DTO Pankaj Kumar Sao (in blue shirt) watches CCTV camera footage at the principal's chamber of Delhi Public School, Dhanbad, on Wednesday, as part of the first day of a week-long comprehensive safety audit for 56 ICSE and CBSE schools in the coal town. Picture by Gautam Dey
New Delhi, Sept. 13: The CBSE today asked 19,500 affiliated schools to put all their employees through a psychometric evaluation against the backdrop of the murder of a child in a Gurgaon school allegedly by its bus conductor.
If the board presses ahead with the move, the scale and sweep of the test will be unprecedented: around 10 lakh employees, including teachers, spread over 26 countries will have to be evaluated.
Psychometric tests are used to measure an individual's mental capabilities and behavioural style. The tests are designed to measure a candidate's suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude. The evaluation is done by a professional psychologist.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which functions under the administrative control of the Union human resource development ministry, has issued a circular asking for a security and safety audit of the premises and personnel by police within two months.
"They must get the police verification and psychometric evaluation done for all the staff employed. Such verification and evaluation for non-teaching staff such as bus drivers, conductors, peon and other support staff may be done very carefully and in a detailed manner," said the circular issued by deputy secretary Jaiprakash Chaturvedi.
"It is reiterated that all schools affiliated with the CBSE are directed to strictly adhere to all the guidelines issued by the MHRD (the ministry) and the board from time to time. Any violation/lapses with regard to the safety and well-being of children on campus would invite appropriate action, including the disaffiliation of the school... ," the circular adds,
Schools affiliated to the CBSE are spread over 26 countries and they employ around 10 lakh people. Such schools in India include around 1,100 Kendriya Vidyalayas, 600 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, 2,700 schools run or aided by state governments and 14,900 private schools.
The principal of a Navodaya Vidyalaya in Meghalaya said police verification of all staff was already mandatory at the time of recruitment but the psychometric test was new.
"The psychometric test of the staff is a new measure. There may be a problem in getting trained professionals. The chief district medical officer is a member of the school management committee. We can take it up with him," the principal said.
Delhi-based clinical psychologist Ripan Sippy welcomed the CBSE's directive.
"It is a good thing. But it is a huge task and a time-taking process. Evaluation of one person should take half an hour to one hour," he said.
The process may take six months to one year, Sippy said.
"Psychometric evaluation involves use of cards and expressions followed by a few questions to understand a person's cognitive ability and personality trait. If the expert feels that the person is faking the answer, the person may be subjected to a detailed evaluation," Sippy said.
He said schools located in remote areas, such as the Navodaya Vidyalayas, and small towns may find it difficult to get trained psychologists.
Some stakeholders frowned at the initiative. "I do not subscribe to psychometric evaluation. We have to take preventive steps. While recruiting non-teaching staff, we have to look at their antecedents and the antecedents of the agency through which the person has come," said Jyoti Bose, Principal of Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan in Delhi.
She said regular sensitisation of students and staff on behavioural aspects, engaging female teachers in primary classes, recruiting male teachers with scrutiny and adequate security arrangements in the school should help prevent untoward incidents.
The principal of another Delhi-based school said that teachers who have served for some years in the school should not be expected to go through the psychometric tests.
"We interact with the teachers for several years. We know them well. To make them go through such tests is a bit too much," she said.
The board circular asked the schools to install CCTV cameras at all vulnerable areas on the school premises and ensure they are functional round the clock. The schools have to ensure that the supporting staff are employed only from authorised agencies and records are maintained.
Each school will have to constitute a parent-teacher-students committee to address the safety needs and to take regular feedback from parents.
The access to school building by outsiders should be controlled, visitors monitored and staff should be provided training and development to address their responsibilities to protect children from any form of abuse, the circular said.
Schools shall constitute separate panels like the internal complaints committee on sexual harassment. Details of these committees, along with contact details, should be displayed prominently on school notice board and on the school website, the circular said.