At Rishi Valley School and Doon School,many teachers have been working for a long time without a Bachelors degree in education,though some have a Masters and some even a Ph D from elite institutions such as the IITs in India and Harvard abroad.
Now the government has asked these teachers to enroll in a distance learning programme,such as those offered by IGNOU,and get a Bachelors degree a diploma in education.
With the government firm that a teachers qualification must be standardised under the RTE Act, bigger alternative schools have fallen in line with the NCTEs prescription while the smaller ones are looking at the prospect of closing down.
There had been initial protests. Last year,such schools appealed to the HRD Ministry for a more flexible approach but it only allowed a five-year window for untrained teachers to secure the qualifications to continue. Those who joined before 2001 can,however,continue. Even Ph Ds will have to undergo training in order to be teachers, an HRD Ministry
The ministry feels such schools cater to a very small segment and wants all children to get formal education. It says such schools can either seek recognition in three years time,or close down,or function as learning centres.
This would mean a lot of schools in the slums or remote rural areas shutting down. Few have qualified teachers or the mandatory infrastructure,including a playground.
Most of the 60 teachers at Andhra Pradeshs Rishi Valley School are without the qualification prescribed. I am debating getting a degree, said Alok Mathur,who has a B Tech from IIT-Bombay and a Masters degree in Education Harvard University. He has the option,having joined in 1983. Rishi Valley has more teachers than the required teacher-pupil ratio (1:30) so we are encouraging the younger teachers to go ahead and get the degree.
Sita School in Bangalore,established in 1975 and catering to marginalised children aged between 4 and 15,could be among those shutting down. Its founder Jane Sahi jointly developed (along with academician Maxine Berntsen) the course in First Language Pedagogy for the MA in Elementary Education,Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and they continue to teach the course together.
I guess the school will have to shut down… I dont have the required qualifications and I dont think I can do it now, said Sahi,who has written several books on English teaching.
With over 6 lakh teachers needing to acquire the degree,the Ministry plans to rope in state universities to train them through distance education courses.
At Vikasana on the outskirts of Bangalore,with 30 children in the age group 4-16,school head Malathisaid,Alternative schools should be allowed to continue. It is illogical. They cant universalise education, Malathi said.
At Vidyodaya,an Adivasi school in Gudalur in Tamil Nadu with 100 students,founder B Ramdas said,We wont be able to comply. The only option is to close. We have 100 children of the Nilgiris, he said.
He said alternative schools have mostly catered to children with special needs and have been founded with minimal budgets so it may be difficult for them to fulfil the criteria specified. The founders are often highly qualified but may not have B Ed,he said.