The Karnataka government is mulling over a novel scheme to address the perpetual issue of shortage of teachers in state government-run schools. The Department of Primary and Secondary Education wants to give honorariums to private school teachers to take classes in government schools as a stop-gap measure.
State Education Minister Suresh Kumar’s office confirmed that the modalities are being worked out within the Primary Education Department, and once that’s is done, it will be proposed in the cabinet meeting by the Education Minister.
The move will be rolled out once this proposal gets a nod from the cabinet.
A source in the Education Department revealed that as of Wednesday, the number of vacancies in teaching staff in government primary schools (class 1 to 8) is almost 22,000, and the number is higher for all north Karnataka districts. The worst affected is Yadgir, with 1835 vacancies.
In Bengaluru, in 60 schools in Shivajinagar block, there is a shortage of 76 teachers, a department official based in Bengaluru confirmed.
This shortage of teachers is primarily due to delay in hiring by the government, and an overall shortage of candidates who clear the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET). Before appearing for TET, a candidate has to complete B Ed degree and a Bachelors degree in arts or science.
While the number of vacant teachers’ posts is quite large, in 2017 the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan survey found that only 5.3% of the state’s 14,937 secondary schools have five core subject teachers. This leads to a single teacher being forced to teach multiple subjects.
The Education Department official based in Bengaluru further said that the department’s move to appoint “guest teachers” to fill up the vacant positions with a monthly compensation Rs 7,500-8,000 per month does not attract good candidates, especially in urban areas which have other lucrative job prospects.
This idea of taking help from the staff of private schools comes after the government had hinted last month at hiring engineering graduates to fill up the shortage of science and mathematics teachers. Till December 2018, there was a vacancy of more than 5,500 in these two subjects in government schools across Karnataka.
However, these ideas have not got the endorsement of experts. For one, Niranjan Aradhya, a professor at the National Law School University of India, Bengaluru, and Programme Head at Universalisation of Quality Education Programme, has called all this proposal a sham.
“This is just another neoliberal design for not hiring full-time quality teachers. If you hire people with very meagre remuneration, it will naturally affect the quality of education negatively, he said.
He added that the procedure of becoming eligible to be a government school teacher also needs to be defined and made more efficient. “Basically, there shouldn’t be a need to conduct another eligibility test (TET) when it’s the government-mandated colleges teach B Ed courses, and that too candidates need to clear an entrance exam to qualify for the course. It’s as if the government itself does not trust its own standards so they have the TET. Moreover, if the government wants to conform to its TET standards, why does not it give the training to select B Ed passouts to bridge some of the shortage,” Niranjan argued.