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The government has decided to introduce biometrics-based attendance system for teachers serving in more than 7,700 high and middle schools in the state. Some welcome this move saying it will address the issue of absentee teachers in schools in remote corners such as hilly areas. “It’s possible that biometrics can help to see if teachers are coming on time to schools but the bigger problem is whether they do their duty inside classrooms,”says educationist S S Rajagopalan. Many teachers, however, wonder if the government should invest money in a scheme that addresses only a small part of what ails our public school system.

Rajagopalan continued: “In schools, headmasters and headmistresses are very important. They have a great role to play in administering the school. In the past, they became symbols of the institutions they served through their individual ability, dedication and sincerity. Today, they have become carriers of instructions given by the government. The system of inspections that was in place in the past should be brought back to evaluate how students are faring.

“This will only give another stick to authorities to beat teachers with. The teacher recruitment process is the key since at that stage only sincere and honest teachers should be appointed,” says educationist Prince Gajendra Babu.

Mahalakshmi, a teacher in Javvadu hills of Tiruvannamalai, welcomes  biometrics. “In many of these hilly areas, teachers don’t attend schools that serve tribal children. Biometrics will ensure their attendance but we also need processes to ensure they actually go and teach these children,” she says, adding that otherwise some teachers may find loopholes to beat the new mandate too.

“There are some teachers who report for work but don’t do their job diligently. Due to a lack of sufficient teachers, the serving ones take the slack and are put under tremendous burden, affecting their performance. It is important that each elementary class has one teacher and each subject for subsequent classes has dedicated teachers,” says teachers’ association leader Uma Maheswari.

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