Kerala: Meet the man pivotal to the increase in number of annual school days

C K Shaji approached the High Court making the case that the low number of working days is eroding the quality of school education in the state.
C K Shaji
C K ShajiPhoto | Special Arrangement

KOCHI: Educational reform or additional burden? On June 15, all students up to high school, under the state government’s general education department, attended classes on what was a Saturday, which used to be a holiday.

Though the provision existed in the Kerala Education Rules (KER), the government finally decided to implement it — increasing the number of school working days to 220, by adding 25 Saturdays to the academic year — as a result of the efforts of one man. C K Shaji, manager of the Ebenezer Higher Secondary School, in Veettoor, Muvattupuzha, approached the High Court making the case that the low number of working days is eroding the quality of school education in the state.

“Students want to learn. But they don’t have enough time to do so,” Shaji told TNIE. He pointed out that as per KER, schools in the state should have 220 working days. “But was that happening? No! Successive governments have bowed to the pressure exerted by the teaching community by not implementing the KER-mandated number of working days,” he said.

Shaji decided to approach the court after failing to get a response from the government. “The court ruled in my favour and directed the education department to implement the same. However, nothing happened. So I went ahead and filed a contempt of court petition. The HC again ruled positively and was very harsh in its judgment,” he said.

C K Shaji
Kerala government firm on ensuring 220 school days this year says V Sivankutty

Shaji credits his 13-year experience as a school manager for the decision to approach the HC. “I have seen students interested in studies struggling because of the little time they get with their teachers. Compared to tutors of CBSE schools, those in state schools spend very little time teaching. This is even as they are the ones who draw the bigger pay packages. Look at the difference in quality of students in CBSE and state syllabus schools. And we are talking about the erosion of students from state schools!”

Explaining the math behind the 220-day academic year, Shaji noted, “At present, state schools have a five-day working week, which translates to five hours a day and 25 hours a week of school time for students. Special events such as sports meets and youth festivals and unforeseen issues like natural calamities and political agitations also eat into school time. Last year, most students got just 150 school days.

“The state government wanted to increase the number of working days to 210. However, the teachers’ organisations intervened and it was reduced to 205. Of this, teachers’ workshops take up three working days. This cut the number of working days further to 202. Then there are examinations,” he added. Of the 150 days available, students had very little time for class-based study, considering that they also had to take co-curricular activity (CCA), physical education, music, art and work experience sessions in school.

“In reality, the teachers were spending only around three hours a day on the work they had been hired for!” says Shaji. “We have very good teachers in our schools. But unless they get time with students how can you expect good results? And, we are crying about students moving to CBSE schools!”

He also pointed to the social angle to increasing the number of working days. “Students are safer in schools. Most of the students studying in schools under the general education department are from financially weak families. The places they live are also not conducive enough for them to be left alone. So, getting them to school on Saturdays will enable their parents to go to work with peace of mind,” Shaji stressed.

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