Cap Kerala's Plus-1 batch strength at 50 to arrest falling standards, say stakeholders

Stakeholders suggest that batches required could be sanctioned on a temporary basis as was done in previous years, to address the issue.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government’s decision to carry on with the policy of raising the student strength in Plus-I batches from the prescribed 50 to 60 and even to 65 to meet the increasing demand is poised to adversely impact the overall standards of the higher secondary sector.

In the wake of a sharp drop in the Plus-II success rate this year, there are renewed demands to limit the higher secondary batch strength to 50. Stakeholders have suggested that the batches required could be sanctioned temporarily, as was done in previous years, to address the issue.

“This year, the government has decided to create close to 62,000 new Plus-I seats by effecting a marginal increase of 20% to 30% of the existing seats in most of the districts. This would offset the huge financial burden that would arise if over 1,200 new Plus-I batches are sanctioned in its place,” said an official with the general education department.

The financial strain on account of the appointment of permanent teachers is also cited as the reason why 178 higher secondary batches, created since 2022-23, are still being sustained as ‘temporary batches’ and guest teachers appointed in them. The total number of students in these batches would add up to nearly 12,000.

General Education Minister V Sivankutty has ruled out sanctioning new Plus-I batches. According to the department, the marginal increase in Higher Secondary Plus-I seats would suffice this year as close to one lakh additional seats are available across the state in VHSE, ITI and Polytechnic streams.

Image used for representational purposes only
No new Plus-I batches in Kerala this year: V Sivankutty

As the cash-strapped government places fiscal prudence over academic standards, the result is a suffocating environment for students in batches with intake of 60 and 65. Overcrowded classrooms and struggle for basic facilities have become a daily affair in government schools of northern districts, especially in Malappuram.

“Our Plus-II curriculum has a process-oriented, learner-centred and issue-based approach and does not follow the lecture-based method followed in higher educational institutions. This means each student or group of students has to be given individual attention and their learning outcomes monitored closely,” said Abdul Jaleel Panakkad, a senior functionary of the Kerala Higher Secondary Teachers’ Union.

While admitting that a large number of schools in northern Kerala were grappling with overcrowded batches, sanctioning of additional batches should be carried out only after a proper taluk-wise study of the actual requirement, suggested Manoj S of Aided Higher Secondary Teachers’ Association. “In some districts in southern Kerala, there are more Plus-I seats than the number of students who passed the SSLC examination this year. This imbalance in demand and supply should be scientifically addressed,” he said.

This year, the success rate in the Higher Secondary Plus-II examination was 78.69%, denoting a significant dip of 4.26% from last year’s pass percentage.

Since no specific instruction was given by the General Education Department for stricter evaluation, stakeholders have attributed the sharp dip in success rate to falling academic standards.

Due to the overcrowded classrooms and the added strain on infrastructure, the learning outcomes may not be properly met, admitted a senior official with the State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT).

In such a scenario, the odds are stacked heavily against the academically weaker students who need individual attention, the official pointed out.

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The New Indian Express