CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat has called for a dialogue between the private managements of educational institutions and the Government. This comes at the end of what may look like a confrontation between the two sides over admissions, appointments, fee structure and other issues connected to the educational institutions. But, what both sides appears to be trying for is a bargain deal.
The higher education sector virtually became the preserve of the moneyed class as the present and previous government failed to enforce their stated policy that 50 per cent of the seats in self financing colleges would be reserved for students admitted on merit and liable to pay only lower fees (at Government specified rates).
The UDF Government led by A. K. Antony (now the Defence Minister) failed to enter into proper written agreements with the managements. Consequently, they were able to get a series of court orders against differential fee structure in self-financing colleges. Though the LDF Government brought what was described as a “fail safe” legislation, that too was struck down by the courts. One of the problems with both the governments was that there were people within their set ups who wanted to undermine government policies in favour of the managements. All these opposing forces and divisions within the Government and ruling parties created a mess in the higher education sector, causing much hardship to students.
It is also notable the student and youth organisations of the CPI (M) have changed their stands over the years from violent opposition to self financing colleges to conceding the demands of managements. Though the State legislations were struck down by courts, the CPI (M) never pressed the Centre sufficiently for a Central legislation for regulation of the self-financing colleges (though it supports the government). So, the meaning of the call for dialogue becomes obvious. It is call for a deal.
The State Government has now obtained a committee report on amendments needed to the Kerala Educational Act and Rules. It contains recommendations that are against and in favour of the interests of the school managements, who also control many of the self-financing institutions. The biggest bargain would be on appointments of teachers.
The committee recommends change of teacher-student ratio that would lead to creation of hundreds of posts of teachers. At the same time, it recommends that the appointments should be done though an independent agency. The managements stand to lose millions they collect from the appointees (as so called donations) if the right to appoint staff is taken away from them. But this is something that they could very well retain either through a deal with the government or through intervention of courts. Meanwhile, the government can play to the gallery that they taking on the managements.