Introduction of Samacheer Kalvi has resulted in a flurry of activities in schools

J.Hepsiba Madumitha is busy playing with her friends during lunch break. “We are getting new textbooks on Tuesday,” she says with a wide grin, gasping for breath after a quick run around the green campus of Rani Meyyammai Girls Higher Secondary School.

Samacheer Kalvi may be a complex issue that frequently made it to the headlines during the last few months, but the class VII student of the government-aided school is very clear about what its implementation means to her.

“So far, only those who could pay higher fees and afford matriculation schools had nice, colourful textbooks. Now, all of us will study the same thing — even if we go to a school that charges lower fee,” she says. Her enthusiasm reflects the prevalent mood among large sections of students and teachers, particularly of government and aided schools, who have been eagerly awaiting the commencement of their active academic session. The buzz in schools — with teachers trying to get a feel of the new syllabus, frantically preparing lesson plans, altering the time-tables to accommodate the changes and thinking of the first term examinations — makes them seem like they have just reopened.

Teachers with government and Chennai Schools say that they could do with some guidance with regard to the new syllabus. Some kind of orientation from the School Education Department will ensure a basic uniformity in approaching the syllabus, they note. “A new syllabus means that teachers have to spend time understanding the changes, prepare for every class and think of new examples or illustrations to explain concepts. The Department should provide in-service training soon,” says the head of a Chennai Higher Secondary School.

While the Directorate of Teacher Education Research and Training (DTERT) circulated lesson plans to be followed during the two months before finalisation of the syllabus, it has not given any guidelines to teachers after the Supreme Court verdict.

“With the new syllabus, the amount of preparation we need to have before classes will increase. I have decided to allot at least one hour every day to write the teaching notes,” says the middle school teacher of a government higher secondary school. She is busy readying lesson plans for three subjects she handles for classes VII and VIII – English, Maths and Science.

Teachers in government and aided school have the additional task of transacting the new syllabus along with existing teaching methodologies such as the Activity-Based Learning (ABL) and Active Learning Methodologies (ALM) introduced for primary and middle school sections by the previous government.

“Will we get new ABL materials? Will we have some guidance on adopting ALM to the new syllabus? Teachers have a tremendous amount of work,” says a primary school teacher of a government school. The schools are yet to receive clear instructions on the first term examinations.

A senior official of the School Education Department says: “We are just in the process of distributing the new textbooks. We will take necessary steps to train teachers and decide on the examinations very soon.” Implementation of Samacheer Kalvi implies that class X students going to government and aided schools will also have practical examinations in science from this year as opposed to earlier where only students of the Matriculation stream took them. “This would mean that labs will have to be set up in all schools,” says another official.

It is not realistic to expect changes to happen soon after a major syllabus change. “The Department can only take up one issue at a time. Now, it is textbooks,” said an official.

Private schools

Many private schools plan to hold the first term examinations in September. They will work on Saturdays and postpone the final exams by a few weeks. The focus for schools is now on getting back to teaching mode.

Br. I. Johnson Rex Dhanabal, principal of St. Michael's Academy Matriculation Higher Secondary School, says the school held its sports day, cultural programmes and also completed class picnics in the last two months. “While Samacheer Kalvi seems easy, we cannot rush with the portions and the challenge is to complete the syllabus without stressing the children, particularly those in class VI upward,” he says.

Anna Eapen, principal of Union Christian Matriculation Higher Secondary School, says: “For the first term examinations, we plan to reduce the portions, duration of an exam and bring down the total from 100 to 50, so that children will not be burdened.”

While students agree they had their share of fun in the last two months with no tests and homework, many such as Robin Shahai, class IX student of Christ Church Anglo India School, hopes it is not going to be all academics from now. With regard to books, matriculation schools and minority language schools might have to wait a little longer. Matriculation schools that have placed orders with approved private publishers say they might receive the books this week, minority language schools such as Telugu, Malayalam, Urdu and Kannada say it might take a few more weeks before they receive the textbooks as per the new syllabus.

Implementing Samacheer Kalvi might warrant a lot of coordination on the part of the School Department, initiative from teachers, cooperation from students and parents, but it might mean a huge change for those like A. Rajeswari, parent of a class VIII student.

“My husband works as driver in a private company. We never imagined admitting our sons to a matriculation school because it is out of reach. But now, when I see that my sons will learn exactly what children of the rich will, it gives me a lot of hope as a parent,” she says.

What they say

C.Ve. Shanmugam, Minister for School Education

The textbooks will certainly reach all the students on Tuesday. Soon after they receive the textbooks, classes will begin in full swing. There is no question of having lost time, for the last two months have been utilised to teach students basic concepts that are usually covered in a particular class irrespective of the syllabus being followed. There was a lesson plan that schools followed. The transition will be smooth and there will be no problem.

S. Jayaprakash, class VIII student, MCC Higher Secondary School

The old syllabus was fairly easy. I hope the new one is not too difficult. Our teacher has told us that the new books are colourful, with pictures, illustrations and activities. I was scared that it will be very difficult to study, but our teacher said that if we put in some extra effort, we can do well. As long as the lessons are easy to learn and we score well in examinations, I am not worried.

Sheela Ragavan, principal, TI Matriculation Higher Secondary School

While it seemed as if we lost two-and-a-half months, students were attending school and we used our experience to conduct classes that dealt with concepts and skills that were age-appropriate. Now that we are to follow a new syllabus, we plan to conduct special classes and also look at the testing pattern. In fact, the 20th century skills speak of problem solving and this real life situation would judge the level of these skills in the school management – for teachers, students and parents.

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