A state-wide teachers association has filed a writ petition in the Bombay high court, challenging the validity of the pupil to teacher ratio stipulated under the Right to Education Act, 2009.
The petition has also challenged a government resolution implementing the ratio, as it has rendered thousands of teachers across the state surplus.
The RTE Act has set the student to teacher ratio at 30:1 for Classes 1 to 5 (primary) and 35:1 for Classes 6 to 8 (upper primary). The Act has spelled out a schedule according to which teachers’ appointments should be made.
The state department of school education issued a circular on December 13, 2013, implementing the schedule. Since September this year, the department has started giving approvals for teachers based on this schedule, which has met with opposition from teachers in the state.
One of the major grievances of the teachers is with the provision stating schools having fewer than 100 students will not be allowed to appoint instructors for subjects such as physical education and art.
The schedule also states that in schools with less than 150 students, only three teachers can be appointed for Classes 6 to 8 – one each for science and mathematics, for social studies and for languages.
“In a city like Mumbai, it is difficult to find a teacher who is qualified to teach Marathi, Hindi and English. Generally, schools have at least a separate teacher for English,” said Ashok Belsare, head of the teachers association, Shikshak Bharati.
Another member of the association said hiring teachers on the basis of student strength was not always practical.
“The number of students fluctuates every year,” said Raja Kandalkar, a member of the association. “Schools cannot be expected to keep hiring and firing teachers every time.”
The association has further stated the provisions has rendered around 40,000 teachers surplus. “The government has so far been unsuccessful in absorbing these teachers in other schools,” said Kendalkar.
The petition has prayed to the court to direct the government to withdraw the government circular and amend the RTE schedule.