NOTES ON THE NEWS – Kerala Education Bill.
The Kerala Education Bill, of which only a news agency summary has been available, is an important piece of legislation. It will be welcomed by teachers, especially of aided primary schools, whose lot have been pathetic and have met only with in effective public sympathy, all over the country.
The amelioration of the teacher’s condition is the central object of the bill. The bill has been published after the proposals put forward during the budget session of the State legislature had been under public discussion for several weeks. All sections that have an interest in the educational set-up of the State have had occasion to express their views.
The proposed educational reforms have been the most controversial of the measures so far initiated by the Kerala Government. Much of the criticism, however, seems to be based on misapprehensions. The charge against the Government of seeking to introduce education with a slant does not seem to be warranted.
The bill apparently does not seek to change the teaching methods or curricula. With the teacher as the central theme, the bill provides for security of tenure, old age benefits and fair conditions of service. In appointment of teachers, private managements have had much scope for distributing patronage. The middlemen’s commission which the managements appropriated from the salary bill of teachers has also been the subject of great agitation by aided school teachers. The salaries are already being paid direct by the Government to the teachers under an executive order. The bill seeks to legalise this procedure.
The most controversial clause in the bill is about the authority for appointment of teachers. Teachers will be appointed from a panel of candidates approved by the prescribed authority. There is bound to be opposition to this clause. In the erstwhile Travancore-Cochin part of Kerala, fifty percent of the primary schools are aided schools and a majority of them are run by missionaries. In missionary schools, preference for appointment is given to those who have taken to religious order. Nuns, for instance, constitute a large percentage of the teachers in girl’s schools run by Catholic missions. Some special provisions will have to be made for these categories of teachers who enter the profession in a missionary spirit. It will be for the local education advisory committees proposed to be appointed under the bill to consider special cases like this. To presume that the committees will consist of nominated members (and so of Communists, near Communists or fellow travellers) is to ignore the realities of local conditions and to insult the intelligence of the people of this educationally advanced State.
Apart from giving a fair deal to the teacher, the bill aims at integration of education in the different parts of the State. In the Travancore-Cochin part there are only two types of schools those run by the Government direct and those run by private agencies aided by public funds. There are no schools run by local bodies in this part of the State. In the Malabar part on the other hand, there are several schools run by district boards, apart from those run by private managements. The salary scales and working conditions differ widely in the various types of schools. The bill seeks to make them uniform.
The Education minister has clarified the Government’s stand on taking over schools. The budgetary provision of five lakhs of rupees for taking over the primary schools in one district will have to be justified by the unavoidable need for the Government to assume direct responsibility for running the schools. Good education alone should be the criterion. The State cannot give away a good chunk of its revenue for nationalizing educational institutions just for the sake of nationalization, if the schools are run satisfactorily. No Government, not even a Communist Government, would impose additional burdens on itself without justification. It is the duty of any Government to see that when public funds are given as aid the money is not being wasted. The provisions about compensation will require dispassionate consideration.
(The National Herald-12th July, 1957).