Appointments to the posts have been mired in controversies since 1999

Government Higher Secondary School students pursuing computer science as an elective subject and also computer science graduates with Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degrees have reason to smile as the Teachers Recruitment Board (TRB) has begun the ground work for appointing around 300 Computer Instructors.

Talking to The Hindu over phone from Chennai, G. Arivoli, Member (School Education), TRB, said the Board had begun the process of identifying vacancies and seeking approval from the School Education Department. “If everything goes well, a recruitment notification would be issued in the next four months,” he said.

The announcement comes as a relief to students and computer science graduates as the issue of the appointment of Computer Instructors had been mired in controversy ever since computer science was introduced as an elective subject in 1,200 higher secondary schools spread across the State from the academic year 1999-2000.

Prior to 1999, students of government higher secondary schools were taught computer basics by instructors having a Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Applications (PGDCA) qualification, who were appointed through the Parent Teacher Associations at a monthly salary of Rs. 1,500, later raised to Rs. 2,000.

On March 17, 1999, the then Chief Minister announced the decision to introduce computer science as an elective subject in higher secondary schools in view of the importance the subject had gained in the digital era. Two days later, the government invited tenders from reputed organisations and computer training centres for the purpose of leasing computer hardware and software.

Contract with ELCOT

The government then entered into a five-year contract with Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT) and entrusted it with the responsibility of conducting computer classes in government higher secondary schools. ELCOT, in turn, engaged private companies for recruiting computer instructors at a consolidated salary of Rs. 1,500 per month. A total of 2,394 instructors were recruited in two phases between 1999 and 2000.

According to court records, the contract period ended in February 2005. Yet, the government allowed the instructors to continue in service. On October 4, 2006, an order was issued to appoint a computer instructor in each of the 1,880 higher secondary schools run by the government and the local bodies.

The government decided that the newly-created posts would be filled by drawing from the existing pool of computer instructors. A test was proposed to be conducted and it was made clear that those scoring 75 and above out of 150 marks would be eligible for appointment. Successful candidates were exempted from possessing a B.Ed. degree.

The government’s decision was challenged in the Madras High Court by computer graduates who had obtained B.Ed. degrees and were awaiting government employment after registering their names with the employment exchange. On March 13, 2007, a single judge of the High Court ruled in their favour and held that the government could not give a go-by to the B.Ed. degree.

Overruled

However, the single judge’s verdict was overruled by a Division Bench of the High Court on August 22, 2008. The Bench accepted State government’s contention that the exemption was a one-time concession to help those Computer Instructors who had been serving in government schools for over eight years.

The matter was taken on further appeal and the Supreme Court on October 13, 2008 permitted the State government to proceed with the appointments on condition that they would be subject to the outcome of the appeal. Following the court’s consent, a special test was conducted. A total of 1,714 candidates sat the test, of which around 800 managed to score above 50 per cent.

Nevertheless, the government lowered the qualifying mark to 35 per cent and declared that 1,686 candidates had been selected for appointment. Disposing of the case on July 9, 2009, the apex court held that lowering the qualifying mark after the announcement of the selection procedure was not fair. But it allowed the government to conduct a supplementary test for candidates who had scored below 50 per cent.

“Even in the second test, a majority of them failed. Yet, they are continuing in service to date on the basis of interim orders obtained by them in a second round of litigation initiated before the Madras High Court. The fight for justice is continues,” said P. Saravanan, President, Tamil Nadu B.Ed., Computer Science Graduates Association.

He pointed out that as of now only 192 computer science graduates with B.Ed. qualifications had been appointed as Computer Instructors in government schools. The process of appointing them began in 2010 and was completed in 2012. Since then, the government has not issued any recruitment notification for the post even though hundreds of high schools have been upgraded as higher secondary schools every year.

“Even on May 9 this year, the TRB issued a notification for recruiting 2,880 postgraduate assistant posts in various subjects such as Tamil, English, Mathematic, Physics, Chemistry and Botany. But there was no announcement with regard to Computer Instructors though around 7,000 computer science graduates with a B.Ed. qualification have been waiting for long to secure government jobs,” he said.

J.P. Gabriel, Director of a College of Education here, stated that the number of computer science graduates interested in pursuing a B.Ed. degree had fallen because of the lack of government employment opportunities. “The government should sanction more posts in every higher secondary school and recruit graduates with a B.Ed. qualification in the best interest of the students,” he added.