Two months after it conducted a baseline test to check whether children studying in Std I to IV at the 310 civic-run schools, officials of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) Education Board are considering appointment of principals based on merit rather than seniority.
The decision was reached after less than 60 per cent students, of the 40,000 tested for their basic reading and mathematical skills, cleared the baseline test. What left the officials stunned was that at some of the schools the failure rate of students was as high as 70 per cent. The test was conducted between July and August.
Officials then interviewed principals of all the 310 schools and made it clear that henceforth the performance of their respective schools would play a major role in securing their position at the helm. Principals were also told that for the first time their Confidential Report (CR) would be linked with the performance of their respective schools.
“Most of the schools recorded performance in the range of 50 per cent to 60 per cent after taking the test. In a few schools the passing percentage was as low as 30 per cent, which is alarming. Hence we are contemplating a policy change while appointing principals,” former chairperson of the education board Pradeep Dhumal said.
He added that the civic body was planning a similar baseline test in December, which he said would be the last chance for principals whose schools have been performing poorly. “Rather than appointing principals just on the basis of seniority, we are planning to introduce performance criteria to appoint at least 40 per cent principals in the near future,” Dhumal said.
PMC Education Board head Shivaji Daundkar said the board officials observed that many a time a teacher nearing his retirement is appointed as the principal. “Chances are high that he or she may not be capable of shouldering the responsibility. Here the proposed policy will play a major role in improving overall performance of civic schools,” he said.
Daundakar’s deputy, Shubhangi Chavan, said that while interviewing principals they had a detailed report of their respective schools, inclusive of infrastructural and academic performances. “This made the process completely transparent, and we are giving schools adequate time to improve their performance,” she said.
Weary of the approach taken by the civic body to improve the performance of civic schools, several principals pinned the blame on external factors for the poor show by their respective institutions. “In my school, the ratio of students who can properly read Marathi or English textbook despite being in Std IX is somewhere between 30 per cent and 50 per cent.
And when it comes to solving mathematical equations, the percentage drops further. We can’t take extra classes for such students due to insufficient infrastructure. Also, students aren’t afraid of failing because they know that as per the Right To Education (RTE) Act they can anyhow reach to Std IX,” said Neeta Ghate, principal of Yashwantrao Chavan School in Bibwewadi.
Another principal said if the Education Board wanted the principals to pull up their socks, then it should first ensure that none of the teachers are appointed for non-academic work, including Census and election duties.
“Another factor responsible for a student’s performance is poor academic environment at home. It is quite challenging to deal with such children and focus on a particular child in a class of 40 to 50 students,” the principal said.
Number of wards in the city
Number of schools selected for the baseline test
Number of students who gave the test