Teachers in politics

THE move to allow graduate teachers to participate in politics has been met with a mixed response. As schools are for education, not for politics, and it would be unprofessional and unethical for those at the chalkface to use the schoolyard as a political barnstorm, the understandable concern is that these teachers cum politicians would not be able to leave their political hats at the school gate and behave as professionals in the classroom. Clearly, it’s legitimate to expect teachers not to be partisan or prejudiced, racist or sexist, unfair or unjust.

As a general rule, civil servants must refrain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of their duties or which could give rise to the impression of bias in the eyes of the public. Indeed, in line with the ethos of political neutrality, regardless of changes in the legislative branch of government, the public rightly expects those working in the civil branches of government to offer objective advice to the elected leaders and conscientiously implement their policies.

However, this is an argument for strictly excluding the bureaucratic branch from partisan political activities rather than a blanket ban on the entire body of those employed in the civil service. Certainly, the statutory intent of Regulation 21 of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 was to ensure political impartiality and prevent divided loyalties and prejudiced service. However, the principle seems to have been to impose political restrictions on those in the higher levels of the hierarchy who could influence policy and affect implementation but to exempt those in the clerical grades and support staff who carry out the routine work as directed by the higher-level administrators.

NST Editorial.

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