One of the oft-quoted phrases from the National Policy on Education (1986-92)—‘no people can rise above the level of its teachers’—loses relevance when political bosses fail to appreciate its meaning and message and confine their vision only to the next election. The assurances given by AAP to regularise all irregularities, including ad hoc/para-teachers in Delhi, is an example of inadequate comprehension of elements that constitute quality education. Sadly, such examples pour in from most of the states. The UP government has decided to regularise 1.73 lakh ad hoc/para-teachers. It requires some serious thinking, beyond felicitations and appreciations. No one would grudge regularisation of jobs for those being exploited by the state on a token honorarium for years under conditions of severe job insecurity. But can it be done at the cost of compromise with the suitability and professional readiness of the person being appointed as a ‘teacher’?
The Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) conducted a few years ago in UP resulted in over 90 per cent failure and generated a huge scam. The Basic Shiksha Parishad of the state is still struggling with the processing of applications received in response to an advertisement issued in November 2011 for recruitment of 72,825 posts of teachers in government elementary schools. For the secondary stage, state government advertised for 5,000 positions of TGT/PGT and received around six lakh applications. One wonders how, following the archaic selection procedures, the designated agencies would be able to complete the recruitment process. The issue of para/ad hoc teachers is a serious one. It is well known that more than seven lakh para-teachers are working in schools that are supposed to follow RTE norms. Almost an equal number of sanctioned positions of regular teachers are vacant too. These conditions prevail even in central schools and Navodaya Vidyalayas. While ad hoc/para-teachers have every right to seek regularisation, relaxation in eligibility criteria would be unfair to children. They were appointed following ad hoc procedures of recruitment, details of which are in public domain. The practice of appointing ad hoc teachers right from schools to universities is often misused by vested interests in furtherance of their objectives. State governments have generously allowed colleges to appoint ad hoc teachers, retain them for years and then get them regularised on ‘humanitarian considerations’ that means relaxation of the prescribed qualifications. The same would be the case in UP regularisation as fulfillment of AAP promise in Delhi. Everyone would be happy!
Across the board, quality of education remains a casualty. The Pratham Annual School Education Report (ASER) presents the consequences of poor infrastructural and professional support in government schools. UNESCO’s 11th Education for All: Global Monitoring Report confirms ASER findings when it says that even after completing four years in school, 90 per cent children from rural India remain illiterate. Only 70 per cent of poor kids make it to Class V while all from better-off families are able to do so. Should it not come as a jolt to those who swear by weaker sections and are never tired of proclaiming their devotion to the uplift of the poor and minorities? Teacher absenteeism in Bihar is at 38 per cent and in Jharkhand at 42 per cent. All such findings and reports are ignored as routine inputs. The response must emerge in terms of some basic changes. Ensure good quality pre-service teacher education, transparent recruitment systems and provision for regular in-service training. Practices like proxy teachers are to be eliminated. Only good quality education could give dignity to the weak and deprived. It requires political will. Only societal pressure may succeed in keeping politicians away from playing politics in education. firstname.lastname@example.org