As the clock strikes four, children clad in blue and white, with books in hand, come out of their classrooms. Eagerly they head for a cup of snacks which is handed over to them by teachers. Slowly they occupy every nook and corner of the school campus. The playground, verandahs and dining halls are some of their favorite spots. This is a regular scene at all the Chennai High Schools between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. It is clear that they are working hard and focussed towards a goal. What is this challenge they are gearing up for? They are all students of Class X of Chennai High Schools who will be facing a public examination, based on Samacheer Kalvi for the first time. It is an initiative taken by the Government to encourage these children, who mostly come from under-privileged families, to score more. This extra coaching is given by teachers in all subjects for two hours.
As there is no question bank or ready reckoner to prepare them for exams, the first batch of Samacheer Kalvi system feels that they have been given an insurmountable task. Regarding the level of difficulty of the subjects, there is mixed reaction from students and teachers. “The syllabus is new and difficult for our students. We have categorised them into achievers and under performers. While the achievers are motivated to obtain ranks, the other group is encouraged to pass in all subjects,” say teachers and principals unanimously.
“We finished the syllabus before the end of January so that children could take up three revision before appearing for the exams. Extra coaching sessions have been in vogue right from the beginning of the academic year. While children were given slip tests till January, they are now meticulously being trained to become thorough in one and two mark questions,” says Carmel Mary, Headmistress, Chennai High School, Vanniya Teynampet.
“Children are given time to read and revise the lessons. Once they are confident, they are made to write the answers which are immediately assessed,” explains Carmel Mary, who has produced cent per cent results last academic year.
“Evenings are pleasant and we find it very comfortable to sit around the school campus. We are able to get one-to-one interaction,” says one of the students. The school has fitted new fans and lights all over the campus to facilitate the coaching. “We neither have any facility nor an ambience to learn at home. The combined studies done during these hours have given me a lot of confidence and enthused me to aim for a State rank,” says Jhansi Rani, another student.
“It is a team effort of the parents, children and staff, which has helped me to produce 100 per cent results last year. I am sure this evening coaching will go a long way not only to build confidence but also to understand concepts better as Samacheer Kalvi is a good mix of all the earlier boards,” says Nalina Kumari, Headmistress, Chennai High School, V.P. Koil Street, Mylapore.
Verandahs and dining halls
There is a flurry of activity at the school's dining hall and verandahs during the coaching time. The school has allotted specific subject for each day of the week. . They are made to write departmental question papers in the evenings. While students who are good at academics are made to answer the whole paper, the weaker ones are made to memorise one and two marks and become thorough in charts, maps, graph and geometry.
The story is different at Chennai High School, K.P. Street, Mylapore. Children are trained in the mornings and evenings. “Our wards are children of single parent who are daily labourers. If they are not forced to come to school by us, they are sure to be sent to do petty jobs,” says Gladys Arokiya Mary, Headmistress of this school.
Says P. Lokesh, Class X student, whose father sells sundal on the beach: Now that they have brought uniform syllabus, I hope I will stand a chance with children of other schools when I apply for a job after finishing my higher education. If not for this extra coaching hours, I would have been compelled to sweat out on the beach by my father.
E. Vidya utilises this extra time to strengthen her English grammar. Similarly, Manimaran, son of a coolie, has now improved his scores from 20s to 40s.
“As many of them find it difficult to reproduce, repeated reinforcement of the concepts in the extra hours has improved their writing skills,” say the teachers. As most of the students of the school are from the nearby slum areas, inculcating moral values has become part of the curriculum, opine the teachers.
Ms. Gladys speaks high of her staff. “Without their help and cooperation nothing is possible. In fact, from a percentage of just 28 in 2002, we have brought it to 100 now,” she says proudly.
Perseverance and hard work will definitely help all these Headmistress to produce 100 per cent results this year too. All the three received a cash award of Rs. 1 lakh from the then Mayor M. Subramaniam (on May 27, 2011) for producing cent per cent results during 2010-2011.
Extra coaching is given for 2 hours in the evenings.
Underperformers are made to score in all subjects.