Grade seven in the Qureshi Government Boys Secondary School in Karachi is bustling with activity. The science class is in session and the chemistry teacher is talking about atoms and molecules. The students listen eagerly as the sea breeze permeates the room.
In the adjacent staff room, Sultan Dogar has just arrived. He is the Field Monitoring Assistant from the Sindh government and comes every two months to monitor teacher presence and school infrastructure. He uses a fingerprint-based biometric and photo system supported by Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates.
More than 26,200 schools and 210,000 education staff spread across the province are being monitored. The transparent and effective system aims to address such problems as “absconder teachers” –teachers who are employed yet absent for a lengthy period– , missing basic facilities and infrastructure, closed schools and lack of reliable and timely information on school status and teacher presence.
To date, disciplinary action has been initiated against 40,000 absent teachers and 6,000 absconders.
As Dogar records the data, it is transmitted in real time to a centralized dashboard. The Education and Literacy Department has access to this information and uses it to plan and make informed decisions.
The system has been set up under the Sindh Global Partnership for Education project, which supports the government’s reform efforts over a three-year period.
" The Sindh School Monitoring System brings together technology and a robust accountability mechanism to address long-standing governance issues in education " Fazlullah Pechuho Former Secretary Education and Literacy Department, Sindh
The government has been at the forefront of this effort and sees immense value in it. ‘‘The Sindh School Monitoring System brings together technology and a robust accountability mechanism to address long-standing governance issues in education,” says Fazlullah Pechuho, Former Secretary Education and Literacy Department, Sindh.
“It is a scalable solution to address teacher absenteeism, missing facilities and student attendance and enrollment. By receiving data directly from the field, we are able to undertake key administrative and policy actions in a timely manner. We consider this an important step towards improving education outcomes in Sindh.”
Teachers also recognize the benefits. Mohammed Shakeel Siddiqui, Section In-charge, Qureshi Primary School, says: ‘‘The system addresses the issue of ghost teachers in school, very often reported in the media. Through thumb impressions, teacher presence is verified. You cannot go wrong. That is really good.’’
Teachers consider it a just and fair system.
‘‘The system acknowledges teachers like us who come regularly and identifies those who don’t. That is only fair,’’ says Shaheen Afrooz who teaches Urdu in a primary school.
As is often the case with reforms, the initiative has faced several implementation challenges.
Nasr Abbasi, Chief Monitoring Officer identifies some: “Our field monitors go to far-flung areas, even up to 50 kilometers per trip; at times, security is an issue. Teachers who were habitually absent resent the system and feel insecure every time a Field Monitor comes. Nonetheless, student enrollment has increased substantially and fake enrollments are declining as we operationalize the system across Sindh.”
Despite these challenges, the benefits of regular teacher attendance continue to emerge. “I am learning very well and the school environment is good,” says Farhana Khan, from grade 10 of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Khairpur, Sindh. “Teachers are regular and teach us well.”
This story was originally published on the World Bank's website