It would take over 25,000 teachers to fill vacant posts in the city’s 1,100 government schools. But with the appointment process stuck on several levels, desperate measures are pushing teachers to the brink of exhaustion, and leaving students in a vulnerable spot. The Indian Express looks at why the city’s education system is under strain
Rajni Aggarwal, who has been teaching Hindi at a Delhi government school for 22 years, started this November like the previous years — registering Class XII students for the Board exam and trying to wrap up the syllabus.
That was till a Delhi government order, dated November 3, turned her life upside down. Henceforth, from Monday to Wednesday, Aggarwal would teach at a school in Paharganj, while from Thursday to Saturday, she would be back at her parent school in central Delhi. Similar orders from the 11 district education offices went out to schools under their jurisdiction.
Aggarwal, who lives in Karol Bagh, told The Indian Express that she now travels one-and-a-half hours to reach the other school. By the time she gets home, her own children are back from school. Her parent school, on the other hand, is just 15 minutes from her home.
“I’m having a tough time coping with this schedule. Children at my school are suffering because my time and attention are divided. This is the first time in 22 years that I have faced such an issue,” said Aggarwal, whose teaching will decide the fate of about 90 Class XII students, set to appear for the Board exam next year.
The new system — of “being sent on deputation” — is meant to help schools that have no teacher in a particular subject, by sending someone from another school.
But since Aggarwal is the only Hindi teacher at her school, she now has to juggle twin responsibilities. “There is no other teacher in my own school to teach the subject. So the three days I am away, no Hindi classes are held. In the new school, I barely know the students, so I can’t tell who is weak and requires extra attention,” she said, adding that the assessments of 180 students from the two schools is also a daunting task.
While the relatively lucky schools have got subject teachers on deputation for all six days, many have been getting by with such makeshift arrangements for over a year now.
The problem is symptomatic of a larger malaise in Delhi’s education system, which has been crippled by a dearth of over 25,000 teachers, and has found itself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Centre and the state.
Take, for instance, Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Jor Bagh, which has been without a physics teacher for over four years now. A teacher at the school said students are being taught by a parent who has volunteered, so that studies don’t suffer. Rarely do students have practical classes. Not just physics, there are no lecturers for Hindi, History and vocational subjects either.
At Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Karol Bagh’s Ramjas Lane, English and History teachers come from a Rajinder Nagar school for all six days. A Class XII student at the school said, “We started regular History classes only from the second week of November. Otherwise, different teachers keep coming and going.”
Janaki Rajan, the former director of the State Council for Educational Research and Training and a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia, cautioned that such arrangements affect students adversely. “Children require a stable, supportive person as a teacher, whom they can build a relationship of trust with and who can energise their learning process. For the most part, they need a stable team of teachers from the beginning to the end of the academic year. Teaching-learning is an intense human relationship. Revolving-door teachers as the norm is antithetical to quality education,” she said.
The guest teacher sent to the Karol Bagh school to teach History is not satisfied with the set-up either. “There is so much confusion. One day I am asked to come to my parent school; the next day I am told to go to another. I don’t know what the government is trying to achieve,” she said.
When education meets politics
The Delhi government’s decision to implement such a move came after the High Court stayed the hiring of guest teachers last month. The court was hearing a petition filed by the NGO Social Jurist, which has demanded permanent recruitment of teachers.
Of the sanctioned strength of 66,736 teachers in Delhi government schools, only 38,926, or 58.3%, are filled at the moment. Of these, 21,926 are regular and 17,000 are guest teachers.
Guest teachers are hired by the government for 9-10 months based on requirement, and do not enjoy the same privileges — such as paid holidays and HRA benefits — as permanent teachers. This system to hire guest teachers has been in place across the country since 2010, after the Right To Education Act, 2009, gave it the go-ahead.
While permanent teachers are hired through a direct recruitment test, guest teachers either approach district education offices with their marksheet, or are approached for jobs when the requirement arises.
Since 2010, however, no new advertisement has been issued for direct recruitment of teachers in the city, owing to political apathy and, more recently, a slugfest between the Aam Aadmi Party government and the Lieutenant Governor.
Before it came to power, the AAP had promised to regularise guest teachers by bringing in age relaxation norms and giving weightage for their experience. Former L-G Najeeb Jung had, however, opposed the move, saying it would not be fair to the new candidates. His successor, Anil Baijal, shares his opinion.
“As these teachers have been teaching in Delhi government schools for many years, we are asking for some weightage for their experience. The policy has been going to and fro for more than two years now,” Atishi Marlena, advisor to Education Minister Manish Sisodia, said.
To placate protesting guest teachers, the government increased their salaries to about Rs 32,000-Rs 34,000 a month in March this year. As per the revised salary, postgraduate teachers (PGT), who get Rs 21,000 per month, will now get Rs 34,000; for trained graduate teachers (TGT), the salary will go up from
Rs 18,000 to Rs 33,000, and assistant teachers who get Rs 16,000 will now get Rs 32,000.
In October, the government passed a Bill in the Delhi Assembly to regularise the 17,000 guest teachers. Baijal, however, said there is no constitutional provision to do so, which meant the file is, once again, stuck.
A guest teacher who has been working for the last 10 years said they are the biggest “casualty” of the politics over education. “I have given up. In another year, I will be at an age where I cannot sit for the recruitment exam. Ten years of work will go down the drain. We can be asked to leave any day, so we do what we are told. Many of us work harder than permanent teachers,” she said.
Experts in the field of education said giving weightage to guest teachers can be “problematic”. “Guest teacher appointments were made purely on the basis of marks scored… Just because a political promise was made (by AAP), how can the selection norm be changed?” Anita Rampal, a professor at Delhi University’s department of education, said.
While 25% of the permanent posts are filled through direct recruitment, 75% are filled through promotion. Under the promotion system, an assistant teacher is promoted to graduate teacher, and a graduate teacher to a postgraduate teacher. Postgraduate teachers are eligible to teach senior secondary classes.
Here’s the issue though: Filling of promotional posts has been on hold as well. This is because an order by the Centre on reservation for SC/STs is in contrast with a Delhi High Court judgment. Effectively, this means guest teachers aren’t being regularised, direct recruitment is at a standstill, and promotions are stuck.
Out of retirement
In the midst of this political one-upmanship and legal tussles, and with months to go for the board exams, the Delhi government has invited applications from retired teachers and principals, who will be hired as “resource trained teachers”. “This is just a temporary measure. The teachers will be paid on a per lecture basis,” Marlena said.
However, some teachers aired reservations against the idea, which was tried in Haryana as well. “Somebody who has already retired, will they be able to teach students? When a major part of the year is gone without teachers, will hiring for these last few months even help?” Ajay Veer Yadav, general secretary of the Government School Teachers’ Association, said.
Some experts said the capital could adopt a ‘substitute pool’, like in the US, where each school has a small team of teachers who act as the ‘bench strength’ and step in if a regular teacher is out of action.
“Delhi has a substantial number of teacher education institutions, and tens of thousands of student teachers who are required to work in school in their second year for three months. By creating a database, they can be used in schools throughout the year and serve as back-up. The present practice of giving substitution periods to teachers already in school is only lip service. Teachers already have a packed schedule,” Rajan said.
Till a solution is found, though, principals like Awadesh Kumar Jha, of the Sarvodaya Co-ed Vidyalaya, Rohini’s Sector 8, have to bear the burden. “In all this, it is the principal who has to manage. Parents come to us and complain (about lack of teachers) and we have no answers… We have to keep quiet and listen. With guest teachers, often there is no seriousness. Most have that ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’ attitude,” he said.
Jha said he had to argue with the education officers to ensure that commerce and chemistry teachers of his school are not sent elsewhere. “I cannot let my children suffer when there is a problem with recruitment. But not all principals can fight and take a stand,” he said.
Why recruitment of teachers is stuck
In 2009-10, several posts of teachers were advertised by the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board
From 2009-10, the process of hiring guest teachers started. Currently, there are 17,000 guest teachers in government schools
During 49 days of AAP government in 2014, exams were held for posts advertised in 2009-10
Between 2010 and 2015, the education department appointed 2,929 teachers through exams held by DSSSB and 7,288 on a promotional basis.
Vacancies sent to DSSSB from 2013-14 and 2014-15 were recalled after the AAP government decided in 2015 that age relaxation and weightage be given to guest teachers
Similarly, promotion of teachers has been on hold due to the issue of reservation of SC/ST in promotion
L-G Najeeb Jung was opposed to the idea of giving weightage to guest teachers, so the file was sent back to the government
When L-G Anil Baijal came in, the file was again sent to the L-G, who also asked the government to reconsider the decision
In August, the government passed a resolution that the recruitment be put on hold till it formulates a policy for giving weightage to guest teachers
In September, NGO Social Jurist moved a petition in the High Court for filling these vacancies. As per the court order, vacancies for 2013-14 to 2016-17 were sent to DSSSB
Recalling the August 2017 Cabinet resolution, the process of recruitment has been put on hold
In October, the AAP government passed a bill to regularise guest teachers. The bill is pending with the L-G, who
says there is no constitutional provision to pass it