Regimentation of Education
The Education Bill sponsored by the Communist Government of Kerala, has some interesting features. One of them is the provision that teachers in aided schools will be paid directly from the Government Treasury and that they will be entitled to all pension, provident fund, insurance and other benefits available to teachers in Government service. For the ill-paid and irregularly paid teachers this would, of course, be a very welcome measure. The managements of schools will have no complaint, for they will be relieved of a very heavy burden. In Kerala the number of schools is quite large because the percentage of literacy is the highest in India. If the Government of that small and comparatively poor State can assume direct responsibility for payment of teacher’s salaries, there is no reason why the same experiment should not be made in other States. In West Bengal irregular payment of salaries of teachers is one of the features of school management. As the resources of our schools are extremely poor, and as the grant-in –aid sanctioned by the Board of Secondary Education is actually made available to the school authorities a few months after the close of the financial year concerned, payment of teachers from month to month depends on the collection of student’s fees. The proposed new system in Kerala, if introduced in West Bengal, would not increase the financial burden of the State Government (for it has been paying for the last few years the entire deficit of every aided school); on the contrary, it would bring much-needed relief to our teachers and give them greater opportunities of rendering better service to cause of education.
Unfortunately the Kerala Education Bill would appear to be sugar-coated pill; it has several objectionable features which raise fundamental issues about educational administration. The Congress Party, which is in opposition in Kerala, has called the proposed measure “ill conceived, ill-drafted, totalitarian in its approach and likely to open up avenues for regimentation of educational activities in the State”. This seems a serious indictment, but it is not easy to dismiss it as baseless or frivolous. The control which the Kerala Government seeks to impose on all aided schools in inconsistent with academic freedom and unfavorable to healthy development in the educational sphere. The Bill provides, for example, that all managers of schools must furnish complete inventories of their properties within three months under penalty of fine; that they must take sanction of the Government for every sale or mortgage of property; that all teachers in aided schools shall be appointed only from the panel of names given to the managers by the” prescribed authority”, etc. Moreover, the Bill vests in the State Government authority to take over aided schools, not only in cases of emergency, but also for the purpose of standardizing education or raising the percentage of literacy. Some of these drastic provisions are applicable also to “:recognized” or unaided schools, which owe their development to private initiative alone.
Some of these provisions, if translated into action, will create serious administrative difficulties For example, were pretty sure that appointment of teachers will be delayed if managers have no free choice in the matter. If the State Government’s purpose is merely to secure efficiency, it can be well served by laying down minimum qualifications for teachers. The panel system may help the State Government by placing patronage at its disposal, but it can hardly inspire much public confidence. Apart from such criticism of details, the fundamental objection against the Bill is that it seeks to impose a sort of dull and rigid uniformity over the entire system of secondary education. Education flourishes best where it is left free to develop along diverse tracks. Some amount of State control may be necessary, even desirable; but the grant-in –aid memo should not be given the status and authority of Czarist ukase.
Although the Bill has provoked much opposition in different quarters the Kerala Government does not appear to be disposed to attach any importance to criticism and suggestions. It is really in a fighting mood; it has warned the people “against being away by attempts to exploit their emotion, religious or cultural”. Emotions however, do you play a large part in religious and cultural affairs, and wise politicians, even though they may command a Parliamentary majority, do not ignore them in a spirit of contempt or in anger. A circular reported to have been issued by some ecclesiastical dignitaries (says a Government press release) has proclaimed the necessity of “saving our country and its culture from the influence of the Communistic regime”. It is dangerous indeed to drag religion into education; but having regard to the peculiar role of religious organisations in the educational system of Kerala the State Government should carefully refrain from wounding their sentiments and exciting their suspicions. Reforms, however excellent in conception, can hardly succeed without adequate public co-operation; they will fail inevitably if they emanate from a temporary political majority. Let not the new law-makers of Kerala forget it in the first flush of their enthusiasm.
(The Amrita Bazaar Patrika__22nd August, 1957).