Recruiting well-qualified teachers into the education system is the precondition for ensuring that students receive quality education. However, the recruitment processes for teachers in the country are not sufficiently streamlined. There are various recruitment processes in regions, school stages and school types: central, state and private schools. This, in turn, leads to multiple criteria and processes for hiring teachers, creating a major disparity in the quality of teachers across institutions and regions. Many of the processes are also sub-optimal in measuring a candidate’s competence.
One of the most common and most commonly administered tests to ensure recruitment eligibility is the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET), which is conducted at both the state (STET) and central (CTET) levels. TET is the equivalent of the licensing tests conducted by candidate teachers in different countries. However, in India, the test is only required for the recruitment of government school teachers in the elementary stage (grades 1-8). TET has been criticized time and time again for various reasons. These include low pass rates, poor test quality, long test papers, and a severe lack of alignment with teacher preparation programs. The test was in the news recently because of the teacher recruitment scams in West Bengal.
In order to narrow the long-standing gaps, NEP 2020 not only recommends a revision of the existing test, but also complements it with other processes, such as classroom demonstrations and interviews to assess individuals’ passion and motivation for to gauge teaching. It further recommends extending these processes to all stages of education in both public and private schools.
These are welcome measures. What we need is a coherent strategy to connect the different tests and processes, such as TET, teacher recruitment tests, classroom demonstrations and teacher interviews. This will allow a holistic assessment of teachers’ competence.
A starting point for this could be to formulate a common understanding of what qualifies as a teacher’s competence. In simple terms, teacher competence can be understood as the core knowledge, skills and dispositions expected of a teacher to contribute effectively to the teaching-learning process. But it is impossible to measure all of this reliably through a single test or process. Certain knowledge and skills, such as conceptual depth in a subject and understanding of education and language comprehension, can of course be assessed by means of a paper-pencil test. However, evaluating various other skills and dispositions requires multiple assessment methods, including classroom demonstrations and teacher interviews. These assessments can help measure skills such as effective dissemination of a concept and selection of appropriate resources and learning materials. Most importantly, such processes should help evaluate a teacher’s empathy for students. Respecting student diversity and skills in building a participatory/democratic classroom culture are critical requirements of a teacher. The recruitment process should assess the suitability of the teacher in this regard.
A necessary precursor to a well-rounded teacher recruitment process is therefore having a comprehensive competence framework that describes the skills a teacher should have. This could be inferred from a teacher education curriculum rooted in the policy perspectives of the time. For example, in the case of the NEP, the curriculum could be tailored to provide training in classroom practices that make learning enjoyable.
Adopting such a holistic teacher recruitment model will bring multiple benefits in the long run. For starters, it will ensure better equality in the quality of teachers recruited across the country. This, in turn, will contribute to equitable education for students from different walks of life. The recruitment process also becomes credible if it is rooted in a framework that outlines the core competencies of the teaching profession. At a system level, this could also lead to a reduction in the number of coaching centers as the assessment processes will be non-standardized and cannot be easily derived from coaching materials and manuals.
Lecturers with a passion for the subject are at the basis of the positive educational change that NEP has in mind. Establishing clear quality standards and well-designed recruitment processes are key to better learning outcomes.
Chomal and Raj teach at Azim Premji University