While standard characteristics of teachers like experience, gender, content knowledge and subject specialisation do not have any significant influence on children’s learning outcome, teaching practices such as regularity in checking homework and factors such as the proximity of the teacher’s residence to the school and teachers’ attitude towards the children, as well as teachers’ perceptions of their schools, are important determinants of students’ test scores, a latest survey by Young Lives has shown.

Again, there has been an indisputably growing shift towards private schooling in both urban and rural Andhra Pradesh, but private school enrolment is ridden with socio-economic, gender and caste gaps.

Evidence gathered during the survey entitled “Teaching Quality Counts: How Student Outcomes relate to Quality of Teaching in private and Public Schools in India” suggests that parents perceive private schools as providing better quality education and are opting for ‘low-fee’ charging private schools that are mushrooming across both rural and urban locations. The study examined teaching quality in 227 government and private primary schools.

The children enrolled in low fee charging private schools are seen to perform better in mathematics, despite better-qualified and more experienced teachers being available in government schools.

Renu Singh, country director of Young Lives India, said private schools may be considered better than government schools, but ‘better’ should not be perceived as ‘good.’ Quality varies across schools and a lot depends on leadership in school. Benchmarks and regulatory mechanisms need to be developed and implemented for quality assurance in both government and private schools, she said.

“One way to achieve this would be to create an autonomous body for assessment of schools and learning levels of children in every State. This information should be in the public domain to foster greater accountability of schools both government and private. What teacher ‘does’ in the classroom is more important that what the teacher ‘knows’.”

Another key finding of the analysis is that the students of teachers with professional qualifications have significantly higher outcomes than children taught by teachers with only senior secondary education. Students of teachers with Bachelors or Masters degrees in Education do not have significantly better outcomes than those taught by teachers with general degrees, after controlling for other factors. This has significant implications for policy formulation regarding teacher recruitment and pre-service teacher training, as well as the development of regulatory frameworks for both the public and private education sectors, in light of the Right to Education Act, 2009.

In Andhra Pradesh, Young Lives collected data in 20 sentinel sites across three geographic regions — coastal Andhra, Rayalseema, and Telangana. There is a mix of urban and regional sites, and a number of poor and non-poor sites in each district. Children of the right age were randomly selected, and there are an equal number of boys and girls.

The data shows that between 2006 and 2009, the number of children in private schools increased by eight per cent and by seven per cent in private secondary schools.

Young Lives is a long term international research study investigating the changing nature of childhood poverty in four developing countries — Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh), Peru and Vietnam — over 15 years, the time frame set by the UN to assess progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goals. The study follows two groups of children in each country — 2,000 children who were born in 2001-02 and 1,000 children born in 1994-95, and collecting data, not only about their material and social circumstances, but also their perspectives on their lives and aspirations for the future, set against the environmental and social realities of their communities.

Private school enrolment of the Young Lives Cohort children (aged 8 in 2009) was nearly double (44 per cent) that of the Older Cohort children at the same age in 2002 (23 per cent) with an increase in enrolment in every group — boys, girls, rural and urban children, as well as children belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. However, inequalities prevail with 70 per cent of more advantaged other castes children enrolled in private schools.

Gender gaps, too, are widening. In 2002, boys were four percentage points more likely to be enrolled in private schools than girls but this had increased to 13 percentage points in 2009.

What a teacher ‘does’ in the classroom matters the most, says

a recent survey