While there has been encouraging progress over the last fifteen years in terms of increased school enrolment rates, there are continuing concerns about education in India, especially in terms of quality. Debates continue about the role and efficacy of reforms such as educational decentralisation, use of contract teachers (para-teachers), curriculum reform, the provision of mid-day meals and the use of ‘second-track’ approaches such as the Education Guarantee Scheme schools. However, the role of key actors, the teachers and their unions, has received scant attention in these discussions. Using the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) as an example, this paper assembles evidence to suggest that teachers and their unions are critical to understanding some of the failings of Indian public education. The paper argues that the lack of teacher accountability is rooted in teacher demands for a centralised management structure in education. The data sources for this study are government documents and statistics, including UP secretariat publications, academic publications, interviews with teacher union leaders and education officials, newspaper reports, the Report of the National Commission on Teachers, Central Advisory Board of Education, documents and the published debates of the Constituent Assembly.
Centre for Commonwealth Education, University of Cambridge, UK, WP09/02, 24 pp.