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Why ‘Non-Teaching’ Work should be Clearly Defined in the New Education Policy

Anupriya Singh

1 July 2019

In my previous blog I discussed the burden of non-teaching tasks that teachers routinely engage in and findings from a self-reported time use study and perception survey we conducted with government teachers in Delhi (link to the report here). The study involved 200 teachers from two of the largest education departments in Delhi i.e. the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and Directorate of Education (DoE).

Here I will address how the new National Education Policy draft addresses the question of non-teaching tasks and what changes it proposes in this regard.                                                             

Election and survey duties remain

The draft NEP retains teachers’ role in election and survey duties. Election duty, particularly BLO (Booth Level Officer) duty, has been a longstanding sore point for teachers because it involves going to door-to-door updating the electoral roll. In our perception survey, female teachers in particular often raised issues of personal safety, having to travel to far-off localities and working well into the night for election duties. While some states have banned the involvement of teachers in BLO work outright, others continue to engage teachers in the same. Recently, NITI Aayog recommended stopping the deployment of teachers as BLOs, however the Election Commission stated this was ‘unwarranted’.1

The involvement of teachers in official surveys has been a contentious issue for similar reasons. In Delhi, we found that MCD school teachers in particular were more occupied with surveys, reportedly spending 14 days on average on the same. Teachers were mostly involved in conducting the Child Census, as well as an unofficial door-to-door survey around admissions season to increase enrolment in their school’s locality. At times, teachers also reported being pulled into surveys that were removed from the sphere of education entirely, such as a survey of functional streetlights in the locality.

The MDM burden doubled

While the NEP clearly specifies teachers are not to be involved in cooking mid-day meals (MDM), it fails to account for the time teachers spend on managing MDM every day. Time use data from Delhi, showed that MDM routinely exceeded the allotted 20 minutes, with teachers spending upwards of half an hour on average on the task. This was due to the time taken to queue up the class, assist children in washing their hands, taste and distribute food, wash their tiffins and help clean up afterwards. Furthermore, teachers are then required to record and upload MDM data online. The time required for this daily activity remains underestimated and could potentially be doubled with the introduction of breakfast in schools, as proposed in the draft NEP.

School complexes – a boon or bane?

The draft proposes the creation of school complexes, which will include one secondary school along with other schools offering lower classes within the same neighbourhood. Among other things, the school complex will be an organisational unit allowing for the sharing of resources across schools in the complex. However, the responsibility for managing the complex, and handling its administrative, financial and academic affairs has been handed to the principal of the secondary school, who will also be the head of the complex. The effects of the burden placed on one school, will inevitably trickle down to its teachers who could potentially be pulled into additional school complex management related charges, for instance maintaining records of resources and staff shared across the complex. Our study found that teachers who were given heavy ‘additional charges’ generally ended up delegating the work among other teachers, therefore affecting multiple teachers’ teaching time and leading to a collective feeling of being overwhelmed with administrative work.

The responsibility of recordkeeping and data management

Findings from our perception survey showed that 93% of teachers felt paperwork took up a lot of time. This was due to data duplication, records being maintained in both hardcopy and softcopy, as well as lack of or poor quality of clerical and IT staff. Overall recordkeeping reportedly occupied 9% and 11% of time in MCD and DoE schools respectively.

The NEP draft proposes support staff to handle general administration and “any non-teaching tasks”. While this is a welcome move, particularly in schools where there is presently no administrative staff, it should be noted that having support staff alone may not suffice. Our teacher time use study in Delhi, found that despite having clerical and IT staff for instance, teachers in DoE schools remained heavily involved in recordkeeping and data management. Clerks in DoE schools often willfully stayed away from maintaining and managing school records and data, instead limiting themselves to handling salary records. It is crucial therefore, to clearly define non-teaching tasks to include work such as recordkeeping and data management, and simultaneously expand the role of clerical staff to incorporate the same.

Arriving at a definition of “non-teaching” work

Findings from our perception survey, highlighted confusion among teachers regarding the exact range of their roles and responsibilities. This was particularly the case for work that was neither directly teaching-learning related nor entirely clerical and far removed from their core job as teachers, but fell somewhere between the two extremes. This included for example, teachers’ involvement in MDM, health check-ups and responding to official mails and circulars.

A reason for this confusion is the RTE Act itself. While Section 27 of the RTE states that teachers are prohibited from being deployed for “non-educational purposes other than the decennial population census, disaster relief and election duties”, Section 24 lists the duties of a teacher and vaguely states that teachers must “perform such other duties as may be prescribed.” Meanwhile, the NEP draft only uses the term “non-teaching work”, and vaguely defines this as “any time-consuming administrative assignments”. This leaves enough wiggle room and does not help in moving towards a clearer definition of the work teachers should and should not be doing.

In order to make its proposal of removing teachers from all non-teaching work actionable, the NEP should first consider clearly defining what the terms ‘non-teaching’ and ‘non-educational’ work entail. Additionally, in its proposed comprehensive review of the RTE Act, the drafting committee should consider including this definition and addressing the issue of RTE exempt duties like election and survey work, so as to further emphasise its commitment to freeing teachers from non-academic tasks and allowing them to focus squarely on their core role of enabling teaching-learning.

Also read our second piece on NEP: Going Beyond Foundational Learning 



  1. Kalra, A. (2019, May 8). In Elections, Teachers are like Malko from ‘Newton’, Supportive and Unsung. The Wire. Retrieved from https://thewire.in/