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Kerala Education Bill

KERALA has the highest rate of literacy in India and this must be attributed to the large numbers of schools in the State. So keen is the population on education that running a school has become a very popular enterprise. It is not surprising therefore that among this large group of institutions, there are some that are not properly managed and in which teachers have much to complain of. The Communist Government of Kerala has sought to tackle this problem in their new Education Bill. It is proposed to pay the teachers directly from the Government Treasury and to make available to them the entire pension, provident fund, insurance and other benefits applicable to teachers in Government service. This practice is not unknown elsewhere and no serious objection can be taken to it, except that it is not really necessary in the case of well established schools which have a reputation for good management. Unfortunately, the other provisions of the Bill in regard to aided schools show that the Government regard all aided schools with the utmost suspicion and wish to use the teaching and equipment grant to impose a strait jacket on all such institutions. That is why the Congress party in Kerala has called the new measure “ill-conceived, ill-drafted, totalitarian in its approach and likely to open up venues for regimentation of educational activities in the State.”

The Bill requires all managers of schools to furnish complete inventories of their properties within three months under penalty of fine; it requires them to take sanction of the Government for every sale or mortgage of property and any refusal of permission is to go on appeal to the Government themselves. Further, the Bill says that in cases of emergency, where the Government are satisfied that such a course is necessary, the Government may take over aided schools after publication of a notification in the Gazette. This presumably refers to cases of mismanagement. But clause 17 says that for the purpose of standardizing education or improving the level of literacy, any category of aided schools may be taken over and that compensation will be paid on the basis of market value. This applies not merely to aided schools but to “recognized schools” which do not get aid from the Government. Even the right to appoint teachers has been whittled down by a clause in the Bill which prescribes that all teachers in aided schools shall be appointed only from the panel of names given to the manager by the prescribed authority. The Government is to maintain a State Register of qualified teachers. This may be a good practice but to force the management to appoint teachers only from a small panel of names takes away the last vestiges of the independence of the management. It is surprising too that Clause 8 which says that any Educational Agency may appoint any person to be the manager of an aided school subject to the approval of prescribed authority, is to apply to “recognized schools” which do not obtain Government grant. By applying a series of such clauses to recognized schools, the Bill destroys the independence of pioneering schools who depend on fee income and who should be left free to develop their own system of education. There is thus good reason for the public clamour that has been raised against the Bill. The teachers may benefit financially but the final result will be iron control of the Government over all schools in the State and politics will enter a field where it ought to be completely excluded.

(The Hindu-17th July, 1957)