Don’t stop believing in your students.
When you do, they will stop believing in you too.
Article published on the Kathmandu Post daily on August 8, 2014. I had to squeeze the article down to around 1200 words but here’s the full article with citations.
Monetary incentives to government teachers – a big waste!
How much money do you think the government has allocated for education this fiscal year? According the recent budget announcement, it’s a massive 86.3 billion rupees. And here’s what surprised me the most. Out of the total educational budget, almost 70% goes for government teachers’ salary only. This is mind boggling!
Government school teachers have a pretty good salary scale. As per the latest adjustment, it starts from Rs. 15,940 for primary level teachers to around Rs. 36,720 for secondary level teachers. That’s a pretty good salary scale if you compare those figures to what teachers in most private schools get.
In a few ‘rich’ private schools, the salary might be really really good, however most of the private schools are “B” or “C” and even “D” grade schools, and the salary for teachers in those schools is really miserable. In many of these schools, the salary range of teachers is Rs. 6500 in the pre-primary to around Rs. 15000 in the secondary level. These schools employ part-time teachers as well, mainly in the secondary level and their salary range is around Rs. 3500 to Rs. 4500 per class.
Now, one doesn’t need to be a mathematical genius to figure out that government school teachers are paid very well compared to most of the teachers in private schools. In addition, government school teachers get allowances, paid leaves, and facilities like incentive for Teachers’ Professional Development (TPD) trainings. They enjoy comfortable, safe and secured life similar to other government employees.
Now, here’s what I don’t get:
a) Why can’t most of the government school teachers teach as effectively as their counterparts in private schools who work for almost half of their salaries?
b) What’s stopping them from being effective, professional and committed to their work?
Let’s take this year’s SLC result as the barometer of quality education. The community schools are almost on the bottom of the pit with staggering 72% students failing the exam. We know there are other issues too related to the degrading quality of education, like our stupid SLC examination system, lack of course books, lack of teaching materials, lack of infrastructure, plus a multitude of social and cultural dynamics – which are basically out of a teacher’s control. That should not however make teachers come up with ninety nine different excuses.
Year in and year out, private schools have far better results in SLC than the community schools. Is it only because they have good infrastructure? Is it only because the ‘Medium of Instruction’ in private schools is English? Is it only because they have extracurricular activities? I don’t think so.
We know that teachers play a major role in students’ learning success. And it doesn’t have to be about the salary, infrastructure, or materials to play that role. It’s about, first and foremost, the teacher’s attitude, motivation and professional integrity. They should be teachers first, and then government employees – but it seems that their major motivation was just to get a ‘sarkaari jaagir’ and get settled for life. And when it comes to professional development, just like Sharma (2007) wrote, they would say: “Training? I think that’s for technicians. I am already educated and I can teach.” Many sulk away from training programs. And when they do attend such programs, many do it only for the monetary incentives.
In this article, my focus is not on trying to change attitude and behavior of government teachers but my contention is with the monetary incentives given to motivate the teachers to attend trainings. In simple words, monetary incentives don’t work and here’s why.
Presenting hard evidences from social science, American author Dan Pink (during his Ted Talk titled – The Puzzle of Motivation) screams out loud that incentives work well only for routine mechanistic jobs. And that rewards and incentives by their very nature narrow our focus and restrict possibility. Thus monetary rewards and bonuses might motivate bus drivers or waiters or manual laborers but not innovators or teachers or leaders.
Pink cites an experiment conducted by Harvard economist Dan Ariely in which a number of MIT students were offered three levels of rewards according to their performance. The experimented found that “as long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as they would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance”. And here’s the most revealing finding of the experiment – “but once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance”. This experiment has been replicated over and over again in different contexts and the results have always been similar.
Let’s connect this revelation with teaching. Naturally, teaching is not a mechanical job. Some part of it may look mechanical (take attendance, wipe the board, conduct exam, etc) but real teaching is beyond that. Real teaching requires a teacher to be creative, innovative and to possess social and cognitive skill. Thus essentially, giving monetary incentives to teachers so that they get motivated to work better usually does not work.
Here’s another report on the correlation between teacher incentives and student achievements. After conducting a study in the public schools of New York, USA, Fryer (2011) emphatically concludes, “I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior”. He further argues that teacher incentive is one of the reasons for decreasing student performance.
So, here’s my argument.
There is a huge mismatch between what the government says it is doing to uplift the education and what the years of SLC results say. (I know that exam result does not truly reflect one’s learning but just to be aligned with the government’s policy, let’s say SLC result is the yardstick for quality education.) It’s written in the wall with big bold letters – most of the government teachers have not been effective at all. This implies that the trainings and TPD programs have not been effective. But the government still insists on committing the classic mistake by trying to entice its teachers for trainings by offering them monetary compensation. The government is simply dumping a huge amount of money down the drain.
And here’s one more ugly side of government’s training programs. Ram Abadhesh Ray, an English teacher from Birgunj expresses his disgust over the trend among the government teachers to participate in trainings only when there is “a handsome allowance”. Or if it’s in a star-hotel, with good food and drink. And when there is less allowance or no allowance, the teachers don’t even talk about attending training (Ray, 2012). This is hypocrisy at its best! On one hand, these reluctant, change-resisting teachers are only throwing dust into everyone’s eyes by exploiting trainings as milking cows rather than professional development opportunities. On the other hand, the government is deliberately squandering the money knowing that the desired change is not happening.
Monetary incentive and allowance, which are a form of external motivation, don’t work at all because if they did, the teachers in community schools would be very effective; the schools would be thriving and beating the private schools by a long shot. But, as we can see, the reality is quite depressing. Behaviorial economists, like Dan Ariely, say that extrinsic motivations – money, bonuses, reward, threats, punishment – only boost performance for a short burst of time and then it quickly dissipates. Incentives hence have only made most of the government teachers less effective, less creative, and probably very selfish.
Therefore the government needs to cut down all monetary incentives, especially the allowance for TPD programs, and invest the money on infrastructures or building toilets in the government schools. The government teachers already have a ‘convenient’ pay scale. (I believe that the primary teachers should get paid more; but that’s another issue.) Plus, there are tons of literatures and reports claiming that the TPD program hasn’t been effective. Even the Ministry of Education’s National Center for Educational Development (NCED) acknowledges this fact on its website.
What should the government do then?
The trainings should not be mandatory at all. There’s a saying – you can drag a horse to a pond, but you can’t make it drink the water. Adults are like that. The ‘mandatory’ system coupled with monetary incentive just kills the drive because it somehow feels forced upon. Social science tells us that adults learn or change only when they want to, not when they are forced to. Therefore the trainings should be ‘voluntary’.
But what about the haajir-garera-taap-diney culture? Well, here’s a solution.
The government should make its teachers PAY for the trainings because if the teachers invest on trainings, they will definitely take it seriously. Yes. Make them pay for the trainings. This idea sounds outright blasphemous and there will be a huge uproar initially. But that’s the only way to make the teachers assume ownership of the training and fight the haa-taa culture. As a result, they will show some trace of ethics, integrity, and responsibility.
Next, the government should invest in ‘training follow up’ programs to bridge the gap between the training sessions and classroom teaching, and monitor those programs. A trainee teacher should also, for instance, submit a report of implementation to the ministry within three months. And the policy should favor only these teachers for, let’s say, promotion or salary raise.
Even better, teachers and school districts should compete for government funding with which they can organize professional development events. Such funding should be based on the progress report submitted by teachers and experts from local education offices, and student evaluation. If rewards should be given, they should be given for producing results, such as higher pass percentage in SLC and other forms of evaluation.
Lastly, this is what the policy makers, MoE and other authorities should provide the teachers: autonomy. Autonomy in teaching, in method, in syllabus, in assessment and in deciding how to develop professionally. Only then may the government teachers discover deep intrinsic motivations to get out of the rut, find a purpose and stretch their wings towards professionalism. Intrinsic motivation is the only key. May be… just may be, the teachers then transfer some part of trainings into the classroom and the government education becomes more effective.
Fryer, R. G. (2011). Teacher incentives and student achievement: evidence from New York City Public Schools. Retrieved from http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/fryer/files/teacher_incentives_and_student_achievement_evidence_from_new_york_city_public_schools.pdf
NCED. (n.d.). Effectiveness Study of Teacher Professional Development, 2070. Retrieved from http://www.nced.gov.np/download.php
Ray, R. A. (2012). Teacher training: for money or for professionalism? ELT Choutari. Retrieved from http://neltachoutari.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/are-our-teachers-professional-at-all/
Sharma, S. (2007). Professionalism in Nepal. Retrieved from http://shyamsharma.net/professionalism-in-nepal/
TED. (2009). Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrkrvAUbU9Y
Article: Giving Students a Benefit of Doubt
On Op-Ed page of the Republica National Daily
This article was also published on ELT Choutari’s June 2014 issue.
Words failed me and my jaws dropped when I read this article published on the op-ed column of the Himalayan Times today (July 16, 2014). I couldn’t believe that the author (probably a teacher) implied that beating the students should be allowed because the students don’t respect the teachers anymore. What a load of crap! I posted the photo of the article on my FB timeline and obviously there was a flood of comments. I think the conversation went very well and I am posting those comments just to make sure that those views remain in public blogosphere as well.
I wonder if the education board plans to address this issue. Most of the times I hear students from Grade 2 – 3 saying “Mero mummy daddy ko paisa le yo school chalirako cha.” pathetic. I don’t think Nepal is headed towards development at all. Imagine a world full of adults who have had such ideas at such an age.
“If you beat me, my mom will kill you” I see it as good awareness in the student’s part because back in my school days, we would just remain silent. The student must have said so because the teacher was about to beat him/her. mero chorro lai hath haaleko thaha paye bhane tyo teacher ko khairat huney chaina.
Bachha ta ho j ni bhancha nai ani petera tyo problem ko solution kaha aauncha ra?! Jhan bachha tarsincha….well I have been through that… was beaten up badly by a teacher in school when I was grade 5 just because I couldn’t solve a math sum. The teacher was well known for beating the students. I’d personally like to talk to this guy…. If you can plz number dinu na.
From what I read and with my basic psychology education I can tell this guy himself got his ass whooped back in the days. He needs a serious reality check with what age he is living in. Sir needs to understand that you have to win and earn the respect not thrash it out of someone.
All I can say is F**K! When I was growing up, I hated all the teachers who physically abused us. Those who physically abused the students were getting beaten by the students as well. The teachers who were respected by all students were assertive ones. Those who did not lose their cool but were very strong in their belief. Those who were able to make us feel guilty for not doing our homework with a smile on their faces. I have a list of these well respected teachers with me. This guy confuses fear with respect. Who would even publish an article like this?
Most good teachers don’t have to whine like that. I said most because some of the issues could affect even teachers who do their best. Some issues have to do with things that are beyond a teacher’s or even school’s control–especially if they become “hot” issues picked up by the media. In the US right now, people leaving their kids in the car have become a source of national scandal and (while I absolutely don’t leave my kids in the car alone for a minute) I think that some parents are “caught” for going back into the house to get their phone! In this sense, the teacher may be talking about things that frustrate him, such as school children essentially saying, “You’re my parents’ paid servant.”
I agree with you (Person E) but the problem is the teachers are still beating students. Even in Kathmandu Schools. The only schools where this does not happen are probably very rich top of the ladder schools. What he does not seem to understand is, corporal punishment is illegal. It is against the law. So, students have the rights to stand up against these teachers who think small children are their play toys. I have seen children who are 4 or 5 years old who are beaten up by teachers even in good private schools. We have in Nepal instances where students have committed suicide or even have had permanent physical damages because of this. But I agree with you that media can sometime really make a huge issue out of something really small.
Oh, yes, beating is a thing of the twentieth century– it should have been one of the 19th actually. In that regard, the writer is just awful. But I also thought that he was bringing in other issues… although, the more I think about it, the more it seems that he’s sharing all those complaints in order to somehow justify corporal punishment? ! That side is totally pathetic.
He also laments the fact that “today, the student is very well aware of the fact that s/he will not be meted out any forms of physical punishment”. I want to thank the editor for deciding to print this article. It just shows how teachers still have criminally low ethical and moral sense.
If I look at most schools today, nothing significant has changed since our school days and that really saddens me. I mean, the buildings have become bigger and more sophisticated labs and all but…. the idea is the same. The students don’t have to be respected. And it’s not just school. It has become our culture… someone who is smaller, less powerful or poorer than you somehow have less rights. There is not a lot of learning going on in schools. Its only when I hear ideas of teachers like Umes Shrestha and a few others, I become optimist. But otherwise, school still sounds like a 20 year life sentence.
When I was in school I got my ass whooped almost every day… It was unfair, but come to think about it again, gluing the duster to the board was totally worth it !
Wow so many comments that show true concerns by the stakeholders (some of us are parents, teachers and administrator of the same schools, who are blamed for the shameless act). But for the woes, we ourselves are responsible. If teachers/administration, children and guardians fulfill their responsibilities, the problem will sort out.
For instance, when a guardian does not make their children well-dressed and ready for the school, they are late and ultimately become victims from teachers. If the same teachers at school teach the students comprehensively and the parents make stationery and textbooks required for their kids, they will not fail to complete their assignments that prevent them from punishment.
Teachers who are unmotivated and poorly trained are more likely to resort to punitive and physically violent methods of control, but this is not always the case for all teachers. But, globally, the practice of corporal punishment in school is being rejected and promoted alternative non violent discipline method to facilitate children’s behaviour and learning activities.
When every year – more than 50% of the total students fail the SLC exam – can you feel ecstatic about your brother passing with a distinction, or your sister, son, daughter passing with ‘flying colors’? How can you be even happy when over 300,000 students couldn’t make it through the ‘iron gate’ this year as well?
Our education system has failed us.
Our examination system has failed us.
Our government, policy makers, educationists and teachers – they have failed us.
I am a teacher and I want to make an appeal to all the teachers, examiners and those who check answer papers.
Don’t fail any students.
Yes, educate them, teach them and also let them through this stupid SLC system. Don’t push them back into darkness because they couldn’t impress you through this illogical three-hour exam system.
Give the students a benefit of doubt, especially to those weak students who perform poorly in exams.
Let them through.
Let all of them through.
Dear teachers, examiners and those who check answer papers. Please empathize with the students and send them through this exam!
If you can prevent students from committing suicide and save their lives, why not do so? As teachers, we are supposed to save our students’ lives, aren’t we? Screw the marks, LIVES are at stakes here. So, just send them through.
They will figure it out when they go to the real world later.
Just let them through.
I always thought that I was a ‘good’ speaker when it comes to speaking in front of an audience. I am teacher and I am speaking all the time… in the class, with the students, everywhere. So I had to be good at speaking, right?
I remember how horrible my first speech was in our Speakers’ Club – KU. It was humiliatingly all over the places. No content. No focus. No interaction. Since then, I have promised myself that I will work on my public speaking and be a confident and interactive speaker and presenter (and yeah an effective teacher).
So yesterday was the fifth time I spoke in the club as a featured speaker and as usual, I was a little nervous about it. A couple of days ago, I wrote and finalized my four minutes speech on the title “The Book that Changed My Life”. I rehearsed it, on timer, for about six times in front of the mirror (Yes, mirror – I don’t know why). I was pretty sure that I would nail it the way I had written it.
I wrote my speech on the structure of Identity, Struggle, Discovery and Result framework (I learnt about this from Kevin Rodger’s video on youtube), and rewrote the speech a couple of times. I added my personal story, which made a point – following the advice of the amazing Craig Valentine (tell a story – make a point).
I have also been self-teaching myself the art of public speaking by watching a lot of TED Talk videos, by listening to whatthespeak podcast and by reading Dale Carnegie’s books on speaking – just to name of few. I have been focusing on improving my movement and non-verbal signals – purposeful movement, confident eye contact and complementary hand gestures.
Despite all these preparations and practice, I still felt nervousness boiling in my blood. During the delivery, I mispronounced a few words a couple of time and I forgot some of the key sentences that I had planned on speaking with emphasis. But what I have improved are pace and pause in my delivery, movement, eye contacts and other non-verbal signals. I have also understood the importance of ‘you’ focused questions, and improved this technique ‘look to one-speak to all’ as prescribed by Craig Valentine.
Lesson: practice, practice and practice. I need more ‘stage time’ (as coined by Darren Lacroix) and I need more practice. I guess being nervous is a positive thing because it keeps me on the guard and stops me from being over confident.
I am working hard on it. Everyday, every minute.
Oh, by the way, the book I talked about was John Wood’s Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. It’s a wonderful book.
I wanna share with you what this puncture-taalney guy taught me about Nepali way of customer care, and how we (entrepreneurs or business owners or service providers or even teachers) can learn from his huge mistake.
But first, here’s my bike!
So, I had a flat tire last evening. I was around Maharajgunj area for training. I got out of the venue only to see the rear tire laughing flat at me. If you have a motorbike, you can imagine how my face looked like at that moment. Complete hopelessness. Oh, did I tell you that it was raining and the road was completely messy. Anyway, I dragged my bike around searching for a workshop to fix the puncture. After 15 minutes, which lasted for a century, I found one on the side of ringroad.
Initially, I didn’t see anyone at the workshop but since the ‘air-tank’ was still rumbling, I knew there had to be someone. Then this guy appears, yawning, stretching his arms, looks at me and doesn’t even ask why I was there. He looked like Rajesh Hamal, only shorter, thinner and darker.
“Dai, puncture taalnu huncha?” I asked. He was not in a ‘response’ mode yet. He lit a cigarette and then replied with a snappy “Hmm.” Then he took out his tools and started unbolting the tire. He was completely relaxed. He had all the time in the world. But I didn’t. If you had been with me in that workshop, you would have seen an extreme desperation in my face. That could have been 20th puncture for him, it was the only one for me and it was getting late. You see, Maharajgun is in the north, I live near Lagankhel which in the south – if you know the geography of Kathmandu, you will get it. And on top of that, my urinary bladder was fighting to burst out. Murphy’s law all over.
I am not trying to judge that guy because later I felt glad that at least he had his workshop open. But still. May be he already had a tiring day. May be he was not feeling well. May be his wife had dumped him. I am not making any guesses. But, if I’m trying to pay for his service, he better get right at it. It’s not that just because I pay, I take granted for services people offer to me. I still say “dhanyabaad” even when I’m the one taking out the money.
So what was his huge mistake? He just lost a client. And may be, some goodwill.
I am never going back to his workshop again. I know it’s not in my area and chance of having a flat tire again near his workshop is very very slim. But still. I am never going there, nor will I recommend anyone to go there. Even though I also know for sure that my not going to his place won’t ruin his business.
But this is not only about that puncture-taalney guy alone. You have probably met similar people in restaurants, shops, stores, or offices. The waiter in a restaurant who looks at you as if you are interrupting him. The shopkeeper who speaks to you as if he has to pay to open his mouth. The receptionist who doesn’t even look toward you when you ask for information. The government officer who deliberately keeps delaying your work. The teller in the bank who keeps talking with a coworker even in the presence of a customer. And, the political leaders? I don’t want to even talk about them. This phenomenon or attitude is like our national characteristic installed in our genes.
So, what do I learn from this? I am a teacher aiming to be a great teacher trainer some day and besides ‘teaching’, I am also trying to build and maintain certain goodwill. In other words, I am building my brand. To be honest, I’ve acted like that puncture-taalney guy several times (I am certainly not beyond criticism) but now I will always keep this incident in my mind. Because every time I act like him, I actually destroy my dreams. And so do you.
If you agree with me or find this blog useful, just shoot me a comment! I would love to hear from you.