By Aarti Mangal
The Draft of National Education Policy 2019 has invited mixed responses. Several of its recommendations are applauded and several others criticized. However, nothing much is commented pertaining to teachers and teacher education which also means that the academic circle is perhaps satisfied with this particular section. Whether to call it an irony or a coincidence that at a time when the draft of National Education Policy was released the teachers in several states in the country were on protest. Both contractual teachers and regular teachers all over the country were protesting on different issues. The contractual teachers are the worst hit usually.
In Assam, thousands of TET qualified contractual teachers held protests in the month of June 2019 demanding that their services be regularized. According to the teachers, the government in Assam before coming to power had assured them regularization which now they are not paying any heed to. Similarly, in May 2019, contractual teachers in Srinagar were on protest demanding continuation of their services. These teachers are highly qualified and have been working for several years in government schools. Further, lakhs of contractual teachers in Patna had threatened to go on protest on 18 July 2019 demanding equal pay for equal work. Although the service and pay conditions of the contractual teachers are always worse than the regular teachers, it does not mean that the service and pay condition of regular teachers are good everywhere. We have seen it in June this year when the government primary school teachers in West Bengal called for indefinite hunger strike. These teachers were protesting for a revision in their pay scale. It was reported that their salaries have not been increased for last eight years and they were on grade pay of Rs. 2,600 instead of Rs. 4,200 as is being followed in other states of the country. To demand motivation and enthusiasm from teachers who are paid so meager even to sustain a decent living standard is not only unfair but cruel. Apart from salary, there are so many things that teachers in India are dissatisfied with and constantly feel helpless about.
While praising the teacher for the development of children, the NEP is silent on the plight and the action plan on the contractual teachers in the country. It only says that the system of para teacher must be stopped by 2022. It is silent on what is to be done with a large number of contractual teachers who have been recruited under the schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and are presently facing the wrath of unequal and lowly treatment by the states in comparison to the regular teachers. Clearly, the contractual teachers become the victims of ill-planned policy and schemes of the government. In order to save cost of education, different states massively recruited contract teachers whose condition of services and pay remained the same even after a decade. They have been recruited and now fired at the convenience of government and now the silence of Draft National Education Policy on the matter again shows apathy towards their existence and plight.
Another gap within the draft policy pertaining to the teachers is that while it desires to stop the practice of para teachers in the country, it also talks about recruiting special instructors, remedial teaching instructors, local heroes, peer tutors, etc. The policy does not dwell on the status and salary of these instructors. Would they be considered as teachers or at par with the teachers? If yes, then what is the guarantee that it will not create a parallel structure again on the lines of the schemes of past giving birth to the system of para teachers? The policy needs to be elaborate on this so that past practices are not repeated and the present problems are resolved.
Many of the measures suggested for the improvement of the status and condition of teachers have been a repetition from the past which never got implemented effectively. We have to wait to see whether the same gets implemented this time with rigor or it would once again only become a part of the rhetoric.
Aarti Mangal is presently pursuing Ph.D. in Education at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has an interest in writing and in the past, few of her articles got published in Jansatta newspaper as well as The Hindu. She also writes poetry. Social emergent issues interest her. She has also written academic papers on the discourse of para teachers and on the history of teacher education in India.
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