The coming academic year will be significant, crucial and even historic for the School Education Department in many respects.
Historic, as it brings into effect a uniform curriculum for the four streams of school system - State Board, Matriculation, Anglo-Indian and OSLC - for Classes I and VI this year.
Significant, as ‘Samacheer Kalvi' (Equitable Standard School Education) promises to incorporate the best of every stream, and taking cues from the NCERT, to offer an enhanced, child-friendly education.
Crucial, as there are various hurdles to be crossed for the school managements awaiting textbooks, teachers awaiting instructions and guidance on the new syllabus, and above all, the anxiety among parents of Matriculation school students who are considering switching Boards.
While the Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation has started despatching textbooks, for a majority of subject teachers, the syllabus uploaded in www.pallikalvi.in, the official website of the department, has been the only source of information.
Schools awaiting guidance
Ideally, a new syllabus would mean that teachers are asked to prepare in advance and some subjects even require the teacher to prepare notes, which has taken a back seat, say school principals.
If Matriculation schools are bogged with questions from parents on whether merging the streams would bring impact the standard, parents of State Board students are sceptical if teachers and schools would be equipped to handle the activity-based syllabi effectively enough.
“Neither the headmistress, teachers nor parents know anything that has gone into ‘Samacheer Kalvi.' No official has so far informed us that we would be oriented when the school reopens. So far I only know that Class I books have come,” says the headmistress of a Chennai Primary School.
Like her, several teachers and heads are a little clueless at this point. All the same, some private schools have found their own ways of orienting themselves to the new syllabus. A good majority them say they would offer orientation programmes for teachers once the school years begins.
The Punjab Association Group of Schools and the schools managed by the Vivekananda Trust, for instance, says more stress would be on training teachers of Classes I and VI. Alfa Matriculation Higher Secondary School plans to have an open day once the school reopens to offer confused parents a better picture of the new syllabi.
‘Textbooks will help'
The department, however, seems to strongly believe that things will be smooth, for the textbooks have detailed, self-explanatory notes to guide the teachers.
“Moreover, we can give some special training programmes through the SSA soon, as class I and VI are anyway covered by the scheme,” says School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu. How best the revised curriculum would be implemented is another area of concern for academics.
“The syllabus is changed once in every five years in the State, but there is no improvement in the method of assessment, infrastructure, availability of teachers and type of teaching – all this contribute to an Equitable Standard Education,” says S. Muthukumaran, former vice-chancellor, Bharathidasan University, stressing the need to focus on implementation.
According to Korlapati Satyagopal, Chairman and Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation, textbooks have already been despatched from the central godown to the five regional locations in the State to reach the postal department for distribution.
“Books of Classes I and VI will be available from Monday and all steps are being taken to ensure that by the end of the month schools receive them,” he said.
While the Corporation's books are all ready and being sent to schools, the School Education Department has now roped in private publishers following a recent directive from the Madras High Court. A few guidelines was given to the publishers on the kind of paper, size, type of printing, lamination required and standard.
“Since the court has allowed for plurality in textbooks, we looked at the options and have approved a list of publishers who will publish on the lines of our syllabus and also adhere to the standard prescribed. Private schools will have the choice of either going for our textbooks, or that if any other approved, private publisher. But we intend appealing again, later,” Mr. Thennarasu adds.