Madras High Court sides with the reasoning of single judge bench of Justice S. M. Subramaniam, which had dismissed writ petitions filed by Tamil Nadu Elementary School Teachers Federation challenging the order passed by the Director of Elementary Education deploying Secondary Grade Teachers in the Elementary Education to the post of Nursery / Montessori Teachers in Anganwadi Centre.
Bench of justices Justice N. Kirubakaran and Justice S .S. Sundar in S.Paul Prince v. State of Tamil Nadu while deciding writ petitions concerning same found nothing wrong with the introduction of pilot project of Montessori based education to the kindergarten students while deploying Secondary Grade Teachers in the Elementary Education to the post of Nursery / Montessori Teachers in Anganwadi Centres.
Court said that it is open to the Government to introduce a bridge course and give proper training to Secondary Grade Teachers for six months and empower them to impart Montessori based education to Kindergarten students simultaneously while employing them as Montessori Teachers. It directed the government to go ahead with the project at the earliest as the academic year is to commence from 1st June, 2019 onwards.
Introduction of Montessori Education Pilot Project
In 2381 Anganwadi Centres located within the premises of Governemnt Middle Schools across the state of Tamil Nadu, the State Government decided to introduce Montessori Education based LKG and UKG classes for 52,933 children, who are to be benefitted. The Government of Tamil Nadu passed orders in Social Welfare and Nutritious Meal Scheme (SW7(1)) Department dated 11.12.2018 granting administrative approval. Based on the said approval, the Director of Elementary Education passed an order dated 09.01.2019 directing redeployment of surplus Secondary Grade Teachers in the School Education Department to the Anganwadi Centres to teach LKG/UKG students. The said Government Order as well as the subsequent order of the Director of Elementary Education of deployment of surplus Secondary Grade Teachers in Government Schools were challenged by various Teachers' Associations as well individual teachers by these writ petitions.
Senior counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners' submitted before the court that the Secondary Grade Teachers, who are working in government schools cannot be directed to take classes for LKG/UKG students as they do not have the required qualification as prescribed in I schedule of the 'National Council for Teacher Education'. He submitted further that the qualifications prescribed for appointment as "Kindergarten/Montessori Teachers" and "Secondary Grade Teachers" are different. Hence, transfer of Secondary Grade Teachers to work as Kindergarten Teacher/Montessori Teacher is not sustainable and that the transfer of Secondary Grade Teachers to work as Kindergarten/Montessori Teacher amounts to degradation or reduction in status and that the said deployment amounts to change in service condition.
On the other hand counsel for the respondents submitted that the intention of the Government behind this move is only to see that the children of poor sections of the Society are benefitted. He submitted that the Government is compelled to introduce Montessori education based LKG/UKG classes in Anganwadi Centres as the parents are interested in getting their wards admitted in private schools which offer pre-school education namely LKG/UKG and provide facilities like modernized buildings, vehicle, uniform, etc. resulting in decrease in the enrolment of children in Anganwadi Centres. He said that it is the endeavour of the Government to implement the programme on pilot basis for three years and further continuance shall be decided based on the outcome of proposed third party evaluation. He submitted further that it is is the policy decision of the Government to introduce Montessori Education based LKG/UKG classes in 2,381 Anganwadi Centres with 52,933 children and therefore, the said decision cannot be questioned.
Court can't question policy decisions
Taking a stand of non-interference in policy matters, court said that introduction of Montessori based Kindergarten is a remedial measure taken by the government in Anganwadi Centres as a pilot project for three years, the continuance of which would be subject to the outcome of evaluation after three years.
"It is seen that the Government has already taken a policy decision and with an intention to arrest the decline in admissions in Government Schools as well as in Anganwadi Centres and to benefit the children of weaker sections and rural area [it issued the order].When the Government considering the pros and cons of the present situation and needs of the society, has taken a policy decision, this Court has got only a limited jurisdiction and does not have power to review the policy decision when the decision is arbitrary or unconstitutional. It is only in the interest of weaker sections of the Society and in the interest of their children to provide quality education from Kindergarten Stage itself as per Article 45 of the Constitution of India, the Government has rightly taken steps."
Court placed reliance on decision of the Supreme Court in V.Lavanya and others v. State of Tamil Nadu and others, AIR SC 2017 wherein court held that "it is well- settled that courts cannot interfere with the policy decisions of the State especially when the policy decision is taken in public interest to further the advancement of reserved categories."
It said further that while taking steps to provide free and quality education from Kindergarten level, the Government has got every right to utilize the services of surplus teachers constructively instead of going for fresh recruitment spending huge amounts.
Court considering the contention of the petitioners with regard to lack of qualification of Secondary Grade Teachers to teach Montessori education based Kindergarten classes said that though the petitioners are justified in referring to the said qualification as prescribed by 'National Council for Teacher Education' and contending that the Secondary Grade Teachers lack qualification in Nursery Teacher Education, Regulation 5, however, in the very same notification dated 16.12.2014 gives power to the Council to relax some of the provisions of the Regulations.
Court also rejected the contention that transfer and deployment in KG Schools will lead to reduction in rank and status of the teachers and said that the apprehensions of the petitioners are not sustainable and by no stretch of imagination, the petitioners would be affected by the impugned orders or by the decision of the Government. It said that the Government has categorically stated in the counter affidavit that Secondary Grade Teachers would be governed by Elementary Education Department only and there is no merger and their service conditions will not be disturbed and seniority will be maintained only in the parent Panchayat Union Block.
Teachers are like Gods & cannot question each and every government decision
Quoting from the extracts of Supreme Court observation in Avinash Nagra Vs. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti and Others 1997(2) SCC 534 on the role of teachers, court observed that teachers are like Gods and they cannot question each and every decision taken by the Government in public interest, especially in the interest of children belonging to economically weaker sections. It said that the decision taken by the Government in introduction of Montessori pilot project is only to see that the children of poor sections of the Society are also given Montessori based education at KG level in English Medium free of cost so that it would prevent economically weaker sections of the Society from admitting their children in private schools by spending huge amounts.
Court said that it has become a fashion for Government Teachers who are paid handsome salary to rush to the Court for each and every decision taken by the Government in the interest of public. They should spend their knowledge and time only to educate for which they are being paid by the Government from the tax-payers' money instead of wasting their time in approaching the Court, it noted further. It said further that before coming to Court, they should have thought of the interest of the poor sections of the Society and the decline in enrolment in Anganwadi Centres and Government Schools.
Asking for introspection by both government and teachers court noted:
"One factor, which neither the Government can deny nor the teachers can disown, is lack of quality education in Government Schools and this Court supposes, but for lack of infrastructure and quality education, the poor parents would not take the burden of admitting their children in private schools by spending huge amounts. This aspect should be taken note of and then should be introspection by the Government as well as by the teachers very seriously." sic
The Montessori Method of Education, developed by Maria Montessori is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children. Montessori's method has been used for over 100 years in many parts of the world.
The Montessori method views the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It attempts to develop children physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively.
Tamil Nadu was also the first state to start mid-day meal scheme in the country to increase the number of kids coming to school.
Download the order from here