The Gujarat government has launched a campaign for acceptance of its facial-recognition attendance system for teachers, as the proposed plan faces opposition. The system, set to be launched by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Teachers’ Day, September 5, will keep track of 2.5 lakh government teachers.
The online attendance system uses an app with geo-tagging for teachers to mark their attendance. The education department says it is a “fool-proof system” with “no scope for manipulation”.
Principal Secretary for education Vinod Rao has recorded a 10-minute long video appeal as well as an audio message and circulated them among government teachers’ Whatsapp groups, appealing to them to support the new attendance system.
Highlighting the positive side of registering attendance through facial recognition, which teachers’ associations oppose for being an invasion of privacy, the principal secretary in his message says, “Now no injustice can be done to you. No principal can show you (as) absent, no CRC (Cluster Resource Centre Coordinator) can say he will mark you absent despite your presence. All this will be stopped through facial recognition which has geo-tagging and geo fencing technology.”
From briefings held with Block Resource Centre (BRCs) co-ordinators, Cluster Resource Centre (CRCs), District Education Officers (DEOs) and District Primary Education Officers (DPEOs) who were asked to inform every government teacher about the new system, principal secretary Vinod Rao came to know of the resentment among teachers towards the move.
Rao is hopeful that the teachers will come around. “Every time a new move is implemented, it is expected to face resentment,” Rao told The Indian Express. “But when they (teachers) know it is for their benefit, it (the system) is certain to garner support.”
He mentions this in his video message addressing teachers too. “It is normal that…there are concerns, protests and opposition,” the message states.
“When we introduced a set timetable system one year ago, many people questioned it. Similarly, the centralised examination system was questioned,” he says, citing examples of other initiatives. He also assures teachers that contrary to their perception, they were not distrusted. “This is not about distrust but an attempt to improve the system’s accountability,” he says.
Gujarat State Primary Teach-ers Association president Digvi-jaysinh Jadeja cites privacy concerns as well as lack of financial and infrastructural support from the government. “There was no discussion with us. None of our government primary school teachers will download the app. We have communicated that to the principal secretary,” he says.
The main concern is privacy. “Among the two lakh government primary teachers, 65 per cent are women. Now with their photos to be uploaded, anyone can misuse them,” Jadeja said. Principal Secretary Rao’s message addresses this, saying the mobile application is completely secure.
“I assure you no misuse is possible because this (the data) will be encrypted and stored securely in the state government’s science and technology department’s GIPL server. Even Microsoft or Facebook cannot view these pictures,” he says.
He adds that the app is like any other and that there is “no big conspiracy against teachers” or any attempt to curtail their independence. “If anyone has any misunderstanding, please contact me directly,” the principal secretary states in the message.
Teachers also oppose the move saying not all of them use smartphones. They demand that either the state government provide at least one smartphone to each school or that a biometric attendance system be used instead.
The education department says it would cost a lot to switch to biometric attendance. Rao’s video message says it would cost Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for each school, amounting to crores of rupees for 40,000 schools.
Admin work online
All administrative work will be shifted from manual to digital on September 5. For instance, computation of salary, reimbursement of bills, service book updation, which at times even takes years to be processed and is done by the principals or head teachers, will now be faster and easier. “The aim is to free head teachers of unproductive working hours who will be now at par with teachers. From 18 periods per week, the head teachers will now teach for 45 periods every week like all teachers,” Rao said.
At present, teachers are connected through various whatsapp groups managed by the BRC, CRC coordinators, head teachers and teachers. With the video-conferencing facilities provided by the attendance app, teachers can attend meetings from anywhere. They can also directly communicate their problems or share feedback to principal secretary or education minister. Also, now every teacher can access the Gujarat Council of Education Research and Training training modules or programmes from anywhere.