The conditions of teachers in Kerala continued to be deplorable in the midst of ideological quarrels and differences in policy matters. It was from among this section of teachers that Joseph Mundassery came up, who as an eminent teacher, literary critic, educationalist and as Education Minister made his imprint in Kerala. As minister he introduced the famous education bill in the Kerala Assembly on 13th July, 1957, which spurred an agitation in the State. The bill was passed by the Assembly on 28th November, 1957 after completing the formalities of going through the Select Committee and completing the three readings. But the bill was referred to the Supreme Court before it got the consent of the President of India. The court approved the main provisions of the bill in June, 1958. Another bill presented in Assembly on the basis of the remarks of court was passed in November 1958 as Kerala Education Act.
While the bill was being considered by the Assembly a great debate took place in the state. The bill presented by Joseph Mundassery was not much different from the bills previously presented by the PSP and Panampilly Govinda Menon Governments and that of C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer. Majority of the provisions of the bill having a total of 36 clauses dealt with the appointment and service conditions of school teachers. Naturally there were provisions which empowered the Government to interfere in the affairs of the non-governmental schools. The justification was that both the Government and aided schools were to be uniformly administered with regard to the service conditions of teachers and the transaction of the curriculum. The bill proposed the preparation of a select list of qualified and trained teachers at the state level at the beginning of academic year applicable to both the Government and private schools. Salary of the teachers should be paid directly by the State. The management of aided schools are invested with the responsibility of administration of the schools by protecting the interests of the students. The schools of those Managers who failed in this responsibility would be denied maintenance and contingency grants and the state should take over such schools for a period of five years.
Further, the bill provided for compulsory free primary education and noon-meal, text book and study materials to children upto fourteen years of age. It also provided for the constitution of State Level Educational Advisory Board and regional educational authorities. All the important provisions were severely criticized and when those criticisms are read today one thing becomes clear, many critics opposed the bill on the apprehension that the provisions of the bill were to be implemented by the Communist government and therefore they would be misused. When committees were constituted by the government to prepare text books for various classes it was also criticized. The criticism was that students would be brain washed if those books were taught in the schools. But it should be remembered that it was believed by other church members and others that in many schools run by the Catholic Church there was a lot of 'brain washing’.
The criticism of the Catholic Church was personal also. The independent personality of Joseph Mundassery gave him the image of a critic of the Church. Besides, he maintained strong reservations with the management of the Catholic educational institution in which he had worked was expelled by his management due to the differences of salary and service conditions. They went to the extent of accusing on the basis of the difference of opinion of the education minister who was a communist fellow traveler and anti church, with one management, that the education bill was designed to control all private educational institutions. They also alleged that the bill which the communists intended to implement would do away with special rights extended to the minorities by the constitution. These kinds of personal and exaggerated stories were propagated among the people instead of specific criticisms against the bill. Adding fuel to fire, organizations like the anti-communist league of Joseph Vadakkan and christapher union were formed.
The anti-communist attitude of the Catholic church was not based on Kerala conditions alone. In order to understand its history and the circumstances which paved its way, an enquiry is to be held outside Kerala. But the fear that more people would be attracted towards Communist ideology once the Communist government came to power and more people were attracted to their ideology through that government’s work imparted a new intensity to the anti communism of catholic church in Kerala. When an attempt was made to control the education sector which was considered by the church as an important field to carry out anti-communist ideological struggle. The apprehension that the church might lose its influence and social prestige which it gained through the running of schools may be another factor which whipped up the agitation.
One more factor is to be taken into consideration with those mentioned above. The teachers were not till bold enough to oppose the evil practices of the managements and communal organizations. When they were helped by the government and the strong party which maintained it and when they were assured of their salary and service conditions through the education bill, they would become free ideologically and organizationally. Thus one more class of people, who were intellectually advanced and respected by the society, would also ready for agitation along with other classes of people who were already on the war path. This was viewed by the caste and religious organizations with fear, especially those who were aware of the role played by the teachers in the national and Communist movement. The merit of the education bill introduced by Joseph Mundassery and the Communist government was that it liberated the teachers from their servitude and made them capable of social and political organizational work like other sections of people.