News of the Madras High Court on Friday staying the operation of an amendment to the Tamil Nadu Uniform System of School Education Act, indefinitely postponing the implementation of the “Samacheer Kalvi”, evoked two extreme responses – one of joy and relief, and another of great disappointment.
P.B. Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary, State Platform for Common School System, one of the activists campaigning for a common school system consistently, says: “We are delighted. While we have always clarified that Samacheer Kalvi is not just about a common syllabus; we feel that this is a good beginning. Four streams at the school level will definitely perpetuate inequality.”
While the State government's plan of action is yet to be known, he says: “We do not know if the State government will move the Supreme Court. The Madras High Court in its judgment has said that no material had been placed before it as to the manner in which the review of the Samacheer Kalvi syllabus was done, before it was deemed below standard. That is a crucial point which makes us optimistic.”
The State government's decision to defer implementation of Samacheer Kalvi followed a Cabinet meeting on May 22. The next day, tenders were floated to invite bids from prospective printers who could print textbooks as per the syllabus followed earlier. “It is virtually impossible to have studied the syllabus as per Samacheer Kalvi for classes I to X and in such a short span,” says Mr. Prince Gajendra Babu.
Private schools, on the other hand, seemed rather disappointed. N. Vijayan, general secretary, Federation of Matriculation Schools' Associations in Tamil Nadu, says: “About 28 lakh students going to Matriculation schools and their parents were happy when this government decided to revert to the original syllabus. It is sad that the excitement was short-lived. Students going to class X, in particular, will have to shift from taking an examination for 1100 marks to one for just 500 marks,” he said.
The reversal of syllabus now would mean that schools would have to source the appropriate textbooks. In an earlier order, the court had said private schools could buy the Samacheer Kalvi textbooks from either the Government or the Government-notified publishers. The government had printed about 9 crore books. However, the list of approved publishers is yet to be released.
“How are we to source the books,” asks R. Visalakshi, president, Federation of Association of Private Schools in Tamil Nadu. “There is hardly a week left for the reopening of the schools.”
The Co-ordination Committee of Parents' Welfare Associations has appealed to the State government to accept the court's decision and go ahead with the implementation of the equitable education system. As the syllabus had been implemented for the first and sixth standard students last academic year, the government should accept the court decision, keeping in mind the interests of those students.
Some schools, though in favour of Samacheer Kalvi, insist that a detailed review of the syllabus be taken up anyway. “We are not against this uniformity. But the textbooks [as per Samacheer Kalvi] appear shallow. The Class X science textbook, in particular, needs to be improved if the students' foundation has to be strong,” says Uma Ramesh, Principal, TVS Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Madurai.
“In principle, we are for Samacheer Kalvi with a good syllabus at least from the next academic year,” says S. Vijayalakshmi, Headmistress, Masathiyar Corporation Girls Higher Secondary School in Madurai.
Headmaster of Jayaraj Nadar Higher Secondary School, Madurai A.Balachandran says: “The results of IIT and AIEEE prove that our standard has to be raised. It is good to have uniformity but the syllabus followed should be one we are proud of.”