The order refrained Higher Secondary school teachers from discussing or criticising the government, its policies or the education department in public.

Dont criticise or discuss govt policies in public Kerala teachers get gag orderImage for representation
news Education Sunday, February 09, 2020 - 16:54

A recent order issued by the Kerala Directorate of General Education curbing government school teachers in the state from raising criticism of the government and its policies, has met with strong opposition from teachers associations.

Calling this a serious blow to freedom of speech and expression, the Kerala Higher Secondary Teachers' Union has said that they will move court challenging the order.

It was on February 3 that the Directorate of General Education put out an order notifying the teaching and non teaching staff of Higher Secondary Schools. It was reported that the order asked them to refrain from discussing or criticising the government, its policies or the education department in public.

The order states that as per section 60 (a) (Discussion of the policy or action of Government) of the Kerala Government Servants’ Conduct Rules of 1960, “No government servant shall, by any utterance, writing or otherwise discuss or criticise in public or at any meeting or association or body, any policy pursued or action taken by government nor shall be in any manner participate in such discussion or criticism.”

The order also states that those violating the rule will have to face disciplinary action without further warning.

“It has been noted that teachers and non-teaching staff have taken to social media criticising the government and the department, by not complying with the above rule. Teaching and non-teaching staff will be, without further notice, will have to face disciplinary action if it is found that they are violating the law,” the order stated.

This move, according to the representatives of Kerala Higher Secondary Teachers' Union, is an effort by the government to rein in those teachers who point out the inefficiencies of the education department.

“The order specifically mentions ‘higher secondary teaching and non teaching staff’. This is because we are the ones who mostly call out lousy decisions of the education department. But we are only doing so because we want a corrective mechanism. The teachers organisations that support the government, do not speak a word against such faultu decisions. So is our duty to criticise the government and the department and point out when something is wrong. That is democracy,” said O Shoukkathali, president of Kerala Higher Secondary Teachers Union (KHSTU).

He also asked why the order has been issued at a time when examinations are about to be announced. “Last year, during the examinations, we had called out the faultiness of the computer software which is used by teachers during examinations. Many teachers even had taken Facebook to point this out, so this time they have told us in advance not to raise our voice,” said Shoukkathali.

The KHSTU, which has about 7,000 higher secondary school teachers as its members, is inclined towards the opposition front UDF.  KHSTU was the organisation that strongly opposed the LDF government’s proposal for unification of class 10 and higher secondary examination. The association had even filed multiple suits in the court against it.

Apart from moving court, KHSTU has also decided to start a state-wide protest against this gag order. KHSTU members said that the date for the protest will be declared after the association’s meeting which will be held next week.

In 2018, the Directorate of General Education had brought out another order banning higher school teachers from using cell phones during class hours.

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