CHENNAI: Teachers cannot be prohibited from forming unions to protect their interests, the School Education department submitted in its counter-affidavit filed in the Madras High Court on Thursday.
The counter was filed in response to a batch of writ petitions from several private educational institutions challenging the orders of the State rejecting their plea for starting English medium sections.
Originally, when the petitions came up on June 27 last, Justice N Kirubakaran had raised 20 queries with regard to the functioning of schools in the State.
Answering a question, the department said extending the rationale behind prohibition of unions in police and military organisations might not be tenable vis-a-vis the teachers. The military and police force are essentially based on a strong chain of command to ensure execution of an offensive or a defensive armed action, wherein orders are to be implicitly obeyed.
The two forces are the extended arms of the government to enforce order, whereas organised teaching personnel are a part of a civil society under employment comparable to other professions and vocations. The safeguards and representations available to other organised work force cannot be denied to teachers as that would amount to discrimination, the counter said.
As regards the query relating to teachers admitting their own wards in private schools and a mandatory order directing them to admit only in government schools, the counter said a teacher is also parent in all respects and has the right to exercise his or her freewill in terms of choice of school for his/her wards. The choice of school is determined by every parent on the perception of quality, infrastructure, accessibility, affordability and evaluation of faculty. This opportunity cannot be denied to teachers. Otherwise, it would also amount to discrimination, the counter said.
Replying to another question as to why parents chose private schools, even in rural areas, the department admitted that it was a true phenomenon. The reason was multi-fold. However, the counter claimed that the enrolment of students in government schools was higher than private schools. It was 64.16 per cent as against 35.84 per cent in private schools. This statistics amply sheds light on the fact that only government schools play a predominant role in providing education to students. Moreover, the department focussed on continuous improvement of the quality of education in every facet.
It has plans to introduce smart classes in 3,000 panchayat union primary and upper primary schools during 2017-18. The government will also introduce hi-tech labs in 3,090 high schools and 2,939 higher secondary schools at a cost of Rs 437.78 crore. This two-pronged approach is sure to bring about a change in the perception in the minds of parents in favour of public educational institutions as their first choice in the near future, it hoped.