Hundreds of teachers, who allegedly did not have the eligibility to appear in the West Bengal B.Ed exams, were allowed to write the first semester examinations held in December last year, it has come to light. Teachers associated with B.Ed colleges in north Bengal were taken aback after they came to know about these secondary school teachers who had appeared in the exams, and who had been appointed by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

The teachers have also expressed displeasure within their own circles as the West Bengal University of Teachers’ Training Education, Planning and Administration (WBUTTEPA) has somehow “managed the matter” so as to allow the teachers in question to appear in the B.Ed exams, allegedly bypassing the set rules and regulations of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) issued after 2010. The B.Ed first semester examinations took place between 11 and 17 December last year across the state.

A total of 358 students appeared in the B.Ed first semester exams at the Ghoom Jorebunglow College, which was established under the Darjeeling Hills Education Society with cooperation from the then Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 2004.

Of the 358 candidates, 51 BEd students, including a casual candidate from the Shri Ramkrishna BT College, the only government BEd institution in the Darjeeling Hills, appeared in the exams in line with the present norms of the WBUTTEPA and the NCTE, it is learnt. “However, the remaining 307 candidates do not have the eligibility to appear in BEd exams,” a source said.

The Controller of Examinations of the WBUTTEPA, Prof Dr Amit Kumar Bhattacharya, who took charge of his present post on 1 November last year, brushed aside the allegations of gross violation of the NCTE norms. “All criteria have been checked and verified. There are no anomalies,” Dr Bhattacharya said over the phone.

Reliable sources said that most of the teachers in question were appointed by the GTA. “They are still working in schools in the Hills and drawing full salary as teachers. But they have appeared in the BEd exams as students of different private BEd colleges, which are located across the state,” the source said.

Records show that 100 teachers were enrolled in a private B.Ed college named Darjeeling Universal Campus at Takdah Cantonment in the Hills, while experts in the education field have expressed doubts on the eligibility of the 100 candidates taking admission in the institute.

Other colleges, including private ones, in different locations across the state also admitted these teachers, it has come to light. Nine candidates from the Minerva Academy BEd College, three from Jiaganj Institute of Education and Training, nine from Dr Mathura Mohan Sil D.EL.ED College, 100 candidates from the Mahatma Gandhi Academic Institute, 35 from the Mahatma Rural Development Society, 32 from the Sister Nivedita DEd Training Institute, 18 from Olive Academy and two from Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Teachers’ Training College appeared in the first semester exams at the Ghoom Jorebunglow College.

“Do they have the required marks and educational qualifications? Have they obtained proper permission from their respective schools’ managing committees for admission in private colleges for the BEd degree? How did the WBUTTEPA register those candidates, who are working in schools and studying in private BEd colleges, outside the Hills?” a senior educationist who is involved in teacher training, asked, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “How will the government institution, WBUTTEPA, answer if anyone files an RTI application, seeking information on those teachers?” the educationist added.

Prof Bhattacharya, meanwhile, said: “Following approval of the Examination Committee, the centre for examination was selected in the Hills for the first time. A special request came from the Hills on the matter. Vice Chancellor Dr Soma Bandyopadhayay and the state education department took positive steps to respond to the request, considering the problems of the Hill people.”

The chief of the Education Department of the GTA and Darjeeling MLA, Amar Singh Rai, however, said they only advised the candidates to look for colleges and take admissions. “The candidates managed the admissions themselves,” he said.

“We suggested that the WBUTTEPA take in the candidates if they met the criteria. The VC too told us that they could enrol the teachers if they meet all the criteria,” he added.

WBUTTEPA VC, Dr Bandyopadhayay, meanwhile, said she inquired about the matter with registrar PK Chanda. “Chanda told me he did everything in line with the rules. He did not have information about any alleged irregularities,” she said over the phone.

Talking about irregularities in the WBUTTEPA during her predecessor, Mita Banerjee’s tenure, Dr Bandyopadhayay said: “Before my joining (she joined on 26 March 2018), Mita Banerjee was here for the past three years, … there were bad practices, including copying from the books during exams. I stopped all these bad practices by appointing an observer. It was successful to some extent… after that, I know, they have started dirtying the water again. They have even put together fake question papers and circulated them.”

“Without getting admissions, how can they appear in the examination? In fact, we don’t have a centre there (Hills). A special request was made for setting up a centre there. We would have always asked degree colleges, but examinations were going on there,” she said.

On the issue of drawing complete salary, she said: “Such incidents happen at many places. But I think a section is always trying to malign us and an effort is being made by a group, especially by those who have circulated fake question papers, and those who are involved behind it, since I stopped the bribery culture for affiliation.”

Mr Chanda, however, said he retired from service on 8 January. “I am no longer the registrar now. But I do not want to avoid responsibility. The policy was formulated from the end of the VC or the Registrar, but practically, the clerical staff handle the matters after scrutiny. It is true that there was a specific order of NCTE about eligibility of teachers for BEd training, but it was not applicable for them because the matter happened before 2010 and on the basis of certification of the employer. We depend on the report of the employer, and we can do nothing if the employer furnishes wrong certification,” Mr Chanda said.

Repeated efforts were made to contact the state education minister, Mr Partha Chatterjee and the chairman of the GTA board of administrators, Mr Binoy Tamang, for their comments on the matter, but neither of them responded.