Holding a test tube in one hand and an ink filler in the other, T. Praba carefully adds a few drops of iodine to the starch solution. “See, the colour has changed,” she observes, pointing to the liquid that has acquired a new blue-black shade.

The experiment helps her test solutions for presence of starch. “Look at this test tube filled with water. It does not turn into that colour. It means that the solution in the first test tube contains starch and the second, with water, has no starch.”

The class X student of Chennai Higher Secondary School, West Mambalam, belongs to the first batch of State Board students, who will take a practical examination in Science.

Following the introduction of Samacheer Kalvi, which was extended to cover all classes from I to X from this year, class X students going to government, aided and local body schools have a practical component in their science examination for the first time. Students and teachers see the introduction of practical sessions as a value addition to science learning.

The practical examination will carry 25 marks, and the theory paper will test students for 75 marks. Experiments cover physics, chemistry and biology and would include checking the heart beat using a stethoscope, calculating the body mass index, dissection and display of androecium and gynoecium, mapping a magnetic field, measuring the width of wires using a screw gauge and litmus tests.

Many students such as B. Senthilvelavan of the school and P. Nandakumar of the Chennai Higher Secondary School in Purasawalkam, say the litmus test is their favourite experiment. “It is exciting to see how the litmus paper changes colour,” says Senthilvelan.

Class X science teacher P. Guhana observes that chemistry experiments are quite a hit among students. “They are usually colourful and the results can be seen immediately,” she says, adding that since all the experiments are completely aligned to the theoretical concepts covered in class, it helps students understand and score better.

Students would also be able to score higher in the public examinations. “More children will pass,” said the head of another higher secondary school.

RMSA funds

For the two periods allocated weekly for the science lab session, schools would need a well-equipped laboratory. “We used funds allocated as part of the Rastriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) to set up this lab exclusively for class X students. If they share the lab with Plus Two students, accommodating all the sessions in the time-table becomes difficult,” says S. Srinivasan, headmaster of the West Mambalam School.

According to a senior official in the RMSA wing, all government high and higher secondary schools received Rs.25,000 each per year, for the last two year specially for purchase of lab equipment.

However, some higher secondary schools continue to use the Plus Two laboratory facilities and some high schools are yet to set up a full-fledged science laboratory, particularly in the case of schools where there is no extra space or additional classroom.

“The School Education Department should check if all high and higher secondary schools have a laboratory for class X students. Some schools are yet to set up a fully functional lab,” said a science teacher of a Higher Secondary School, who did not wanted to be named.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012