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UPLIFTING RURAL STUDENTS: School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu presenting a memento to a student of Dharmapuri district who secured admission in VIT under the STAR project, at a function on the VIT campus in Vellore on Thursday.
UPLIFTING RURAL STUDENTS: School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu presenting a memento to a student of Dharmapuri district who secured admission in VIT under the STAR project, at a function on the VIT campus in Vellore on Thursday.

Special Correspondent

Thangam Thennarasu inaugurates ‘Support The Advancement of Rural Students’ (STAR) project

VELLORE: The State government has introduced Activity-Based Learning (ABL) and Active Learning Methodology (ALM) in Standards I to V in elementary schools for improving the quality of education in government schools gradually and bringing them on a par with Central Board of Secondary Education schools in places such as Chennai, Minister for School Education Thangam Thennarasu has said.

He was inaugurating the ‘Support The Advancement of Rural Students’ (STAR) project at a function got up under the auspices of the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development & Research Studies on the VIT campus here on Thursday.

Under the project, the VIT University would provide free admission, free hostel accommodation and free boarding to 14 students, a boy and a girl each who stood first in Plus-Two public examinations among the candidates in rural government schools in the districts of Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram, Cuddalore, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Kancheepuram from 2008-09.

Mr. Thennarasu said that in the last two-and-a-half years, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government had taken steps to ensure that there was one elementary school for every one km, one middle school for every three km, one high school for every five km and one higher secondary school for every seven km.

To make more higher education opportunities available for the students within the State, the government had succeeded in persuading the Centre to start an Indian Institute of Management and a Central university in Tamil Nadu.

Despite the quantitative expansion of school education, the government was concerned about the lack of equality between the quality of education available for the urban rich students and for the rural poor students.

“Changes in the syllabus have to be introduced gradually from standard I,” he said, adding that the government proposed to introduce reforms in the syllabus on the basis of the National Curriculum Framework 2005.

Congratulating VIT Chancellor G. Viswanathan on having introduced the STARS scheme aimed at providing opportunities to pursue quality higher education to the rural students, Mr. Thennarasu appealed to him to extend the scheme to all districts in the State. (Responding immediately to the appeal, Mr. Viswanathan announced that the university would extend the scheme to all the districts from 2009-10).

Mr. Thennarasu thanked Mr. Viswanathan and said that the chancellor was truly following the dictum of his mentor, former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai . He lauded the VIT for not only providing quality education but also involving itself in social causes by helping in the economic development of the neighbouring villages and undertaking confidence-building activities among the youth. He lauded the efforts at encouraging budding entrepreneurs through the VIT Technology Business Incubator.

Mr. Viswanathan, who presided, suggested that the Plus-Two system should be shifted from the schools to the colleges, through the Junior College concept as prevailing in the neighbouring States in order to give a higher education status to the Plus-Two and improve the quality of its syllabus.

Under the present dispensation, the Plus Two course was not given the importance that the two-year Intermediate and the one-year Pre-University Course enjoyed in the olden days.

Though they have good buildings, many government schools did not have quality laboratories for the Plus-Two students. The existing Plus-Two did not prepare the students for the university education to follow after that.

Mr. Viswanathan said that STARS was born out of VIT’s desire to provide to the rural students the same higher education opportunities available to the urban students. While Tamil Nadu was in the forefront in the enrolment of children of school-going age, with 92 per cent of the children below the age of 14 being enrolled in schools, only 46 per cent of those in the 14-18 age group went to school.

Out of the five lakh students who wrote Plus Two examinations, only 50 per cent passed, and of them, only one-third went to colleges. “All the Plus Two-passed candidates desirous of pursuing higher education should be assured seats in colleges,” he said.

Mr. Viswanathan called upon the teachers to maintain discipline among themselves so that they remained as good role models to the students.

Regretting that teachers’ associations had turned into trade unions resorting to road blockades, he said lack of discipline was not democracy. One could reach great heights only through discipline.

M. Kutralingam, Secretary, Department of School Education, said that the government provided laptops to 1,110 students from all districts who got the highest marks in the SSLC this year. C. Rajendran, Collector of Vellore, called upon the teachers and the students to work hard to improve the results in the school final examinations.

Vellore district stood 25th in the percentage of passes in Plus Two among the various districts, he said.

Sekar Viswanathan, Pro-Chancellor, stressed the importance of English medium education in schools to prepare the students for higher education, especially in engineering colleges, where the technical books were in English. G.V. Selvam, Pro-Chancellor, and Thazhuthavakuzhandhai of Villupuram district and Bhuvaneswari of Dharmapuri district, both STARS beneficiaries spoke. Chidambaram, dean. Student Affairs, VIT welcomed the gathering.

The Minister later felicitated the students who got the first 50 places among the candidates from Tamil Nadu and the first 50 places among the candidates from other States in the VIT Engineering Entrance Examination-2008.

Thamizhmaran, Project Officer, STARS, explained the project details. Muthuveeran, project coordinator, proposed a vote of thanks.

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