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Key Performance Trends indicated by the CENTA Teaching Professional’s Olympiad TPO 2015

Centre for Teacher Accreditation (CENTA) aims to empower teachers and catalyze teacher professional development through a high quality certification that can connect outstanding teachers to great opportunities and help create a career path for the profession. The first step towards the CENTA Certification is held as an annual national competition for teachers, the CENTA Teaching Professional’s Olympiad or TPO. The first edition of TPO was held in December 2015.

The computer-based objective CENTA was designed for all teachers and teacher aspirants at school level (full-time school teachers, supplemental teachers, teacher educators, principals and others) and was offered in nine subject-grade combinations: Primary, Middle School English, Middle School Maths, Middle School Science, High School English, High School Maths, Biology, Physics and Chemistry. It covered aspects related to a teacher’s Technical, Core and Professional competencies, as defined by the CENTA Standards.

Composition of the Test

The Test had three sections:

  • Subject Knowledge (25% in TPO 2015): This section CENTAs knowledge, conceptual clarity as well as ability to apply the concepts, for selected topics from the subject. It also focuses on Pedagogical Content Knowledge of the candidates.
  • Classroom practices & professional competencies (50%): A common section across tracks, this includes practical questions on multiple topics related to learning theories, pedagogy, lesson planning, student assessments and insights from them, along with professional competencies like teamwork and leadership.
  • Logical ability & Communication (25%): Again a common section, this includes topics related to logical ability (e.g. deriving inferences, identifying patterns, etc.) and communication (e.g. language clarity and structure, sensitivity, etc.).
TPO-2015 was primarily supported by The Hindu and HCL, with Varkey Foundation and Kaizen being additional supporters, and witnessed overwhelming response across the country. While the CENTA was conducted only in 7 cities – Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai – it saw candidates participating from close to 300 cities from almost all the states of India.  

More than 5000 candidates registered for TPO-2015.  

90% of the participants were full time school teachers while other major participant groups included tuition teachers and professional fellows active in education section. There was a good mix of candidates across segments like CENTA tracks, board of education, experience level, and fee level of schools.   Given the response, TPO 2016 is being held in 22 cities across India, on December 3rd, with 11 subject track options including one in Hindi medium, plus two ‘challenger’ track options.


This document aims to highlight the learnings related to key performance trends based on detailed analysis of candidates’ performance in TPO 2015. While the observations are based on only a year’s data and will be refined over the years, we hope that these learnings will serve as a starting-point for developing and implementing data-backed teacher professional development initiatives. The document is structured around six key learnings.

1. Among the three main sections, Subject Knowledge has witnessed the largest performance gap.

Overall performance in TPO 2015 has been fair, with the median score being close to 50%. However, across the three main sections, performance in section 1, i.e. Subject Knowledge, has witnessed most significant performance gap: 64% of the candidates have got a score of less than 50% in Subject Knowledge.

% of candidates scoring less than 50% marks in respective sections

Further analysis indicates that performance in High school subjects has been best followed by Primary and then Middle School: 52% participants scored more than 50% marks in the Subject Knowledge section of the High School tracks, while the same numbers for Primary and Middle School were 43% and 37% respectively.

Among English, Maths and Science, performance in Middle and High School English has been relatively better, while performance in Maths has been quite poor in both High School and Middle School tracks. Performance in Middle School Science also has been quite poor.

We have also conducted deep dives in individual subjects, leading to some more interesting insights. For example:

In the Primary CENTA track, which CENTAed basic English, Maths and Science in Subject Knowledge, even though the performance in English was not strong, it was relatively better than the other two subjects, with 23% of the Primary track participants showing English as ‘strength area’ as compared to 11% and 5% for Maths and Science respectively.

% of candidates scoring more than 50% marks in respective sections

In the English CENTA tracks, for both Middle School and High School, the best performance was witnessed in Reading Comprehension, followed by Writing Skills and Language Structure & Grammar. High School participants performed better than those from Middle School, in both Writing Skills and Language Structure & Grammar. However, the same was not the case for Reading Comprehension; it is possible that Literary Analysis, which was included in High School, may have been a contributing factor.

% of candidates with the focused aspect as a ‘strength area

In the Middle Maths CENTA track, conceptual understanding was observed as a significant gap (only 12% of participants showed it as ‘strength area’). In the High School Maths CENTA track, there was a mix with 23% candidates showing a gap in both knowledge and conceptual understanding, and another 22% candidates showing a strength in knowledge but a gap in conceptual understanding.

In the Middle Science CENTA track, performance has been better in Physics and Chemistry as compared to Biology: 14-15% participants showed Subject Knowledge as a ‘strength area’ in Physics and Chemistry as compared to only 6% in Biology.

CENTA comment:   Teacher training in India, both pre-service and in-service, typically see ‘subject knowledge’ as an incoming capability and do not cover it in the course. Our learnings suggest that both pre-service and in-service training may need some emphasis on subject knowledge. It also supports the country’s gradual move towards integrated B.Ed. programmes; i.e. integrated with the subject.

2. For ‘Classroom Practices & Professional Competencies’, performance indicates that understanding of core concepts is strong while their application needs improvement.

Overall performance indicates ‘pedagogical methods’ as a topic of strength, while ‘common learning theories’, ‘learning objectives’ and ‘lesson planning’ have emerged as topics with significant improvement potential. Learning objectives and lesson planning in particular are examples of gaps in application – since these are the tools through which pedagogical methods get translated to practice.

‘Assessment methods’ and ability to ‘deriving insight from assessment’ have emerged as relative strength areas, though between the two, the gap in ‘deriving insight from assessment’ (a more application-oriented topic) is greater.

% of candidates with the focused aspect as a ‘strength area

Further, analysis across CENTA tracks indicates that the average performance of this section, which was common across all CENTA tracks, is similar.  However, the minimum marks scored by Science teachers (whether Middle School or High School) has been much better than the others. We do not have a specific explanation for this difference, from TPO 2015 data.

Minimum marks in the ‘Classroom Practices & Professional Competencies’ section

CENTA comment:   With several teacher training initiatives focusing on topics such as pedagogical methods and assessment methods, knowledge and understanding of these aspects seems to be good on an average. However, many of these initiatives do not focus sufficiently on ‘on-the-field or in-classroom coaching’ – considered to be critical for skill-building – and the same is probably being reflected in the gaps in application.


3. Overall performance in Communication has been fair, though it has emerged as a relative gap for candidates in other CENTA tracks, compared to Middle and High School English.

For Communication, we CENTAed skills related to clarity and sensitivity in communication. With 66% participants scoring more than 50%, overall performance in the section has been fair.  However, participants from different CENTA tracks have shown varied performance – English teachers have performed much better than the others in this section; High School Maths and Middle School Maths participants have done the worst.

% of candidates scoring more than 50% marks in the Communication section

CENTA comment:   While overall performance in communication has been fairly good, we believe that interventions related to improving communication are important as part of teacher development efforts. Further, in case there are any prevailing mindsets that communication is less important for teachers specializing in certain subjects like Maths or Science, those may need to be addressed as well.   

4. There is no significant correlation among the scores of different sections of the CENTA.

For this analysis, five sub-sections were used: (1) Subject knowledge; (2a) Classroom practices; (2b) Professional competencies; (3a) Logical ability; (3b) Communication.

No significant correlation was observed among the scores of individuals, across sections. The highest correlation coefficient (R-square) was only 0.4.

Correlation Coefficient among different sub-sections

CENTA comment:   This finding suggests that each of these competencies is somewhat independent. Therefore, modular teacher professional development programs can potentially be leveraged to address each aspect independently. Such byte-sized teacher training efforts could also make on-going professional development easier for a working teacher. Further, this finding provides preliminary support for some of the international discussions on micro-credentials; i.e. providing teachers with ‘badges’ or ‘micro-certificates’ for meeting specific competencies.  

5. Senior teachers have shown the best performance, followed by new teachers, with mid-experience teachers having shown the worst performance, in most sections.

Based on experience level, teachers have been classified into three broad categories: L1 (New teachers with 0-3 years of experience), L2 (experienced teachers with 3-10 years of experience) and L3 (senior teachers with more than 10 years of experience).

The maximum, minimum and average scores are not very different across age groups. However, in terms of percentage of participants who got more than 50% marks, there are significant differences. The data indicates that on an overall basis, experienced teachers have performed better than the others (with a few aspects being exceptions where L1 has shown  better average performance). L2 has generally shown the worst performance.  

In Subject Knowledge, L3 teachers have performed better than L1 and L2 – it is possible that teaching the subject for a longer duration has led to deeper understanding of the subject. However there are also specific exceptions to this, which may indicate that while some aspects develop with time and experience, some may be more fundamental and some may need specific interventions. For example,

In Middle School English, L3 teachers have performed much better than L1 and L2 teachers in Reading Comprehension; however, there is not much difference in Writing and Grammar/ Language skills.

Conceptual understanding related to Middle School Maths has been much better for L1 participants, as compared to L2 and L3. However, for High School Maths, L3 participants have shown much better conceptual understanding than L1 and L2 (who have shown good performance in knowledge and procedural aspects but gaps in conceptual understanding).

% of candidates from Middle English with the aspect as a ‘strength area

In Classroom Practices again, L3 teachers have performed the best, followed by L1 and then L2. It is possible that the L3 participants are benefitting from experience in developing and fine-tuning the methods that work in the class, while the L1 participants are benefitting from recent and hence more updated knowledge.

In Professional Competencies, L3 and L2 have both done better than L1, who may not have yet sufficiently experienced the situations that help in developing such competencies.

In Logical Ability, L1 has performed better, with L3 and L2 showing similar performance.

% of candidates scoring more than 50% marks in respective sections

CENTA comment:   While we do not have a fact-based explanation for this overall finding (i.e. L3 showing the best average performance, followed by L1, and then L2), our best guess is that the senior teachers are probably benefitting from their experience and the new teachers are probably benefitting from a combination of enthusiasm and recently gained knowledge. Though it is unclear why there is a performance drop in the mid-experience range, it does suggest that there may be a need to specifically invest in teachers after the first few years of their career when the risk of losing passion for the profession or losing the habit of professional development is highest.  

6. While participants from higher fee schools have generally shown better performance, the difference is mostly not big, and participants from lower fee schools have also shown better performance in some aspects.

Taking specific topics, participants from high-fee schools have done comparatively better in ‘learning objectives’, ‘lesson planning’, ‘pedagogical methods’ and ‘assessment methods’, though the first two out of these are weak areas overall, as mentioned earlier. Interestingly, while ‘common learning theories’ is a weak area across school types, participants from low-fee schools have performed relatively better than participants from high-fee levels schools in this topic.

While there is no significant difference in performance in the logical ability section, communication has emerged as a significantly weak area among participants from low-fee level schools.

% of candidates from the given school fee level, with the particular aspect as a ‘strength area

CENTA comment:   Though lower fee schools may face challenges with respect to infrastructure and ability to attract talent through better compensation, this finding shows that it is highly possible for lower fee schools also to have teachers with strong competencies.   Our sense is also that the interventions being made recently by many organizations to improve learning levels in low-fee schools are probably starting to show some impact, as reflected in these teachers’ fairly good performance in aspect such as common learning theories, pedagogical methods and assessment methods.   Communication seems to be an area needing specific intervention in lower fee schools.  

As mentioned in the beginning, these are preliminary observations, based on one year of data. Some of them seem to be in line with expectations while others are counter-intuitive. Nonetheless, such learnings from TPO 2015 provide a glimpse of the potential power of data-backed insights in designing high quality professional development programs for different segments of teachers in the Indian education landscape, therefore significantly impacting the quality of student learning.

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