Yohannan Metropolitan has said that the control of education should be vested with educational experts and representatives of education be consulted when drastic changes are attempted in the educational policy. He has made these remarks during an interview with him in Bangalore just before his return to Kerala after the last two months rest. Excerpts from the interview:
As you were also a teacher, what are your comments about the educational system in Kerala?
It is very clear that the educational policy of Kerala is not at all helpful for good of the students or the mental and ideological development of the upcoming generation. The representative character of those who comprise the senate or syndicate constituted as per law is a witness to this fact. Earlier there was over-representation for college principals. The number of public representatives was meager. Now things have turned upside down.
Another thing is the appointment of college teachers. In high schools, only those who have the required training are being appointed. But no such training is required in the case of college teachers. One can teach in a college immediately after post graduation. In fact the first two years should be a training period. The principal and department are the right persons to judge whether the new appointee is well suited for teaching and interacting with the students. In the present state of affairs, it is the vice chancellor who has the ultimate say in that. Is just a single year of teaching make one eligible or earn one the right to be confirmed as a teacher? Just think whether this will help raise the standard of education. At the same time it has to be admitted that many principals and college councils have not done enough justice to the junior lecturers working in their institutions.
Apart from this, it is evident from many experiences that it was by throwing to the wind the norm that the control of education should be the responsibility of educational experts that the University Act is being implemented.
Hope your grace will not mind expressing your personal opinion about the incidents occurred in Mahatma Gandhi College?
I have read about the confrontation between the principal and the University in the newspapers. It was an unnecessary incursion into the power and authority of the principal. It is the principal who should take decision on the attendance of students and their disciplinary behaviour. But the present attitude of the University is that it is the responsibility of the Vice-Chancellor. This will only make things difficult for running a college for the good of the students. There might be principals who behave highhandedly and in selfish manner. The authorities have the power to take penal action against them. But the present day trend of hurting the dignity of the teacher and destroying the responsibility and discipline of the students is wrong.
What is your comment on the recent teachers strike in Kerala?
I should say that the teachers strike was very shameful. It can be said that it was caused by the education department of the state. The representatives of the teachers organizations should have been consulted and their view points been given due weight when drastic changes were being brought about in high school education.
Making changes in educational policy according to the whims and fancies of the concerned minister has become a common practice these days in Kerala. The standard of education has also come down accordingly. For raising the standard of education what needed is to provide the required facilities and necessary encouragement to the teachers to make use of the prescribed periods and teaching days properly and sincerely instead of raising the working days and teaching periods. What needed is to fix the working hours of teachers as six hours without increasing the working days from the existing 200 days. Teachers also should agree to spare at least three periods in a week for co curricular activities. I sincerely expect the newly constituted problem solving committee will take into account this humble suggestion.
Is there anything wrong in teachers resorting to strike for genuine causes?
I am of the strong view that it is wrong on the part of teachers to go on strike for whatever be the cause. During the strike of the college teachers some of them had stated that this opinion of the metropolitan was an outdated coin which had lost its value. The same will be the criticism of some school teachers. But I am not at all ashamed to introduce in the market the same coin to draw the attention of teachers.
Strike is a weapon of the workers. A factory worker will not find any difficulty in resuming his normal work once he gets reinstated after a few months of strike. He is dealing with inanimate objects only. This is not the case of teachers. They are interacting with students who have thinking power and who expect discipline and guidance from the teachers. Once a teacher loses his credibility with the students, he loses a part of his job.
Don’t you think that the teachers strike could have been avoided if the government had made some advance efforts?
The government which takes the stand that it will open its eyes only if the employees resort to strike is equally responsible for strikes. I had tried to probe into state of mind of the students who block buses and cars in the name of strike. That is the one and only language which the government understands, they reply. I wonder whether the striking method of Japanese workers, about which there was an editorial in Malayala Manorama will ever become a model for our teachers. But many of the strikes could be avoided if the government takes a proper decision before things getting worse.