Teachers in Haryana, India, demonstrated last week against cuts to their numbers which are in violation of the Indian Right to Education Act. The act specifies that there should be a teacher/child ratio of 1:30 in early years classes, 1:35 in primary and 1:40 in secondary. In the experience of this writer this is scarcely ever achieved in the public school system. However the blatant cutting back of teachers to achieve a policy far short of this, 1:40 in primary and 1:60 for upper secondary is being made in the name of 'rationalisation', even though Haryana is one of the most prosperous states in India.

Teachers in the Haryana state demonstrated last week against the cuts, blocking roads and were forced back by police from entering Chandigarh - the joint capital of Haryana. The teachers also say that they have not yet got the textbooks needed for exams coming up in September.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Punjab, teachers in aided schools (private schools which receive a 95% subvention from the government) staged a sit in demanding to be paid. They have not been paid for five months, depsite the fact that the money has been given to the schools. The teachers are also demanding that the schools become government schools. Their protest started today and will continue for three days.

It is clear that the Right To Education act, which was lauded around the world as a huge step forward for education in India, is proving to be anything but that. In fact the emphasis on private education in the act is causing yet more impoverishment of the government school system. The most egregious recent example of this was the outsourced meals service in Bihar, which caused the deaths by poisoning of 22 children last month. Teachers in government schools are expected to be responsible for the distribution of the food as well as numerous other tasks, totally unrelated to teaching, making their jobs virtually impossible. Not only that but they suffer from low pay, many on temporary contracts barely receive enough to survive, and the teaching and learning conditions in many schools are below any standard which would be recognised in the North or for the children of the more affluent. In this situation, with a depressed and continually villified public school system, the private and online education providers like Pearson have fertile ground in which to work.