In times of everyone talking about knowledge economics, is it not amazing that not many seem to care to analyse the practices and procedures of teacher preparation and recruitment in schools and universities of India? For the last few years, the results of learner attainment surveys conducted by national-level voluntary bodies and also by international agencies have confirmed the general perception about the continuous decline in learner attainments all around. Now, as a bureaucratic solution towards quality improvement, a Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) was introduced in 2011 as a mandatory requirement to become a school teacher. Kapil Sibal was steamrolling his personal perceptions on the education system and found such a test essential for the qualitative implementation of the RTE Act. It is being conducted by the state governments and also by the CBSE. It is worthwhile to recall the history of National Eligibility Test (NET) that was introduced to ensure recruitment of high quality professionals in universities and institutions of higher education. It had to be diluted as many states complained that there were hardly any successful candidates from the state. Promptly, state-level versions were devised and approved. Further, a couple of times, it was also stipulated that those who complete their doctorate by a certain deadline would be exempted from these tests. This resulted in a spurt in the submission of PhD dissertations, sacrificing the quality in most cases. It is impossible to count how many times the guidelines have changed on this count: whether eligibility test or a doctorate degree or both.
In spite of all this, nearly 50 per cent of the teachers in higher education are contractual, temporary or working on lecture basis and receive miserable emoluments. We also know that there is no evidence of any quality improvement because of these eligibility tests. But the wise and learned have extended the provisions of eligibility tests to school education also. This January, the CBSE conducted TET, open to trained teachers from all over the country. The magnitude of test organisation could baffle many: 8.26 lakh registered, 7.50 lakh appeared. And then, the most remarkable outcome: only 13,428 passed the test. And we are told that this 98 per cent failure rate is ‘slight improvement’ over the 99 per cent of the previous year. The CBSE had revisited the difficulty level of the questions and even extended time duration in the examination hall. It has made it mandatory for affiliated schools to recruit teachers who have successfully passed either its own TET or the one conducted at state level. One could only sympathise with managements of these schools.
Another aspect that impacts the quality of school education is the politicisation of teacher recruitment practices and processes. The Supreme Court has ordered the UP government to fill in 72,825 posts of teachers from among the candidates who had applied in response to an advertisement issued on November 30, 2011. The new state government changed the recruitment rules on August 31, 2012. As expected, these were struck down by the Supreme Court. At present, the state government is obliged to conduct another TET for around 65 lakh applicants. It certainly is an uphill task for a government system known for lethargy, complacency and corruption. What good is RTE if schools are nonfunctional, running without teachers and state governments need the highest court of the country to tell them to expedite teacher recruitment? In states like UP and Bihar, education in government schools and colleges is at its lowest level. This cannot be an acceptable approach to create a knowledge economy that would enhance the cognitive capital of India. The future empires, as they say and we all know, shall be the empires of knowledge. One wonders why our policymakers have not heard about it. firstname.lastname@example.org