Sadia Shaukat and
Punjab School Education Department introduced the new feature of digitization of Teachers’ school transfer policy as a result of rationalisation to overcome the corruption, and facilitate our teachers to apply through e-portal. Before launching the internet based digital application portals, data on all public schools teachers’ background information were uploaded on Human Resource Management information system (HRMIS). Transfers applications were previously managed through manual procedures and often involved ‘safarish’ and several visits to the SED offices.
Punjab School Education Department paid attention to corruption and eliminated this factor through digitization of the system, however, they did not think about the consequences of teacher transfer either through rationalisation or promotion-based relocate from one school to another school. Considering the SED advertisement of recently introduced feature of E-transfer policy we contacted the SED for helping us to understand the E-transfer procedures based upon public school teachers’ request. Unfortunately, we being as researchers, not matter how secure we are in handling data, remained unsuccessful to convince the authorities of SED for sharing this public data. We could not even get access to anonymised or even aggregated data for analysing the patterns of teacher’s mobility. We launched the E-survey addressing the extent and patterns of teacher school transfer/mobility of public and private school teachers.
Does teacher transfer
policy equalise educational
Research indicated that teachers in government schools change more schools compared with teachers in private schools. This is despite the implementation of merit-based transfer policy introduced in the last few years. Teacher retention in public schools is a challenge because many teachers faced difficulties of teaching in conditions where there was no support and resources available. SED department enforce extra duties on teachers which are not relevant with teaching such as Dengue control activities in school has caused teachers to spend their teaching time in implementation and collecting evidence to submit for inspection. These tasks are administrative and need additional staff resources and training rather than to be imposed on teachers. Teachers want to teach students and spend their time in preparing teaching activities. Cleaning school corridors and toilets need hiring staff who are paid for cleaning and management of such activities. The school working environment are least attractive in hard to reach rural areas from where most teachers want transfer from. Many teachers feel professionally isolated and demotivated to work in schools where there are no support facilities, lack of professional development opportunities, and poor administration.
Punjab School Education imposed decision of teacher rationalisation to relocate teachers considering that this will overcome teacher shortage in rural schools. Teachers reported serious concerns that they were not happy to move from their school to another school and believed such policies just cause anxiety, dissatisfaction with teaching career, and feeling of instability and commitment with profession. Rather than pondering over the consequences of transfer policies, Punjab SED could have done some research before its implementation. The role of school conditions is crucial for teacher retention. If schools are not fully resourced and teachers do not have accessible means to deliver teaching then most likely teachers would want to move from those schools. Some teachers are deployed in areas where travelling to school is the main challenge. No one would want a job where reaching in time is a struggle every day and in case of women if it is an unsafe journey. These reasons impact their potential at work and teaching performance. As a result of imposed transfer due to rationalisation criteria if teachers don’t get the desired environment to work with high satisfaction and later also decide to quit the job particularly female teachers to leave teaching profession that they aspired in the beginning of their career.
Rural schools are under teaching crisis in terms of shortage of staff and resources, Punjab school education department have ever thought about the negative consequences of this encouraging feature of E-transfer? Teachers who recruited in the far distance areas at the time of appointment would be more inclined to apply for transfer to move from these schools and that would sustain deficit of workforce in rural schools. What is the encouraging aspect of the digitised transfer policy that is aligned with hidden agenda of rationalisation?
Punjab School Education Department is sketching the line between public and private school system to ignore the data entry of private school teachers into HRMIS system. Private schools are contributing substantially to cater the needs of the students parallel to public schools. How Punjab SED can proudly announce the recent reforms into school education by ignoring the private schools? Private school have somewhat retained teachers for longer by providing them support so that teachers do not spend teaching time in controlling Dengue and cleaning schools. Many private schools are now offering long- term contracts considering that good teachers should stay for long time in a school. School conditions where teachers get administrative support, fair treatment, resources to teach, salaries given on time are the main factors to retain teachers and get the best out of their teaching potential. Instead of learning lessons from some private schools in retaining teachers Punjab SED is taking the reverse gear. By taking private and madrassah teachers’ background information into HRMIS system Punjab School Education Department can school functioning uniform at all levels.
Digitization is a way forwards to control corruption but it is not the only solution to overcome teacher shortage and teacher mobility. Punjab SED has introduced policies without providing additional support which makes teacher dissatisfied and unstable in their jobs. Their commitment to schools and students is at stake of transfer orders. Teachers will continue transferring schools and mostly from underprivileged rural areas to developed urban areas. No merit-based transfer system can make a school environment good enough where teachers would want to work. Sufficient resources, additional support, high quality administration, fair treatment and respect for teachers’ role and time make school environment attractive job places.
SED should also open their minds and heart to share the digital data with researchers and academics for independent research purposes. So far the recent reforms of e-transfer and superficial school improvement campaigns are not evidence based. Teachers are protesting against many such initiatives. Fixing the education quality is possible if SED accepts the value of independent research and willing to accept that high quality evidence can make a huge difference.
Sadia Shaukat (PhD) Associate Professor at University of Education. Nadia Siddiqui (PhD) Associate Professor at Durham University, UK.