In the past one month, 43 cases have been filed in eight High Courts against the National Council for Teacher Education. The cases by private teacher training institutes challenge the regulator’s attempt to reform teacher education in the country.

Nineteen cases have been filed in the Rajasthan High Court alone and seven each in the High Courts of Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) and Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh). On August 3, two cases were filed in Andhra Pradesh.

The understaffed council – 35% posts are vacant and regional centres are largely uncooperative – is moving the Supreme Court on Monday to ask for all cases to be transferred to the apex court.

If the piling court cases were not burden enough, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has forwarded to the council, a statutory body under it, more than 400 letters of complaint. Questions have been raised in the Parliament as well.

Reform package

The council renewed its efforts to bring order to the teacher education sector, dominated by private institutes, last October. It asked teacher training colleges to submit affidavits with a range of details, including the facilities and staff available.

“We do not know how many teacher institutions there are,” an official of the council said. “We only maintained records of the courses, not institutions.” Given that there are 25,000-odd courses on its records, the council estimated there are about 15,000-16,000 institutes in the country. There are about 19 lakh seats in these institutes, which train school or college-graduates to teach in schools. Their programmes lead to a diploma or degree in teaching.

In the first round of collection, which ended on December 12, 2016, the council received 8,300 affidavits. Since the number fell far short of the estimate, it issued a show cause notice on March 17. “In that we simply ask the rest to show cause why they have not filed the affidavits and why we should not derecognise them,” the official said. The notice yielded another 3,600 responses.

In early July, during the admission season, the council issued a public notice advising prospective candidates to pick an institute from the list of over 11,000 that had submitted details. It said:

“This is…to bring to the notice of the general public including prospective students, to seek admission…only in the list of institutions provided.”

The council next wrote to the affiliating bodies – such as State Councils for Teacher Education and Training and universities – similarly advising caution during admission counselling and directing students to these institutes.

“The moment it impacted admissions, we were flooded by complaints and cases,” said the official. The fact that institutes not on the list because they did not submit affidavits continue to be registered complicates things. “We have not derecognised them but simply cautioned the public that if they take admission in them, they are doing so at their own risk,” he said. However, he admitted that the council is yet to check if the institutes suing them are the ones not on the list.

In May, the council had announced that it would not recognise any new education training institute this year and instead spend the time taking stock of the existing system.

In another reform, the council has directed all institutes to participate in an accreditation process every five years, and a ranking exercise every two years. These measures are meant to help applicants choose the best institutes. Teacher training institutes are accredited by the Quality Council of India – set up jointly by the central government and three chambers of commerce – and not the National Accreditation and Assessment Council, which assesses most educational institutions.

The complaints

In their letters, private institutes have objected to all these reforms. “Ranking or grading system is directly creating inequality and untouchability among the colleges,” argued the secretary of Rayalseema College of Education in one of a batch of identical letters of complaint sent to the human resource development ministry in July.

The colleges have also objected to the council bringing in a “third party agency” – the Quality Council – for accreditation. They have pointed out that denying accreditation to a college would implicate the council itself since it would suggest the regulator recognised the institute without proper inspection. “[The council] is the apex body and has all the powers to take the final decision,” Rayalseema College of Education’s letter argued. “If the third party is not granting accreditation or ranking to the private TEIs [Teacher Training Institutes], then TEIs will have a question on the NCTE apex body how...recognition was granted.”

Meanwhile, on July 25, the Gujarat High Court stayed the reform project for the state until the next hearing on October 10. Approaching the Supreme Court against the stay is fraught with risk, the council official said. “If the SC decides against us, we will have nowhere to go,” he added. “But we are confident about our decisions.”