Bridging the gap

A couple of weeks back, INLD leader Ajay Chautala along with 51 other people were convicted for illegal recruitment of teachers by CBI special court. The state High Court passed on the case to the centre and asked for CBI intervention as it saw involvement of many elite politicians and dignitaries in the same. Ajay and his group deployed more than 3,000 JBT teachers in various schools of Gurgaon by creating forged papers and through back-door entry. But then, this case comes as no surprise to me, but what is interesting to note is the way schools recruit teachers and above all, the amount of money these teachers are ready to pay to get into a reputed school.

As per Government Primary Teachers Federation, this back-door entry also halted the promotion of old teachers (whose promotion were due) as the entire fleet of staff are now under suspicion and scrutiny. The entire process had cost these individuals not less than Rs. 4 lakhs, in any case, which interestingly would be more than their average annual salary in all probability. But then, this is not only one of its kind scam. Almost two years ago, a number of politicians were charged for irregularities in teachers’ recruitment process in Meghalaya. In this case too, teachers were recruited for lower primary schools of the state. In an another case, teachers were found paying hefty amount (ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,00,000) for getting themselves transferred to the location of their choice.

On hindsight, this may seem a simple case of back-door entry but when seen from a wider perspective, the real issue would become quite vivid. These cases of irregular teachers’ appointment echo the very gap between demand and supply of teaching staff. In simple word, shortage of teachers at primary school level is massive. For instance, there are over 26,000 vacancies of school teachers at different levels in Haryana. Moreover, the Uttar Pradesh Basic Education Board has invited online applications for filling up of 72,825 posts for primary teacher in 75 districts of the state and West Bengal Board of Primary Education has issued notification for 34,559 assistant primary teacher vacancies recently but the positions remains to be vacant, still. So much so, the last date of application and examination dates for the same has been postponed many times. Such dearth of staff also has deteriorated the quality of education across the nation. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2012) for rural India, released a few days ago by PRATHAM, speaks volumes about the sorry state of primary education of our country. As per the report, in 2008, “only about 50 per cent of Standard 3 students could read a Standard 1 text, but by 2012, it declined to 30 per cent. About 50 percent of the Standard 3 kids cannot even correctly recognize digits up to 100, where as they are supposed to learn two digit subtraction.”

All said and done, teaching as a career, especially at primary level, still is more for job-security and parallel income through tuitions and coaching. Obviously, opaque recruitment process and lack of performance- evaluation system are the key reasons for such malaise. Not only, this hampers the delivery of course module but also create huge disparity between standard of education across various cities and states. In such circumstance, only an automated and centralised (and may be partially outsourced) system of teacher recruitment would be able to save the skin of already decaying public schooling system. In the current scenario, where scams are haunting the primary education system, neither Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) nor Right To Education (RTE) would bear the right fruit!