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Why are teachers called ‘mistresses’, should be more dignified, says Punjab & Haryana HC

The high court notified the Punjab govt to respond by 13 July, the date of the next hearing, on why teachers could not simply be addressed as 'teacher'.

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New Delhi: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a notice to the Punjab government, asking why the word “mistress” was being used for teachers.

In an order issued on 18 June, Justice Arun Monga noted: “This Court notices that advertisement dated 21.02.2020 (Annexure P-1), yet again has used nomenclature “Mistress” for the female teachers to be appointed in School.”

Justice Monga pointed out that in November 2018 as well, he had taken note of the use of the term, which was being used to address a woman teacher. The judge had at the time issued a notice to the Haryana government, asking why the designation “mistress” could not be changed to “teacher” since it was “more dignified” a term.

Last week, Justice Monga raised the same question again.

“Why can there not be a more dignified designation viz. a teacher or school teacher, who can be further sub-specified as English Teacher, Mathematics Teacher, History Teacher and likewise, instead of using the words ‘Master or Mistress’,” he said.

The high court issued notice to the Punjab government, asking it “what steps can be and/or are proposed to be taken, in accordance with law, for change of designation”, and sought a response by 13 July, the next date of hearing.

Also read: Teachers to stand in for police? Even ministers differ as big debate rages in Punjab

‘Mistress’ in use for decades

The practice of referring to teachers as masters and mistresses dates back decades, when service conditions of non-teaching staff were governed by rules framed in 1941, and those of headmasters, lecturers, masters and classical and vernacular teachers were governed by the rules framed in 1978.

The Punjab State Education Class III (School Cadre) Service Rules 1978 referred to teachers as masters and mistresses.

While the two sets of rules were repealed by Punjab Educational (Teaching Cadre) Group C Service Rules 2018, the new rules also use the words ‘masters/mistress’ when listing down the available posts.

This isn’t a practice limited to just Punjab and Haryana, though. The Uttar Pradesh Basic Education (Teachers) Service Rules 1981 also uses the these terms.

West Bengal Public Service Commission has also used the word “mistress” to refer to teachers in its advertisements inviting applications.

Also read: ‘Demeaning child-like work’: Punjab & Haryana HC on pleas by runaway couples for protection


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