The current education system in the schools run or funded/aided by the state government requires change.
The Tamil Nadu school education system needs a total overhaul, not just a syllabus change,” according to Dr. M Anandakrishnan, educationist and Chairperson of the Tamil Nadu Government Task Force on School Curriculum.
Initiating an interaction on “Reforming Tamil Nadu school curriculum” at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation on 2 September, he was emphatic that the current education system in the schools run or funded/aided by the state government has to be changed. He recalled the earlier and existing systems and also the 21st century concerns and explained the goals of the curriculum reform committee.
A former Chairman of IIT-Kanpur and ex-Vice Chancellor of Anna University, Chennai, Dr. Anandakrishnan said that under the existing curriculum, Tamil Nadu students are unable to get through competitive examinations and their record is also low in matters of admissions into prestigious educational institutions like IITs, NITs, AIMS and IIMs. He blamed it on the absence of Board examinations at the end of the 11th standard, unlike in the past, and more so, on the book-backed, question-answer mode of examination system.
The devil was in the detail. The state’s school system lacked in every form of infrastructure, physical and technical, and followed outdated methods of teaching. The large number of teacher-vacancies in Government schools, lack of performance-evaluation and frequent transfers as among the other causes, for which the state’s students were made to suffer, he said.
Speaking on the values of school education, Dr. Anandakrishnan stressed that it should help students acquire self-confidence and adequate knowledge in current disciplines, and also an exposure to local history, culture, social norms and economic strength. The recent initiative ‘Samacheer Kalvi Thittam’ (‘standardised education scheme’), through a uniform syllabus for multiple streams and curricula authorised by the state government, and also the abolition of Common Entrance Test (CET) for professional college admissions were a total disaster for the development of students.
In this context, Dr. Anandakrishnan said that the state government as an institution should make a ‘binding commitment’ to address the current concerns by establishing examination, assessment and evaluation frameworks. The Task Force headed by him has proposed to lay down accreditation criteria for schools based on national standards of whatever kind that were available or could be deduced.
The emphasis of school education should be on instilling fundamental knowledge and evaluating learning outcome, based on a periodic curriculum review, say, every three years. ‘Learning for Joy and not for the sake of learning’ is what is being expected, and it can be achieved through available teaching technology. “Problems for pupils should be based on the real life situations, and the pupil’s ‘fear for math’ is overcome…There is also a need for learning in the mother-tongue,” the speaker emphasised.
Talking about future of education in the context of the ongoing technological evolution, Dr. Anandakrishnan said that bringing in engineering and technology education as part of the school syllabus will help students of future. The learning methodology has to be improved by drawing the attention, imagination and curiosity of the child.
Several tools like text-book, work-book, flash-cards, reference-books and activity-books will help, so will tech-aids like education games, magazines and videos. The system had to be framed in such a way that performers in sports and other activities should also get the recognition that they deserve.
Touching upon the teacher’s side, the expert said that political interference and influence spoils their performance, and this was one of the major practical problems in the field of school education. Teachers’ postings should be stabilised near their home towns and transfer of teachers should be undertaken only on the recommendations of a school commission, which should be tasked with addressing ‘accountability’ issues of individual teachers.
On funding issues, the octogenarian educationist noted allocation of less than three per cent of the GDP for education in the Union and state government budgets has made the situation more pathetic than already. There is need to increase the budgetary-support, and also explore new avenues like CSR, public-private partnerships, internal funding agencies and alumni funding agencies, to this end, he said, pointing out, each of them suffered from certain inadequacies, still.
Considering the present-day information-boom, Dr. Anandakrishnan said that they needed to device ways to teach ‘learning and learnability’, among others. He also added that the proposed curriculum will aim at improving critical-thinking in young minds rather than continue with the current, examination-driven, ‘rote mode’ of learning.
This report was written by S. Sivanesan, Associate, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Centre.