The Tamil Nadu Catholic Educational Association (TNCEA) has stressed that the proposed State Education Policy for Tamil Nadu (SEP-TN) should concentrate on strengthening and expanding the network of government as well as government-aided private educational institutions and discourage commercialisation of education by self-financing institutions.
The suggestion has been made to the SEP-TN formulation committee headed by retired Delhi High Court Chief Justice D. Murugesan. A delegation led by Most Rev. George Antonysamy, president of Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council and TNCEA, handed over the suggestions to the former judge, according to Fr. A. Xavier Arulraj, a designated senior counsel in the High Court.
The primary source of funding for education should be from the public exchequer. Role of non-State actors should only be in addition to and supplemental to the contribution of the State and not as a substitute for the same. “The more that education is privatised, lesser the control of the government and farther it will be from the reach of the poor,” the TNCEA warned.
Stating that St. George Anglo-Indian School in Chennai, established in 1715, was the first public school in the country, the association said, British administrator Sir Thomas Munro established the Board of Public Instruction in 1826. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) was established in 1851 and the grant-in-aid scheme was introduced in 1855.
At present, there were more than 37,200 government schools and 8,400 government-aided private schools in the State and the Catholic church as well as the Church of South India had a network of around 5,000 of the aided schools. Having been totally non-commercial, the Christian missionaries had opened the avenues of modern and secular education to all.
However, after 1980, the government allowed mushrooming of private matriculation schools and caused irreparable damage not only to the concept of imparting education to all without any discrimination but also to imparting education in mother tongue. “Ultimately, public schools became the preserve of the poor and came to be perceived as inferior in quality,” TNCEA lamented.
In order to salvage the situation, the association urged that SEP-TN must insist that the government ensures 100% Gross Enrolment Ration by increasing the number of government and aided schools in the neighbourhood and extends all welfare schemes, including nutritious meal and breakfast, up to Class XII in aided schools too.
“The present system of 5+5+2 in school education can be 2+5+5+2 including pre-school education... The tendency to move away from the State Board to other streams like CBSE, ICSE, Cambridge International, etc., has to be discouraged and the common school system of public education has to be strengthened,” the suggestions read.
TNCEA also suggested abolition of board examinations till Class X and insisted on introducing a Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) system to assess the learning abilities of a student. It further made several suggestions with respect to educating the differently abled, the migrant children of Sri Lankan Tamil ethnicity and so on.
Pointing out that the Christian community had entered into the realm of higher education too at the earliest with the establishment of Madras Christian College in 1837, St. Joseph’s College in Tiruchi in 1844, St. John’s College in Palayamkottai in 1878 and the American College in Madurai in 1881, the TNCEA said these colleges were initially funded by the State.
The government had slowly abdicated from its responsibility of funding higher educational institutes. “As a result, higher education stands privatised in a big way in the last 30 years. There are 2,610 colleges in Tamil Nadu of which 2,002 are self-financed and only 251 are government or government-aided private colleges.
“Out of the total strength of 22,75,290 students studying in these colleges, 13,29,622 are studying in self-financing colleges whereas only 4,82,160 students find a place in government or aided colleges. Thus, only around 20% students are supported by the Government in higher education,” the association claimed.
“The Government is on a withdrawal syndrome from its social commitment to public education, jeopardizing the goals of access and equity of the poor in higher education. All these indicate the urgent need to study closely the higher education system in our country, and to reform and restructure it, so that it could become innovative,” it added.
TNCEA insisted on expanding the reach of government and aided colleges to cover a minimum of 50% of the student population. “The present system of 3+2 in higher studies can be continued. There is no valid reason to alter the system. The process of evolving and choosing of curriculum and pedagogy has to be done by the State government and not Central bodies,” it said.
Asserting that National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical admissions must be abolished, TNCEA said that admissions to medical education have to be purely based on the marks scored in Class XII public examinations and that the Directorate of Medical Education, and not National Medical Commission, should monitor such admissions.
The association also made its suggestions with respect to restructuring technical education since there had been a proliferation of engineering colleges in the State over the years and such abnormal growth had created lakhs of unemployed engineering graduates. “The industry is exploiting the situation by engaging technical professionals for very low salary,” it said.
TNCEA insisted on bring a constitutional amendment shifting the subject of ‘education’ from the concurrent list to the State list and increase the Budgetary allocation for education substantially in order to strengthen public educational institutions and save them from the onslaught of wholly self-financing institutions.