This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Dr. Rajat Thukral. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why CBSE’s Plan To Psychologically Test Staff Is Extremely Flawed

More from Dr. Rajat Thukral

India is notoriously known as a country where prudent law-making is often coupled (or rather contrasted) with poor enforcement strategies and capabilities. Against the backdrop of a slew of unfortunate incidents involving kids at some well-known Delhi schools (particularly the one involving the death of a 7-year-old boy in the school premises), the response from the concerned authorities, although swift, lacks reflection and does not come across as a move that has been well-thought about.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has released a circular setting various safety measures that schools ought to undertake to ensure the safety of children. One of the measures recommended in the circular calls for the psychological assessment of all staff, particularly the non-teaching staff such as bus drivers, conductors, peon and other support staff – to be performed in  a ‘careful and detailed manner’. A quick call to the CBSE to clarify which psychological assessments are considered valid enough to screen these school employees is met with a non-definitive, opaque response.

Meanwhile, as school administrators are tirelessly contacting psychologists all over the country seeking more information on the available options, there is no consensus even among psychologists about which tests are relevant for this situation. This is because the original CBSE circular has failed to provide any insight into or even allude to the problem that could be addressed or solved using psychological testing. Is the aim of testing merely to generate a personality and psychopathological profile of the school staff? Or is the objective to screen out ‘anti-social’ personality (if that is the only personality trait to be focused on) in order to make hiring (or firing) decisions? Or is it to predict the potential for violence among school employees?

A clinical psychologist usually needs to be aware of the purpose of testing before conducting an assessment, so that they can select the test(s) most relevant to addressing the defined problem. Additionally, the circular does not mention that the same set of psychological assessments should be administered at each school, across the nation.

Only a clinical psychologist who possesses an MPhil or a Doctorate in Psychology and is licensed by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI), can legally conduct conduct psychological assessments and reports in India. A task force of expert clinical psychologists and forensic psychologists needs to be established to provide insights on this critical endeavor that India’s education system is about to embark upon in a big way.

Unfortunately, till then, the school administrators who are clueless about appropriate testing procedures will possibly seek guidance from service providers (whether they are licensed psychologists or not) – without investigating their credentials and training required to administer and analyse such tests. The lack of clear guidance from CBSE and the absence of consensus among psychologists (till now) will probably push school administrators into making their decisions purely on financial considerations. This will (and probably already has) opened financial opportunities for non-licensed service providers who will take advantage of the lack of clarity. This can have adverse consequences.

Pradyuman’s death in the premises of the Ryan International School apparently influenced the CBSE to issue a circular calling for psychometric tests in all its schools. (Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

As for cost considerations, the CBSE’s recent mandates for various safety measures at schools have already put financial burden on school administrators. In addition, a detailed psychological assessment will be a time-consuming and expensive undertaking. An ideal psychological assessment must include a brief interview, along with a couple of standardised self-report and projective tests. Such psychological tests may cost the school administrators anywhere between ₹1,000 to ₹10,000 per person, depending on the number of assessments utilised. Can Indian schools really afford such an assessment for each staff member, and particularly, the non-teaching staff members – whose basic salary varies depending on skill level but is typically under ₹16,000 (approximately) per month?

It is most likely that the ambiguity emanating from the CBSE circular, along with the pressure to comply, will force schools to invariably choose the least-expensive self-report screening questionnaire, which may not be a detailed or valid test. A self-report screening test is limited when it comes to delivering reliable results – due to personal bias, mood at the time of testing, testing conditions, language, and the reading level of the test-taker. Therefore, a trained psychologist’s clinical judgement is necessary to observe the test subject and to interpret the results carefully.

To make matters worse, the ethical considerations regarding the appropriateness, interpretation, the final decision-making process and confidentiality issues of psychological testing are not even within the purview of the policy makers. The CBSE circular provides no guidelines regarding how the data will be collected, stored and used. Also, there is no guidance on who will own the data – the school, the staff, or the contractual manpower provider (as is the case in many schools)?

Most importantly, the circular has not considered or addressed issues such as data privacy and a host of other legal issues that should have been addressed prior to sanctioning psychological assessment requirements. Consider the following scenario – a clinical psychologist conducts a comprehensive assessment for a school staff member – and shortly thereafter, another unfortunate event occurs. In this situation, despite the school taking adequate preventative measures, will the school or the psychologist be held legally responsible for the outcome?

A psychological assessment can only provide a detailed information about personality traits, emotions, cognition, psychopathology, and behaviour patterns with a certain level of statistical confidence. But it cannot predict future behaviour. This puts the Indian psychologists in a ‘catch 22’ situation – they want to help the schools comply with the CBSE circular but are directionless as regards the specific aim of the assessment, the procedures to be used or the legal implications regarding psychological assessments.

A hasty and a non-premeditated policy is not an appropriate response to an unfortunate event. I hope we can engage in some meaningful public debate and discussion on this policy, as it is a crucial step forward towards ensuring the safety of our children. This needs to be seriously discussed and uniformly enforced.


Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Dr. Rajat Thukral

Similar Posts

By Nivedita Srivastava

By Harishchandra Sukhdeve

By India Development Review (IDR)

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below