A year after passing a bill allowing NGOs and private agencies to run primary teachers’ training institutes, the state government has decided to stop granting recognition to them for opening new centres. The move follows complaints from students that they are charged exorbitant fees by the institutes, in violation of government rules.
The government is concerned about the students’ complaints, since one of the main conditions on the basis of which the agencies were allowed to open the institutes was that they would charge nominal fees from the students and would run the centres on a non-profit basis.
“A few dozen institutes have been set up by various agencies during the past year, offering training courses to graduates seeking teaching jobs in state-aided primary schools. Most are charging high fees and making profits,” said Jyotiprokash Ghosh, president, West Bengal Board of Primary Education.
The students, in their complaints to the government, alleged that many of the institutes charge huge one-off donations — as high as Rs 30,000 per student — in addition to tuition fees of Rs 300 to Rs 500 per month.
“We have directed the authorities of the primary school councils in the respective districts to conduct thorough inspections of the fee structures of the institutes. Even though there is a demand for more institutes, we are not going to grant further recognition to NGOs and private agencies for opening such centres till we get the reports from the councils,” Ghosh added.
The government took the decision to allow NGOs and private agencies to open training institutes for primary teachers after it found that enough trained teachers were not available to fill vacant posts in the 53,000 state-aided primary schools in Bengal.
Sources in the school education department said a survey had revealed that on average, 6,500 teaching posts in primary schools fall vacant every year. Last year, only about 3,500 posts could be filled because most applicants had not completed their training courses. The government had made it mandatory for primary teachers to complete training courses before teaching in schools. Earlier, primary teachers could complete the training course after taking up teaching jobs.
Before the bill was passed, primary teachers’ training institutes were run only by the government. Till last year, there were 58 government-run centres in the state. The institutes, however, were not sufficient to produce the number of candidates required to fill the 6,500 vacancies every year. Despite this, the government was unable to open new centres because of a paucity of funds. This prompted it to decide to allow private agencies and NGOs to open institutes.
Sources in the newly-set up institutes, however, blamed the government for their inability to maintain a uniform fee structure. According to them, at the time of passing the bill, the government had announced that it would set up a committee to fix the fees charged from students. Over a year later, the committee still hasn’t done so.