teaching quality in public schools.