Sunday, May 26, 2024

Teachers in active politics


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Meghalaya has a history of teachers from colleges and universities contesting elections, winning and then returning to teaching when they lose the next election. Debates on this issue are ongoing. If the goal of education is to build minds that are questioning and capable of critical thinking and asking the right questions, would having a teacher with an allegiance to a particular political party allow objective discussions in the classroom? Of course, schools, colleges, universities should discuss politics and students should be able to express their views fearlessly for or against any political party, based on their own understanding of what the party ideology is and what its vision for the state and the country is. But education must also keep itself above political conflicts and partisan views. When a teacher/professor is a member of political party, that precludes a free and frank discussion about the political party he/she belongs to and about other political parties. Students know better than to even begin a discussion on politics when they know their teacher is wedded to a particular ideology and will not entertain any dissenting views.
Education is a dynamic process which fosters human capabilities. It can only flourish in an eco-system that guarantees overall freedom to think, act and speak within the classroom and outside it, keeping in mind the rules and regulations that drive the institution. The socio-economic development of any country is strongly linked to education since education ensures optimal utilization of resources through development of the human capital. Education is the ultimate liberator, empowering people to make personal, social and political choices.
The teacher is the most important resource in an education system and the main determinant of the quality and effectiveness of its results. The system should strive to attract qualified people to the profession and to provide them the best working conditions where institutional autonomy and academic freedom have fee play.
In a 2012 ruling, the Bombay High Court observed that a government servant or person in employment in an educational institution cannot have any political association or connection as long as he is in service. They observed that if an employee was actively associated with a political organization, his political ideas may influence his teaching. Observing that a teacher’s role is to impart education to students in an impartial manner, the judges said the suspension order couldn’t be struck down by holding that the teacher was free to continue his political activities along with his teaching job. “So far as education is concerned, it should be kept away from politics and educational field should not be allowed to be polluted in any manner by bringing in politics. There are some institutions, which are required to be kept away from politics and academic institution is one of such institutions,’’ Justices P B Majmudar and Justice P B Varale of the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court observed while dismissing the petition seeking quashing of the suspension order. The Meghalaya High Court thinks differently! The ruling of the Supreme Court on this matter is awaited!

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