TT, Calcutta, July 1: The Bengal government today passed an amendment bill that would allow it to run the secondary education board through an ad hoc committee instead of elected members, a move being seen as an attempt to avoid polls as many teachers still owe allegiance to Left-backed organisations.
The secondary board is the most important part of the state’s school education system. Its main job is to hold the Madhyamik exams. It also frames the syllabi for Classes V to X and publishes books. Around 14,000 state-aided schools are affiliated to the board.
According to the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education Act, 1963, the secondary education board should have 67 members, mostly teachers elected by colleagues. The board is headed by a president.
The amendment bill states that the government will nominate members to the ad hoc committee, a source in the school education department said. The bill does not specify the composition of the committee and for how long it would function.
According to the 1963 act, board elections should be held every five years. The last time an elected board was formed was in 2007, when the Left was in power. The tenure of that board expired in July 2012.
Instead of holding fresh elections, the Trinamul government appointed an administrator on July 31, 2012, a day after the tenure of the board expired.
An official in the school education department said the ad hoc committee needed to be formed as the board could not be run by an administrator for an indefinite period.
The ad hoc committee will have the authority to carry out all the functions of the board, according to the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (Amendment) Bill that was passed in the Assembly today.
The last elected board was dominated by members belonging to Left-affiliated teachers’ organisations, primarily the CPM-controlled All Bengal Teachers’ Association (ABTA).
The school education department official said the ABTA was the largest teachers’ outfit when the Left was in power. Although its strength has decreased, it still wields considerable clout.
The majority of teachers of Bengali-medium state-aided secondary schools continue to be ABTA members. Although Trinamul-affiliated teachers’ organisations have emerged as the dominant force in colleges and universities, the ruling party is yet to establish such control over teachers’ outfits in schools.
“The state government wants the secondary education board to be run by an ad hoc committee as it is not confident that Trinamul would get the backing of an adequate number of teachers to win an election. If pro-Left members dominate the board, it will be difficult to push through government policies. The ad hoc committee is being set up to avoid such a situation,” the headmaster of a school said.
The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (Amendment) Bill, 2016, increased the retirement age of the board president from 62 to 65 years.
The government today passed the West Bengal Municipal (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which will enable it to run municipalities through administrators for one-and-a-half years instead of one year.