With the new government promising to finally implement the right to education, the demand for school teachers is set to rise dramatically. About 22 lakh new teachers will be needed in the next 2-3 years. Where will all the new teachers come from?
Teachers are trained in specialized colleges regulated by a low profile statutory body — the National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE). It is engaged in a mad scramble to screen a flood of applications to set up new colleges, while monitoring the existing ones. A look at its decision-making wheels, as they churn out new colleges, reveals a picture of controlled chaos.
At one meeting each of the four regional committees of NCTE in the past two months, they processed a jaw-dropping 673 applications for recognition of new colleges. Of these, 414 were given the green light to proceed further in the multi-stage process of getting permission while 252 were shown the red flag. Each regional committee meets once a month on average.
It may appear that they are doing their job, but a closer look reveals a different picture. Of the 486 new applications processed by the North, West and East regional committees, 309 had problems relating to land, faculty and various other deficiencies. Of these, 158 got the go-ahead while 151 got rejected. More than a quarter (139) had land problems: the land on which the new college was to be situated was either not in the management's possession or they did not have required documents. The regional committees cleared 96 of these cases but 43 were thrown out.
In 34 cases, the proposed faculty was found to be ill-qualified. The committees threw out 7 of them but gave the green light to 27 others. In 136 cases, it was found that there were various deficiencies in the infrastructure and facilities of the proposed college. Of these, 101 were rejected, but 35 were cleared.
What happens when a new college is given the go-ahead despite not fulfilling the norms laid down? Take the case of Seth Moti Lal Teacher Education College of Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan. Its application came up for consideration at the meeting of the Northern Regional Committee. They found a host of deficiencies: the college land was not in its name, teachers were not qualified, the principal was also the principal of a school, library and labs were not as per norms and so on.
But the applicant was given 21 days to clarify. Perhaps, fairness demands this. But look at what happens with such notices.
The Jharkhand Teachers Training College, located in Jhumri Telaiya near Koderma in Jharkhand applied for recognition in 2006. Since then it has been given 9 notices amounting to 381 days time for replying. Inspection has been done and persistent deficiencies pointed out. Even the state government has reported that infrastructure is below standard. There have been complaints of false affidavits and incomplete documents.
Qualifications of faculty and the principal were reported to be below norms. Yet the college, affiliated to Vinoba Bhave University, has been granted recognition by NCTE's Eastern Regional Committee.
Teachers' training colleges, which are producing the most important link in the whole education system, have become money-spinners. So, even in violation of all norms, colleges are churning out teachers. It is anybody's guess as to what is the competence of such teachers.
Things had gone so far that in 2007, NCTE headquarters had to temporarily prohibit the West regional committee from processing new applications. An enquiry by a senior HRD ministry officer revealed "serious procedural lapses and irregularities".
One of the reasons for this is that the regulatory body — NCTE and its four regional committees — are packed with people who are themselves running colleges, points out Jitendra Sharma, a senior lecturer in Jodhpur.
He gives the bizarre example of commerce graduates not being allowed to do BEd courses in several states like Delhi, Rajasthan and Gujarat, although this is not prohibited under NCTE regulations.
In other states this is not so. Teachers colleges run under the school department in Rajasthan. In most states, the faculty does not get college scales even though they are teaching degree courses. Admissions are done arbitrarily.
Things have come to such a pass that members of NCTE regional committee are fighting court cases against NCTE. MP Sharma, member of the North committee, and also in the management of two private colleges, is one of the litigants in a civil case in the Jodhpur High Court.
"If serving heads of institutions are to be included in regulatory bodies, then probity demands that they should be given charge of some other region rather than the same one under which their college falls," says Sharma.
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