The Main Objects of the Bill
The Education Bill already introduced in the Kerala Legislature and referred to the Select Committee is intended mainly to be a safeguard against the disabilities enumerated above. The following are the main objects:-
(1) To give the departmental rules and practices legal sanction so that the Department is in a position to enforce its orders and see that reasonable protection is afforded to teachers.
(2) To regulate the choice, appointment, conditions of service, etc, of teachers in private schools without curtailing the supervisory powers of Managers.
(3) To secure authority for Government to proceed effectively against grossly mismanaged schools.
(4) To take over any category of schools of any area if Government are convinced of the desirability of such action in the interests of education.
(5) To set up a high-level Advisory Board to guide Government in the matter of framing educational policies and to constitute, at district level, Local Educational Authorities comprising elected representatives of local educational interests to assist the Department for the better conduct of educational affairs.
The major issue on which opposition from the managements has converged is the appointment of teachers. The Christian Managements, especially Catholic Managements, claim absolute freedom in the matter of choosing and appointing teachers in their schools even though the entire salary and allowances of the teachers (even the pension as provided for in the Bill) are fully paid by Government over and above a sum towards maintenance expenses. They want the schools (established and maintained by them under conditions prescribed by the Department) to be manned by their own teachers whose services they want to utilise in order to teach religion, too, without additional payment. Even the feeblest restraint on the choice of teachers is resented by them. The weightage of Christian agencies is something repugnant to other Communities in the State, who feel that it is unfair that the Education Budget under Salaries and Allowances is exclusively set apart for a particular Community.
What the Government proposes as a remedy for the evils in the matter of appointment is this. At the beginning of every year the Public Service Commission will be asked to prepare a State List of candidates to be recruited as teachers, taking into account the probable off-take of teachers in the private sector and in the public sector. The managers will be free to choose and appoint whomsoever they like from the State List. Those who are left over will be found jobs in the Government schools. This arrangement, Government hope, would give enough freedom to private agencies in the choice and appointment of teachers while securing communal equity and minimising the scope for illegal gratification. In future complete parity will be maintained with regard to emoluments and conditions of service of teachers in the private sector and the public sector. Government feel that the fear on the part of Christian managements that the panel system proposed in the Bill would serve as a “back-door” for Communists to get in would be allayed by this arrangement. The teachers in general and the people at large have expressed their support of this proposal.
In taking over schools Government would see that religious interests are in no way offended or thwarted. Properties of schools attached to places of worship or coupled with religious interests will be exempted from the operation of the provisions of the proposed Bill.
The criticism form certain quarters that the implementation of Clause (17) of the Bill, even in a District, would ultimately lead to nationalisation of schools is unwarranted particularly in face of the assurance that Government have not declared nationalisation as a policy. Something exactly similar to this has already been attempted by the Andhra Government. The Andhra Educational Institutions Bill (1956) has provided for the following:-
(1) To empower the Government to take over the management of the aided schools themselves on a permanent basis;
(2) To take over the buildings, equipment and furniture after paying reasonable compensation for the purpose; and
(3) To provide for the principles and the manner in which compensation has to be paid.
The criticism that the present Kerala Government have embarked on something unusual or unheard of is therefore baseless. It is not the intention of the Andhra Government to take over all aided schools in the State. To begin with, the Andhra Government have taken over the schools of one District i.e., Nellore, where, presumably conditions are more propitious than elsewhere for such taking over. This is exactly what the Kerala Government proposes to do.
Another criticism of the Bill is levelled against the creation of Local Educational Authorities. It is unfortunate that such criticism has corpped up in this State, which is much more interested than any other State in India in democratizing administration. The association of the people with the machinery of Government is the first step in the democratization of administration. There are two stages in the association of the people with official action. One stage is when official action is taken with the full knowledge, though not necessarily the concurrence of the people. The second stage is when the official is dependent for his action on the prior concurrence of the people. Government feels that the political consciousness of the people has not matured enough to take up the second stage of democratization. But our people are competent enough to go into the first stage.
It is with this realization that the Government have proposed to create Educational Authorities at District level. The Local Educational Authorities as envisaged in the Education Bill will be composed of representatives of managements, graduate and non-graduate teachers, Local self-government bodies and one or two nominees of Government distinguished in the field of education. The fear that the Local Educational Authorities would be Communist agencies is completely unwarranted. The local Educational Authorities will have little to do with the day-to-day administration of the Department and conduct of schools. The main object of the Authorities would be as follows:
(1) to help the Department to assess the educational needs of the locality every year;
(2) to vitalize the popular agencies attached to schools for the conduct of the mid-day meal scheme.
(3) to organize conferences, exhibitions etc., in order to bring the local people in better contact with the educational affairs of the area.
This venture to associate people’s representatives with the Education Department is not anything unusual. In U.S.A., Great Britain and Ceylon, there are Local Educational Authorities to work along with the Departmental Officers. The functions assigned to Local Educational Authorities in those countries are many and varied. This Government does not propose to go so far. The Bill contemplates only the first step towards democratization of administration in the sphere of education.
Government proposes to extend the system of direct payment now obtained in the Malabar area to the Travancore-Cochin area also. This mode of payment is objected to by a section of the managers. They hold the view that if the manager does not have the power to countersign and present the salary bill, his supervisory control over the teachers will become ineffective. This is a wrong contention. In Government Departments officers at the top are able to enforce discipline on the staff without being paymasters.
The Conduct Rules laid down by the Government provide a weapon sufficiently effective in the bands of superior officers to control the conduct of the staff. On managers, too, Government proposes to invest certain rights and enough authority to enable them to have effective supervisory control over teachers, to the ultimate benefit of both the teachers and the taught.