Free and compulsory education becomes meaningless if we compromise on its quality, the Court said while stressing on the importance of recruiting the best qualified teachers.
The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) candidates are ineligible to hold primary school teacher posts. [Devesh Sharma v. Union of India and ors] A Bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia upheld a Rajasthan High Court decision to quash a 2018 National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) notification allowing B.Ed candidates to be primary school teachers.
The Court made it clear that B.Ed is in no terms a qualification to teach at the primary level (classes I to V).
“The decision of the NCTE to include B.Ed. as a qualification for teachers in a primary school seems arbitrary, unreasonable and in fact has no nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the Act i.e. Right to Education Act, which is to give to children not only free and compulsory but also ‘quality’ education.”
The top court further emphasised that elementary education is a fundamental right under Article 21A of the Constitution.
“Free and compulsory education for children becomes meaningless if we make compromise on its ‘quality’. We must recruit the best qualified teachers. A good teacher is the first assurance of ‘quality’ education in a school. Any compromise on the qualification of teachers would necessarily mean a compromise on the ‘quality’ of education,” the judgment said.
After the High Court quashed the notification, the NCTE, certain B.Ed candidates, eligible diploma holders and the Union government moved the top court in appeal.
The Supreme Court noted that as per NCTE norms, the necessary qualification for primary teacher posts was a Diploma in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed.).
“A candidate who has a diploma in elementary education (D.El.Ed.) is trained to handle students at this level, as he has undergone a pedagogical course specifically designed for this purpose … A person who has a B.Ed. qualification has been trained to impart teaching to secondary and higher secondary level of students. He is not expected to impart training to primary level students,” the Bench explained.
It added that the NCTE notification was flawed since it relied on a communication from the Central government with respect to Kendriya Vidyalayas. The Central government had earlier written to the NCTE asking it to allow B.Ed teachers to hold primary teacher posts in view of a shortage in candidates.
The Court, however, stressed that B.Ed and diploma in education holders cannot be equated.
“B.Ed. is not a qualification for teaching at Primary level of classes, much less a better or higher qualification, in context of Primary classes. This finding is self-evident in the very admission of NCTE which mandates that all B.Ed. qualified teachers who are appointed to teach Primary level classes must mandatorily undergo a pedagogical course for elementary classes within two years of their appointment.”
It added that “policy decisions” of the Central government that usually bind the NCTE can be reviewed if they are arbitrary and irrational.
“The decision to include B.Ed. as a qualification is not an independent decision of NCTE, but it was the decision of the Central Government and NCTE was simply directed to carry it out … in the larger context of the matter, we cannot even see this as a policy decision … we must say that this decision is not correct as it is contrary to the purpose of the (Right to Education) Act,” the bench said.
The Central government’s decision had failed to take into consideration ‘objective realities’, the Court added.
The appeals were accordingly dismissed.
Senior Advocates PS Patwalia and Meenakshi Arora appeared for the various B.Ed qualified candidates.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal represented the Diploma holders.
Senior Advocate Manish Singhvi represented the Rajasthan government.
Additional Solicitors General Aishwarya Bhati and Vikramjeet Banerjee represented the Central government.