Para-teachers, sometimes called 'contract teachers', are being hired in increasing numbers in many Indian states. While hiring conditions, tenure, remuneration, and qualifications vary considerably across states, the use of para-teachers has generated debate about their impact on the quality of elementary education. Based on a critical literature review of available studies and new evidence from the SchoolTELLS survey conducted by the authors and their collaborators, this paper summarises the proof regarding the functioning and impact of para-teachers in elementary schools in India. None of the studies reviewed evaluates the causal impact of para-teachers, but they do suggest that despite poorer training, para-teachers may be more cost-effective than regular teachers. The questions of career progression and equity for teachers, nonetheless, also need to be addressed.
Economic and Political Weekly (2010) 45 (12) 59-67