Starting this week, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) announced it would begin to appraise almost 300,000 teachers in public schools; a move that will help the employer assign, train, promote and deploy teachers to various administrative positions.
This exercise is likely to be rocked by controversy as the teachers’ trade unions; Kenya National Teachers Union (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), have already been outraged by the move and have asked their members not to sign the performance contracts.
On the other hand, the Teachers Service Commission is doggedly determined to see that all the tutors in public schools are placed under contract.
Indeed, the signing of performance contracts by teachers is long over due. Otherwise one just wonders how they have been operating without parameters to gauge their output.
In the corporate world and other public sectors, the concept of performance management has been in vogue. Managers and workers are aware of the need for regular appraisals as a tool to manage performance.
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Every year, the Ministry of Education tops in budgetary allocations. Much of this monetary allocation goes to paying teachers salaries. The pay for tutors gobbles up more than a third of the public wage bill. So is it not in order for them to justify their pay?
In the recent past, teachers have taken a lot of flak over growing absenteeism, lack of professionalism and in some cases poor grasp of content. All these have been attributed to poor performance in public schools.
However, with the performance appraisals, the employer, TSC, can easily identify areas that a teacher may be assisted to perform better and produce the desired results, before things get out of hand.
As such, the on going debate on performance contracts should move away from whether teachers should sign performance contracts or not.
Instead, the concern should narrow down to looking for ways of ensuring that the process is fair and objective. In addition, safeguards should be put in place to guarantee that those carrying out the appraisal exercise do not use the tools vindictively against those that are being appraised.
Hitherto, one of the greatest worries by teachers is that the process is likely to see them lose jobs if they fail to reach certain set targets. Thus, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), should come out and assuage these fears by clarifying that by signing these contracts, it is the beginning of a process that will systematically see them earn promotion in a fair and quantifiable manner.
Further, the Teachers Service Commission must tell teachers that the purpose of performance contracting is to improve their working and not a thinly veiled attempt to have them fired from their jobs.
It is the use of normal management tools to measure performance with the aim of helping them overcome work related challenges and eventually renew their dedication to the job.
In the best management practices, termination based on failure to reach the targets is rarely the best practice. In the long run it can be expensive considering that it could kill morale and increase hiring costs as those fired must be replaced. In some instances, attendant legal claims can arise.
Looking at some of the tools the Teachers Service Commission will use to gauge performance, tutors need not worry as they are basically the same things a professional teacher is expected to have.
They will be awarded marks on the basis of whether they have personal time tables, syllabi, updated lesson plans, lesson notes, approved schemes of work and mark books.The employer will also be interested to know whether teachers mark students’ work, mark registers, keep record of co-curricular activities and manage learners’ discipline.
However, it is important to clarify that performance contract cannot be signed in an environment where there is suspicion. It should be based on an open and inclusive model where the employer does not appear to lord over workers; rather, it should be seen as a way to help employees work better.
When performance appraisal is done objectively, it can guide the employer on promotion and pay decisions, including merit increases besides providing essential feedback to the employee regarding how the organization viewed the employee’s performance.
In addition, TSC will be able to evaluate the relative contributions made by individuals and schools in achieving higher level organisation goals.
This will help in ascertaining and diagnosing training and development decisions, budgeting, and human resources planning. To achieve this, TSC must make the process as inclusive as possible.