The state’s teacher recruiting body, Teacher’s Service Commission (TSC), conducted teachers’ license examinations across the country on Friday and Saturday. About 200,000 graduates are estimated to have taken the exam, and for good reason. Upon passing the test, the TSC will issue permanent teaching licenses to the candidates, which in turn will qualify them for employment in public schools. Most of all, it will make them eligible to apply for permanent quotas in those schools. This is good, except that it will hardly be a step toward addressing the growing desire of education graduates to become teachers.
First of all, the fairness of these exams is questionable. Reports are that in many exam centers, the invigilation was least effective and cheating was rampant. In almost all the exam centers in Bajhang, for instance, cheating was the rule rather than the exception. A number of examinees were caught copying straight from the guess papers and guide books. One can gauge the reliability and validity of the examination should the examinees manage to get through and acquire their licenses.
Secondly, licensing alone is not a solution to the recruitment problem. Since the Ministry of Education (MoE) made the license a mandatory condition for aspiring teachers in 2003, the number of license holders has grown to a whopping 0.5 million—this does not include some 135,000 licensed in-service teachers working under temporary and relief grant quotas. The 200,000 examinees from this year will add to the numbers, bringing the license holders near to one million.
Ideally, it is good to have a million licensed graduates in the pool. But as things stand, the distressing fact is that the TSC has not announced permanent placement vacancies for open competition for sixteen years. The last free competition was announced in 1995. Now let us imagine the plight of the education graduate of 1996. He or she has not only been deprived of any prospect of becoming a teacher but, most probably, has crossed the age bar for sitting for such exams—the age bar for the TSC exam is 40. This has resulted from great negligence on the part of the TSC, to say the least.
Third, the government is all set to bring a sixth amendment to the Education Act through ordinance in response to agitating teacher unions whose key demand is permanent placement for temporary teachers. If this happens, which is likely given the teacher unions’ threat of non-cooperation during the upcoming SLC exams if their demands are not met, about 25,000 vacancies will be filled by in-service temporary teachers, whose numbers exceed 25,000. Thus, there will be no avenue for license holders to enter into free competition. They will, perhaps, have to wait years for their turn.
This brings one to the need for TSC to immediately open up more vacancies for free competition. We believe that at the end of the day there can be no alternative to a merit-based system for teacher appointments. Without guaranteeing free competition, issuing of licenses to millions of unemployed graduates will only add to the woe