Last Wednesday&’s order of Calcutta High Court (coram: Karnan, J) directing a stay in the recruitment of primary teachers mirrors the irregularities in the conduct of the exam and the manner of recruitment. Of course, the education minister has been changed since then. Yet the fiasco that has been manifest over the past three years has served as a double whammy for the education department, the prospective teachers, and the taught. While the recruitment process has floundered, primary schools run the risk of being rendered still more decrepit. The appalling teacher-student ratio has been the bane of the system. Binned in the process is the pious concept of “universal and compulsory” primary education. In the net, the government has been unable to fill the 30,000 vacancies in the 59,000 state-aided primary schools across the state. While the court order allows the department to declare the results, it has been barred from recruiting teachers. If indeed the recruitment was integral to the process of employment generation, the plan has gone haywire because of the irregular conduct of the exams. The crisis has deepened ever since those who had not cleared the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) in 2013 were recommended for appointment. The test conducted in October 2015 has turned out to be an abortive endeavour. An estimated 20 lakh candidates had appeared to fill 30,000 vacancies. However, recruitment has been kept in abeyance for close to a year because of the fiddle on examination day. Ergo, the High Court order can be contextualised with the overwhelming malaise that now threatens to thwart the search for learning at the threshold.
The other factor that has hobbled teachers’ recruitment since the days of the Left Front has been the mandatory qualification, as prescribed by the National Council for Teachers’ Education and duly endorsed by the Union HRD ministry. A candidate must possess either the diploma in elementary education (DLEd) or have participated in the primary teachers’ training programme. As it turns out, West Bengal&’s rulers — past and present – have been anxious to play to the gallery of job-seekers by according short shrift to one of the compulsory rules of engagement. From one dispensation to another, it has been a party-sponsored spin on the terms and conditions for recruitment. Which has now prompted the Bench to ask, “Why did the state government send a letter to the Centre on 23 March 2015, seeking relaxation to recruit non-trained candidate, when sufficient trained candidates are there?’’ The recruitment process has been reduced to a politicised exercise.