Delhi needs to hire more than 12,000 teachers, but that would be illegal

Over the past seven years, the Delhi public school system has created space in its budget to hire thousands of new teachers. But an intractable tangle of court cases, politics, and bureaucratic inefficiency has made it impossible to hire them.   Scroll ↓

There weren’t always so many unfilled positions.

Between January 1, 2010, and August 17, 2017, the school system created 23,822 additional teaching posts, according to an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court by Ranjana Deswal, special director in the Delhi Directorate of Education (DoE).

In that same time period, the system has actually lost full-time teachers. The total number of full-time teachers decreased from 41,118 to 38,926, according to the affidavit and calculations by the Hindustan Times.

The school system keeps creating more positions, but it doesn’t fill them
Sanctioned teacher positions vs. employed full-time teachers, April 1, 2010 - August 17, 2017
Source: Delhi DoE affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court on Nov. 11, 2017.
Note: The affidavit does not specify how many full-time teachers were employed on April 1, 2010. That figure was calculated by taking the total number of available positions, subtracting the total number of vacant positions, and then adding the total number of those vacant positions that were filled.

The DoE has plugged some of the gap by hiring temporary, or “guest”, teachers. That was supposed to be a temporary solution, but it has become something more permanent. For five years now, no new full-time teachers have been hired.

Guest teachers must live with the uncertainty of temporary contracts, and students suffer as the system constantly scrambles to provide teachers to prepare them for board exams.

The MoE would like to hire more full-time teachers, but its hands are tied. Teachers are hired through two methods: promotion from within the system and recruitment from without. Both hiring methods have been blocked

Why have promotions been blocked?

Promotions have been blocked because of a legal argument over whether state governments should be allowed to reserve a certain portion of promotions for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

The Supreme Court has ruled that such reservations are constitutional, as long as the state government can prove that SCs and STs are underrepresented in the higher ranks of government positions.

But the Delhi government is yet to produce data on SC and ST representation, and has instead decided to halt all promotions. The DoE has not promoted any new teachers since 2013.

Why has recruitment been blocked?

Rather than promoting teachers up through the ranks to fill vacancies in the higher classes, the school system can also recruit teachers from outside the system. But here, too, legal cases have incapacitated the government.

The Delhi government, led by the Aam Aadmi Party, has tried to regularise its crop of guest teachers – this was one of the promises AAP made in its 2015 campaign manifesto. Like all applicants, guest teachers must take a recruitment exam. To make it easier for them, and to account for their years of teaching experience, the AAP government would like to give guest teachers who take the exam an extra 2.5% marks.

But last year, then Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung rejected the extra-marks policy, saying it violates recruitment norms. The Delhi government disagrees, saying a Supreme Court judgment in a similar case in Rajasthan supports its position.

A new Lieutenant Governor was appointed last December, but the office has not changed its mind. Unless it does, the city government cannot implement the extra-marks policy. Not wanting to disappoint the guest teachers, the city has stopped recruiting teachers entirely.

As Atishi Marlena, advisor to Delhi's education minister Manish Sisodia, put it, “Delhi’s elected government cannot hire a school teacher.”

Aman Sethi contributed to this report.