Vinod Rao: ‘Enrollment will ensure schooling, attendance will ensure learning’https://indianexpress.com/article/education/vinod-rao-enrollment-will-ensure-schooling-attendance-will-ensure-learning-6067705/

Vinod Rao: ‘Enrollment will ensure schooling, attendance will ensure learning’

The initiative was launched on Teachers’ Day and involves facial recognition system of attendance for teachers.

Vinod Rao, Secretary for Education, Gujarat

Gujarat’s Secretary for Education (primary and secondary) Vinod Rao launched the Command and Control Centre (CCC) to track teachers and teaching activity in schools and ensure accountability. The initiative was launched on Teachers’ Day and involves facial recognition system of attendance for teachers. He talks to Ritu Sharma to explain the details.

Why was a facial recognition attendance system required for teachers?

The online attendance system is already there since December 2018. The biometric attendance system (involving facial recognition) completely eliminates wrong attendance, proxy attendance, ghost students, and cleans up the system in the government, grant-in-aid and self-financed schools. Initially, there was a lot of resistance, issues of acceptability, connectivity and logistics, but we overcame them. Then we thought just by bringing online attendance if we can improve the attendance of teachers and students significantly in the last nine months now the time has come to move to biometrics.

How far will it improve learning outcomes?

Attendance has already significantly improved. To cite a case there is a village in Gadhada taluka of Bhavnagar district where the school has a large number of migrants from Naswadi in Chhota Udepur district. They were very irregular. But after being identified through online attendance when we talked to their parents they started attending school very regularly.

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Enrollment will ensure schooling while attendance will ensure learning. In education, we need corrective action instead of punitive action. And you can bring in corrective action by repeated positive pressure.

Can you cite some corrective measures?

When you are handling 2.5 lakh manpower and 70 lakh children you cannot bring significant change by fear or by punishment. I cannot think of a system where 50 teachers were dismissed in one go but we did it. That cannot be called punishment. Most of them are abroad but their names continued to reflect as teachers on the rolls because the system was not updated and they (missing teachers) thought “let our names remain on record, tomorrow we can claim something showing a medical certificate”. Now, because of online attendance, we dismissed them.

When you create a system that is very transparent then automatically the system improves without punishment because you are now in a glasshouse where people are watching you.

What are the other targets?

This year, we will create a list of students who cannot read, write and calculate but still have 80 per cent plus attendance. Similarly, a list of children who have less than 60 per cent attendance and cannot read, write and calculate. In the latter case, I will give the benefit of doubt to the teacher. But a child who has 80 per cent plus attendance and cannot read, write and calculate whose fault is it? Parents are illiterate but they have sent the child to school so either the attendance sheet is wrong or you have not taught.

In the semester and annual examination system, a separate follow up will be undertaken for children who have got less than 50 per cent marks and have more than 80 per cent attendance. Then I will ask teachers now tell me who is to be blamed. With the teacher being the same for the same subject for three primary classes now the teachers cannot say that the child’s basics were not clear. So we are creating an environment of accountability.

I believe it is a greater loss to the nation when a child attends school and is not learning than a child who is not attending school and not learning.

When a child does not attend school and does not learn, the child contributes to the household in some way — may be taking care of siblings or ensuring financial support but when a child is attending school there is an opportunity cost the family is already paying and a cost the government is paying.