In a bid to curb absenteeism at government schools, the Gujarat government on September 5 (Teachers’ Day) launched a facial recognition-based biometric online attendance system across 40,000 primary schools.
While launching the new system from the State capital Gandhinagar, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that soon other departments will also move to a similar system that will ensure no teacher or government employee indulged in absenteeism.
To implement the system, the State Education Department will distribute tablets equipped with geo-tagging and biometrics software to all schools in the next two months.
From November onward, attendance of students in all government schools will be integrated into the system. “This is a major initiative to ensure that teachers are present in schools and they remain engaged in academic works and activities. We are also moving all administrative work like salaries, emoluments and filling in details in registers online, so that teachers can devote their time only for teaching,” Gujarat’s Education Secretary Vinod Rao told The Hindu .
According to Mr. Rao, normally head teachers in government schools remained busy with administrative work, which was done manually, but now all such matters will be processed online so that head teachers can be free from such work.
“As per our calculation, 20,000 head teachers in 40,000 government schools will now be able to give additional 15 hours of academic work per week, which means adding 1.45 crore man hours into teaching and learning,” Mr. Rao added.
A section of teachers have protested against the introduction of the facial recognition-based attendance system, citing privacy concerns. However, the Education Department has emphatically denied that data from the online attendance system will be shared or will be given access to any agency or even tech firms like Facebook or Microsoft.
The Education Department has developed its own platform with advanced features that do not require taking pictures of persons every day. A section of teachers had alleged that the government was using Facebook’s Workplace app or Microsoft’s Kaizala app for online attendance of 2.5 lakh teachers.
However, Mr. Rao denied this. He said neither firm was involved in the teachers’ online attendance project. The department, however, has roped in Facebook to provide its Workplace app free of cost to use it for dissemination of online learning and content, and for live video-conferencing with teachers.