Public school teachers through their influential unions have long resisted efforts by their employer to measure how well they do their work through regular performance appraisals or contracting.
The consequence of this has been a poor work ethic in the staffrooms that has seen Kenyan taxpayers pick a huge wage bill for the country’s about 300,000 teachers without necessarily getting value for money.
Truancy among teachers and inadequate curriculum coverage continue to undermine the quality of education. A survey of teacher absenteeism in Kenyan primary schools last year, for instance, found that nearly half of teachers were not attending classes regularly.
However, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has reported improvements after it wore down the unions’ resistance and began implementing a performance evaluation system that, among other things, requires learners to fill the lesson attendance register last year. According to the TSC’s annual report, the appraisals have significantly reduced teacher absenteeism and improved curriculum coverage.
The key lesson here is that performance appraisals can help fix the productivity challenges in the public service just as it has done in the private sector. The government should consider extending it to the other public sectors where poor work ethic is equally denying Kenyans basic services.