Bihar Contract Teachers Must Pass Competency Test or Resign: Supreme Court

In a significant ruling that could alter the landscape of educational standards in Bihar, the Supreme Court has stipulated that contract teachers in the state’s government schools must pass a designated competency test to continue in their roles. This directive came as the Court dismissed a plea by primary teacher unions in Bihar, which challenged the requirement of the competency test as outlined in the Bihar Teacher Rules 2023.

The petition, contested by the Transformative Primary Teachers Union and the Bihar Primary Teachers Union, was heard by a vacation bench consisting of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan. The unions argued against the necessity of such tests for teachers who were already in service, under contracts ratified by prior regulations.

Justice Nagarathna, during the proceedings, emphasized the importance of teachers in nation-building and underscored the necessity for continual professional development. “Teachers play a critical role in shaping the future of our nation. It is imperative that they possess and continually update their skills to effectively contribute to education,” she remarked.

The Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) is slated to organize the competency test, which has been deemed optional by the Bihar government. Teachers who choose to take the test and pass will enjoy the benefits akin to state employees, including equal pay comparable to BPSC (Bihar Public Service Commission) teachers and other state-recognized benefits. However, failing the test or choosing not to take it does not result in termination, as per government statements.

The apex court’s decision echoes the verdict previously issued by the Patna High Court, which also rejected the union’s plea against the competency test. The Supreme Court’s ruling further criticized the contract teachers’ reluctance to undergo competency evaluations. “If the intention of the government is to elevate the quality of education and teaching standards, such initiatives should be welcomed, not challenged,” Justice Bhuyan stated in his ruling.

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Further, the court addressed the broader implications of the ruling on educational quality, especially in rural and underprivileged areas. “The disparity in educational standards between various socio-economic sectors is stark, and government initiatives such as these are aimed at bridging this gap,” the bench noted.

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