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India’s Absent Teachers: Not As Big A Problem As We Think

Often when teachers were not present physically in the classroom, it was for official reasons, such as trainings, data collection, and authorised leave, the study found.



government school

Hiralal, a 36-year old headteacher in a small government school in Basarpur, a village in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, was absent 45 out of 200 working days (22.5%), the school time prescribed by the Right to Education (RTE) Act. (The name of the teacher and the school have been changed to maintain confidentiality.) In a country where only 59% of grade III children can read and understand a passage, according to the government’s National Achievement Survey, good quality teaching could be key to changing the school environment and encouraging learning.

Contrary to common perception, Hiralal was not absent because he had decided to skip school without legitimate reasons; he was absent 21 days because of official reasons such as examination duty, trainings and election-related duty, and 15 days for personal reasons, including 10 medical leaves, which he was entitled to as part of his contract. On average, teachers at Basarpur School were on official duty for 16 of 200 days (8.4%).

While overall teacher absence was 18.9%, teacher absenteeism without reason or because of truancy was only 2.5%, according to a recent study conducted by the Azim Premji Foundation, a non-profit that works in education across six states–Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Hiralal’s case study was a part of this research, which covered 619 government schools with 2,861 teachers.

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Source: Azim Premji University
Note: As ‘overall absence’ and ‘reasons for absence’ are calculated based on the bases/counts of properly recorded responses for the relevant variables, there are small differences in the respective totals.

The study might not be generalisable to all government schools in India, as the schools were not selected randomly, and were from districts and blocks the Azim Premji Foundation works in. These include some of the most disadvantaged in the country.

Data and information about teacher absence from schools are often conflated with teacher absenteeism. Teachers might be ‘absent’ from classrooms because of several legitimate, and sometimes even useful, reasons, known as ‘teacher absence’. On the other hand, ‘teacher absenteeism’ refers to teachers being absent from school without a legitimate reason, that is, truancy. Confusing teacher absence with teacher absenteeism could lead to ineffective policy, and unfair and demotivating vilification of teachers.

Teacher absence mostly for ‘official’ reasons

Often when teachers were not present physically in the classroom, it was for official reasons, such as trainings, data collection, and authorised leave, the study found.

Official reasons for absence include ‘official academic duties’, such as trainings and cluster meetings; ‘official school administrative duties’ such as data collection, submission of reports or data related to the mid-day meal program, children with special needs, and work related to various student-incentive programs such as distribution of textbooks, and ‘official other departmental work’ which included work related to elections, census surveys etc.

Several studies have found a large difference between teacher absence and teacher absenteeism.

For instance, teacher absence was found to be 23.64%, in a 2016 World Bank Group study, while teacher absenteeism without reason was 4.7%.

Despite this, popular discourse on teacher accountability, and senior government officers, often refer to remarkably high figures of teacher absenteeism–around 25%, but sometimes even as high as 50%–without citing any research evidence.

Teachers face tough conditions in schools

On a regular school day, Hiralal, a thin man with a calm temperament, rides his motorcycle to Basarpur School, one of more than a million elementary schools in the country. Hiralal mostly reaches the school 15 minutes before the school—with 82 students in grades I to V, three full-time teachers, and one temporary teacher—starts.

Its students are mostly Kanjars, a historically nomadic community which primarily produces liquor and runs brothels, according to community members. The community finds it difficult to make their children’s education a priority, they said.

It was largely due to the efforts of Hiralal–who chiefly teaches mathematics and environmental science–that the school was set up in 2001, and has been running since then, with rising enrolment. Until a school building was sanctioned in 2007, Hiralal paid the monthly rent of Rs 200 for a school building out of his pocket.

Teachers at the school face many challenges: The school mainly targets marginalised communities who cannot provide adequate home support for their children, it doesn’t have adequate infrastructure, fewer teachers than even the number of grades in the school, and little monitoring or support by district and block-level education officers. It takes two of the teachers between one and two hours to reach school (higher commute times have been linked with greater teacher absenteeism), and still they mostly attended school regularly and punctually, and took about 11 authorised personal leaves, on average.

Should we consider the possibility that the nature of teaching itself encourages teachers to be committed and motivated, and hold themselves accountable without external monitoring, provided there is an enabling work environment that facilitates collegiality and trust?

To reduce teacher absence from classrooms, important to know why teachers are absent

Teacher absenteeism is often seen as the single most critical issue that is plaguing the government school system. For example, the government suggested biometric systems as a means to curb teacher absenteeism in its 2016-17 economic survey.

The new evidence from this study, and some previous evidence, begs the question: Should we instead focus our energies on systemic reform in the education system through ensuring adequate number of trained teachers, making relevant and good quality continuous professional development opportunities available for them, and by doing away with non-academic duties of teachers?

A culture of targeting and blaming teachers–who often work in challenging situations–for matters that are beyond their control might be counterproductive and adversely affect the government school system.

(In arrangement with, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform, with whom Mukta Patil is an analyst. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at [email protected])

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24% scheme performance indicators of Delhi government ‘off track’



Manish Sisodia

An average 23.7 per cent of output and outcome indicators for various programmes and schemes of the Delhi government departments were “off track” till December last year, analysis of a report tabled in the Delhi Assembly on Wednesday suggested.

The 23.7 per cent of indicators were off track for schemes and programmes of 14 major departments, including Health, Social Welfare and Education, for which funds were allocated in the Delhi Budget 2017-18, according to an IANS analysis of Status Report of the Outcome Budget 2017-18.

The Status Report was presented by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

In the report, the indicators — output and outcome of schemes and programmes — of a department were used to denote whether their schemes were on or off track. Here off track implies the performance or progress of indicators of major schemes of a particular department (till December 2017) was less than 70 per cent of the expected progress.

With 45 per cent indicators off track, the Public Works Department’s schemes performed worst, followed by the Transport Department and the Environment Department, each having 40 per cent of indicators for schemes off track.

The departments whose schemes performed well include the Directorate of Education with 89 per cent indicators of schemes on-track, followed by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) with 87 per cent schemes on track and the Delhi Jal Board with 82 per cent programmes on track.

Sisodia said that idea behind the Outcome Budget was to bring a high degree of accountability and transparency in public spending.

The Outcome Budget, which coveres 34 departments of the government, was termed as the “first of its kind” in the country.

Citing an example of Mohalla Clinics, Sisodia said a regular budget tells only about the money allocated for the construction of clinics, while Outcome Budget is about the number of clinics built and the number of people expected to benefit from it.

The Outcome Budget measures each scheme using two indices: output and outcome.

The infrastructure created or services offered due to spending on a particular scheme is termed as output, whereas the number of people benefited and how is termed as outcome.

(Nikhil M. Babu can be contacted at [email protected])

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Will Drabu’s ouster impact PDP-BJP alliance in J&K?

While even Mehbooba’s political adversaries, including the National Conference President, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, have welcomed her decision, her allies in the BJP are not happy at all about her decision.



Jammu, March 15 : The decision by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to drop Haseeb Drabu from her council of ministers for his remarks at a business meet in Delhi is being hotly debated in political circles – especially what its consequences could be on the state’s PDP-BJP ruling coalition.

By doing what she has done, the Chief Minister has proved that she is prepared take political risks — and taking her for granted is something her colleagues and allies should learn not to do.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders were aghast after Drabu, who was the Finance Minister, was quoted as telling a meeting organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi that Kashmir was not a political problem and a conflict state but a “social problem”. He said this while seeking investments in the state from businessmen and saying the conditions in the state were conducive to business “where you will find some very interesting opportunities” not just to make money but also to have “a lot of fun and enjoy yourselves”.

PDP Vice President Sartaj Madni had said this was something which negated the very existence of the PDP because it is the firm belief of the party that Kashmir is political problem that needed political remedies to resolve.

Interestingly, instead of voices being raised in Drabu’s favour by his own party men, leaders of the PDP’s coalition unlikely partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem to be more worried about the decision to drop him.

Some senior BJP leaders have rushed to Delhi to discuss the development and its fallout on the ruling coalition with the central leadership of the party.

How important Drabu had been for the PDP was proved not once, but many times in the past. The late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed trusted him to work out the terms of the agenda of alliance with BJP National Secretary Ram Madhav that finally paved the way for the present PDP-BJP coalition.

“Mufti Sahib always loved him and would overlook what some of his party men would say about Drabu Sahib,” said a PDP insider, not wishing to be identified.

In a letter released to the media after he was dropped from the cabinet, Drabu expressed sorrow for not being told by the Chief Minister or her office about the decision to drop him.

“I read it on the website of daily ‘Greater Kashmir’. I tried to call the Chief Minister, but was told she was busy and would call back. I waited, but my call was never returned,” he rued.

He also said in his letter that he had been quoted out of context by the media and that he what he had said was that Kashmir is not only a political problem, but that “we must also look beyond this”, Drabu clarified.

Sayeed made Drabu his economic advisor during his 2002 chief ministerial tenure and later made him the chairman of the local Jammu and Kashmir Bank. In fact, Drabu became the point man between the PDP and the BJP after the 2014 assembly elections.

The problem is that many PDP leaders had of late started saying that Drabu was more of “Delhi’s man in Kashmir rather than Kashmir’s man in Delhi”. Drabu is reportedly very close to Ram Madhav, the powerful BJP leader who is in-charge of Kashmir affairs, which many say “cost him his job”. It is this image that has been floating around in the PDP that finally cost him his berth in the state cabinet.

While even Mehbooba’s political adversaries, including the National Conference President, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, have welcomed her decision, her allies in the BJP are not happy at all about her decision.

“What did he say? He said it is a social problem and Kashmir is a society in search of itself. Is this wrong? We don’t think this is something for which such a harsh decision should have been taken,” a senior BJP leader told IANS, not wanting to be named.

His successor, Syed Altaf Bukhari, who has been assigned the finance portfolio, took a major decision immediately after taking over. Bukhari announced that the decision to replace the old treasury system by the Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) has been put on hold. The ambitious PAO system was Drabu’s brainchild.

Bukhari’s decision has been welcomed by hundreds of contractors in the state who had been on strike during the last 13 days demanding their pending payments and suspension of the PAO system at least till March 31.

Would Drabu’s ouster be a storm in a teacup or would it have repercussions on the PDP-BJP ruling alliance in the immediate future? Ironically, Drabu’s PDP colleagues say it won’t be, while the BJP leaders in the state say it would.

By : Sheikh Qayoom

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

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Reports claiming top Indian leaders have fake followers deeply flawed: Twitter

A recent “Twitter Audit” report claimed that Modi, Gandhi, BJP President Amit Shah and others lead the list of leaders with fake followers globally.




New Delhi, March 14 : After reports surfaced that some of the top Indian politicians including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter accounts are infested with fake followers, the micro-blogging platform on Wednesday termed such reports as baseless.

A recent “Twitter Audit” report claimed that Modi, Gandhi, BJP President Amit Shah and others lead the list of leaders with fake followers globally.

According to a statement given to IANS, Twitter said the “Twitter Audit” fake follower measurement tool is not the company’s product.

“The methodology used by ‘Twitter Audit’ is deeply flawed and their incorrect information should not be taken seriously,” a Twitter spokesperson told IANS.

Twitter Fake Followers

The media reports are completely incorrect and do not have any source or authentic veracity of the information, the company said.

Twitter Audit is an external tool not affiliated to the micro-blogging website.

It takes a sample of 5,000 Twitter followers and assesses them on the number of tweets, followers, mutual followers and other parameters.

According to its website, “the scoring method is not perfect but it is a good way to tell if someone with lots of followers is likely to have increased their follower count by inorganic, fraudulent, or dishonest means”.

According to Twitter Audit, Rahul has the highest percentage of fake Twitter followers at 67 per cent, followed by Shah, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and Modi.

In Modi’s case, Twitter Audit claimed 61 per cent of his followers are fake. Modi has 41 million followers.

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