The employment and working conditions of teachers is the core of any search for quality education. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim to achieve universalisation of elementary education, has led to expansion of large scale low quality primary schools in India. Consequently, the contractual teachers were used as an approach to effectively expand access to education especially in rural and remote areas where qualified teachers were reluctant to be posted. Subsequently, appointment of teachers on a fixed short-tenure on lower salary with no allowances therefore became a major cost-saving tool for the government. However, there are significant unidentified costs such as the influence on students’ performance; inspection of schools; the introduction of a syllabus and curriculum which limits the policies being cost effective, etc. There has also been a controversial debate that government expenditure on teachers’ incentives, training and other capacity building measures has been decreasing. The study shows that the problem of educated unemployment is linked to the appointment of contractual teachers in primary schools in Delhi. With the help of data collected from Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) schools in Delhi, the paper discusses the employment conditions and recruitment policies of contractual teachers in Delhi government schools. Findings suggest that contractual teachers are young and more qualified than permanent teachers, but still get a meagre salary with no other incentives to keep them motivated.
The issue of teachers’ employment and working conditions is central to any investigation of the quality of schooling. Previous work indisputably confirms that contractual work in teaching has become ever more insecure and unstable. This mounting lack of security is the outcome of policy developments in the 1990s with prevailing consequences common to many Indian contexts, namely District Primary Education Program (DPEP) and the immense growth in school enrolments driven by international action to achieve education for all (EFA). India faced a two-fold problem involving not just a shortage of teachers, given that the country was expected to create new jobs, but also limited financial support. The government’s resources transfer through schemes such as DPEP in the beginning of 1990 and its following extension through the “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan” (SSA) (the year 2000 onwards) stimulated the scheme of employing teachers on contractual basis. Many states in India thus introduced policies to lower their labour costs while at once creating new and often governmentally decentralised teacher categories (“contract”, “guest” and “para” teacher, etc.), and avoiding agreements with the international recommendations on work in this sector (United Nations Millennium Development Goals¹). By the start of the 1990s, numerous states in India started recruiting contract teachers to maintain agreeable “Student-Teacher Ratios” in schools, abolish single-teacher schools and to minimise the cost of basic education. Therefore, the justification for provision of contract teachers was to accomplish three key equity and efficiency goals by affordable means: expanding access to schooling in unserved communities; removing singleteacher schools and dismissing multi-grade teaching; and reducing high pupil-teacher ratios. The contract teacher plan originated in India with the “Shiksha Karmi Project” in Rajasthan. The popular reason was that the teachers in urban regions were reluctant to relocate to distant localities. These thoughts inspired ‘Para Teacher’ arrangements such as ‘Vidhya Sahayak’ in Gujarat; ‘Guruji’ in Madhya Pradesh; ‘Shikshan Sewak’ in Maharashtra and many others (Pandey, S. 2006).