The Statesman

A Double-edged Bill

The Kerala Education Bill is a perplexing measure; it contains much that is desirable but also dangerous possibilities. Many school managements in all States thoroughly incompetent, apathetic and worse. Teachers in such schools, not only in Malabar, cited by Kerala’s Education Minister, Mr. Mundassery, would indeed welcome the schools being taken over by the government, for that normally spells security-of tenure and payment-and better conditions of service. It is also encouraging to see, as in Kerala, the Government assuming the responsibility of improving salaries and conditions in schools. Since the State alone can and must provide funds for the improvement of education, this is a welcome step.

What is dangerous is the prospect that a Government might interfere with the teaching and reorganization of schools on ideological grounds. Should that ever be the Government of Kerala’s intention, the Education Bill gives it ample power to regulate the course of instruction in aided schools of all categories (and even take them over), determine who will mange them and who will be appointed as teachers. In a democracy the ideal is that the administration of education should be a non-partisan, public affair done with the co-operation of the community with funds provided by the Government, that is to say public funds. In Educational policy, therefore, the public should have a say. Under the Bill the State Education Advisory Board on educational policy will be constituted (that is, presumably, nominated), by the Government, though the local educational authorities will be elective.

Mr.Mundassery’s explanations are reassuring; that the clause authorizing the Government to take over schools is only an enabling measure, that schools would be taken over only in places where the “climate is helpful” (the provision for taking over primary schools in one district almost certainly refers to Malabar), and rather sweeping clause denying Courts the right of granting injunctions refers only to the clause that the Government alone would have the competence of deciding whether there was mismanagement in a school or not (itself a double- edged provision). All this may be reasonable, but the fact remains that the powers on paper are very wide and could be utilized for a variety of purposes. This and the knowledge that much of the educational theory and practice in Communist countries is abhorrent to democratic ideals should persuade the Kerala Government to amend the bill, making it less sweeping and providing checks and balances, which would assure, for instance, denominational schools that they will not be unfairly treated.

(The Statesman— 11th July, 1957)