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Curate’s Egg

For a legislative measure that evoked a very strong popular agitation against it in Kerala and widespread criticism in other States in Kerala Education Bill, as modified by the select committee, was passed by the State Assembly on Monday without a division and with surprising smoothness. The Bill even in its final form retains the much-criticised provision for the State Government’s taking over the management of aided schools in case of mismanagement, but it enables the management to apply for restoration to it of the school within three months of the take-over subject to the Government’s satisfaction. The Government thus are invested with direct powers of controlling education, and the fears expressed by critics of the provision that its aim is to eliminate private agencies which have very creditably raised by their efforts the standard of literacy in Kerala to ninety percent are not allayed by the proviso that non-aided recognized schools and schools for minorities and Anglo-Indians are exempted from the purview of the Bill. The object of the Bill which, as professed, is to provide for compulsory education of al children between the ages of 6 and 14 in ten years, has been questioned. The five Congress members on the select committee have alleged that the Bill really aims at making education a monopoly of the State. If this means that the present Government of Kerala want to eliminate private effort in the spread of education in the State, it would not only be an act of ingratitude to a noble cause nobly pursued through years but an utterly senseless effort, for more than two-thirds of the educational institutions, and in particular primary schools, are still privately run with small Government aid. If such is the objective, it will defeat itself by its very unrealism.

Of particular importance are the clauses relating to the appointment and dismissal of teachers. It is provided that no teacher of an aided institution shall be dismissed, reduced in rank or suspended by a manager without the Government’s previous sanction. This, it has been pointed out, creates problems of discipline by limiting the discretion of the managements. The provision is not unique; similar protection to teachers obtains in Delhi, where serious problems of discipline have not been reported not withstanding the limitation of manager’s authority. It is also provided that for the appointment of teachers in aided schools a list will be made out by the Public Service Commission, from which alone vacancies will be filled at the management’s discretion. Whatever the reactions of managers to these provisions may be, there is no doubt that teachers in general have appreciated them.

The biggest drawback of the measure, however, is the wide power assumed by the Government for taking over aided schools “for standardizing general education in the State or improving the level of literacy in any area” on the strength of a resolution to be passed by the State Assembly in this regard. A legislature is not well-suited to set up educational standards or pass judgments on the merits of schools. These tasks belong to specialists in education who unfortunately seem to have been by passed without ceremony. It is this inconsiderate introduction of the political element into what should for all bona fide reasons have been non-political or above politics that makes the Bill a curious amalgam of what looks like fox and goose; in other words, a curate’s egg, only good in parts.

(The Hindustan Standard-5th September, 1957)