Leave jobs or appear for TET, Bombay High Court tells thousands of primary school teachers

Mumbai: In what can spell trouble for thousands of teachers across Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court has refused to be 'sympathetic' to them and said they would have to appear for the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) or leave their jobs.

The HC further said if these primary school teachers do not want to get qualified under the TET, then they must make way for more qualified persons as free education along with 'quality' is paramount.

The important order was passed by a bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Riyaz Chagla while disposing of a bunch of petitions filed by teachers challenging the communication of the Director of Education (Primary) mandating all teachers to appear for the TET exams, which are scheduled to take place in March.

By this communication, the authorities have clarified that the services of teachers who fail to undergo the TET exams will be terminated, and if they are not sacked by the school managements, then their salaries will have to be borne by them as the government would not pay any amount for the same.

The teachers claimed that if they lose their jobs then there will be a direct impact on the education system and the future of the students.

Having heard the contentions, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “Ultimately, such policies are framed so as to improve the quality of education. The quality of education can be improved only when totally eligible and duly qualified persons are appointed as teachers.”

“All those who are aware that they were not qualified but have been given an opportunity to obtain the qualification and are unable to do so must give way to those who possess such qualifications.

The teachers invoke nothing, but the sympathy of this court, apprehending that thousands of teachers would be terminated or would lose employment and would have an adverse impact on education,” the bench said.

The bench further pointed out that if primary education is funded by the state and from public exchequer and public funds, then, equally the taxpayers can demand from the government, a complete 'transparency and fairness' in the implementation of the policies, including taking harsh and penal measures.

“This expectation (of protective orders) is uncalled as it defeats the very purpose of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

The object and purpose are to make primary education free and compulsory. However, this is not at the cost of quality,” Justice Dharmadhikari held.

The bench further observed that primary education shapes the mind and personality of a child and if the right values are not inculcated and imbibed at this early age, s/he would not be interested in education.

In its brief order, the bench has said that if there is a direction from the union government, then it would not allow the state to deviate from the rigour of the same. “We are of the firm opinion that none of the teachers have a vested or fundamental right to question such policy.”

They must realise that they have no right to continue if they fail to clear the test and they cannot dictate to the government or to this court that no such tests should be held and that their job should be protected,” the bench said.