Education Minister’s elucidation of bill


The Kerala Education Minister, Shri Joseph Mundasserry, today (July 11th, 1957) re-affirmed that the Education Bill proposed to be introduced in the ensuing session of the State Legislative Assembly (opening on the 13th July) was not a nationalisation measure as was being wrongly interpreted in certain sections of the Press and on public platforms. The Bill was, simply and purely, a piece of protective legislation intended to secure and safeguard the interests of teachers employed in schools under private management in Kerala. The Minister, who was addressing a Press Conference at Trivandrum, this morning (July 11) re-affirmed that it was not the policy of Government, so far as the present Bill was concerned, to nationalise education. Nor was it the Government’s intention to eliminate private agencies form the educational field. On the other hand,

Government acknowledged with gratitude the services of all agencies, which have been working in the field for the last so many years and which intend to work in the future also with a spirit of service. At a time when Government had not come forward to take up social service activities direct, this role had been fulfilled by charitable and such other institutions. Governmental activity in such fields was restricted to the extension of help in a small measure, to such organisations and institutions. But today, the Minister added, the outlook had changed and it was the duty of the Government in a Welfare State to take over social service activities under their direct responsibility. Government hoped that the Bill would be source of encouragement to all sections whose object was selfless service in the field of education.

The fact had so far been overlooked (the Minister said) that it was the teachers who had rendered more onerous and valuable service in the field of education than either Government or private agencies and they had done so by tightening up their belts. It was the policy of Government duly to acknowledge the services of all parties and encourage them accordingly. Government proposed to safeguard the interests of teachers according to the services they had been rendering. The Bill, the Minister pointed out, provided for the necessary grant for equipments and maintenance being given to the managements. The provision regarding payment of salary direct by Government was intended to effect a change in the “master and servant” relationship between the managements and the teachers and to enable them to work on an equality basis in the educational field. This, according to the Minister, was the most important aspect in the Bill.

According to the existing practice, the Minister said the teacher had to function like a worker depending entirely on the goodwill of the managers as he had no legal claim over the grants given by Government. The demand for giving the teachers legal protection and enabling them to receive their pay direct from Government had been there for a long time. In Cochin it was considered during Sir Shanmughom Chetty’s time. In Travancore the disbursement of pay to teachers by cheque was tried sometime back. The practice of direct payment to teachers existed in Malabar. The present Bill was intended to enable State-wide extension of that practice and to give the teachers statutory recognition as a servant of the State. In short, the Minister said, the Bill was intended to facilitate straight dealing in educational management and organisation.

With the substantial rise in the pay scales of teachers there was the likelihood of a rush for appointments, giving room for unhealthy tendencies such as “auctioning” of posts. Innumerable complaints in this regard had already been received, the Minister added. Complaints about irregularities in appointments and denial of claims of acting hands constituted the bulk of work in the Divisional Offices of the Education Department. The main reason for this state of affairs was the absence of statutory authority for the Education Code and Departmental practices. The Minister regretted that political leaders, who, in the past, had voiced the demand for putting a stop to the state of affairs, had turned round when they have been removed from power, to attack Government on this issue.

It was a remedy for these irregularities that provision had been made in the Bill for the maintenance of a State Register of teachers for appointment in private schools. Since it was proposed to extent the benefit of pension to private school teachers Government should necessarily have sufficient control over their appointment and security of service.
According to the accounts for 1955-56 no less than Rs. 3.8 crores had been spent towards payment to about 42,000 teachers in the Travancore–Cochin area and Rs. 2.5 crores for 25,000 teachers in the Malabar area. Government were firmly of the opinion, the Minister said, that in a matter involving such huge expenditure from the Consolidated Fund, Government should have necessary power of control.

Referring to the provision regarding taking over of schools in cases of mismanagement, the Minister said that this provision could be found in the Madras Act also, and this had only been extended to the State. It would not be possible for Government in the absence of this provision to take effective steps against managements which tried to create a deadlock in the educational field.
The State Government, the Minister stressed, had not accepted nationalisation of schools as a general policy. But in areas where the managements were prepared to surrender ownership of schools with a view to enabling Government fully to discharge their responsibility relating to primary education as directed by the Constitution, Government proposed to take over schools. Government wished to make it unequivocally clear that the provision regarding the taking over of schools was intended only to enable Government to discharge that responsibility. And this responsibility Government would not shirk.

Referring to the constitution of Local Education Authorities, the Minister said that it was proposed to give more powers and responsibilities to the Divisional Educational Officers and that the co-operation of the popular body, it was expected, would help the efficient functioning of these offices. It was surprising to note, the Minister added, that those who had in the past envisaged the constitution of bodies like the Local Education Authority in Britain are now seeing danger in similar bodies formed here. The Minister appealed for the full co-operation of all patriots in the measure intended for bettering the lot of the teachers who played so vital a role in the sphere of education.

(Press release issued on 11th July 1957)