A brightly coloured lunch basket, hair combed into place, slightly scuffed black shoes and a schoolbag bigger than the little back that carries it — this is the picture that comes to mind when one thinks of an average school student.
The scene in schools across Tamil Nadu was pretty much the same this year too, except for one marked difference. Children no longer had heavy bags on their shoulders.
Thanks to the State government’s latest initiative of introducing the trimester system and prescribing term-wise textbooks, the physical load on students has lightened considerably. In the place of one textbook per subject, they now carry one textbook each term for three subjects — maths, science and social science.
L Vaishnavi, a student of Class VII in a Chennai Corporation-run middle school, says, “It (school bag) is much easier for me to carry; last year we had around six or seven textbooks each day. When I used to get into the MTC bus, people used to yell at me for ramming into them with my huge bag. Not anymore.” Not only has the new trimester system of textbooks eased the physical load, students find the academic part of it more exciting too.
Arshith Kumar, a student of Class IV in a city school says he likes social science classes the most. “We get to learn about the adventures of people like Hyder Ali, Bartholomeu Diaz and Vasco da Gama. Tracing their journeys on a map is a lot of fun.”
Shirley A Zac, principal of a matriculation school in Thiruvottiyur, says earlier, textbooks used to look bland and uninteresting, with pages of text interspersed by a few uninspiring line drawings. “Now they are definitely well-prepared and made very attractive. The books are on par, some even better, than those put out by private publishers. Naturally, children will find it much easier to study as it makes learning more enjoyable,” she points out. Several colourful pictures, additional information in boxes and bullet points make the new texts easy to read and understand, says Gayathri, a student of Class VI. “We hardly have to take notes during classes. The best part is that we do not have to memorise every single word,” she says.
She also feels it’s great to have just around 70-odd pages to get through each term for each of the main subjects. At the end of each lesson, books and websites for additional information are also given, she points out.
The books essentially have the same content as compared to last year’s textbook, followed by interactive questions, activities and topics for discussion. Sarah P, a teacher for Class II, says, “Kids are very knowledgeable these days. Teachers are now facilitators for these discussions, guiding the students and pitching in with relevant details.”
Gomathi S, mother of a Class V student, says, “Going through their text, I found activities like making animals out of leaves and identifying plants by their leaf shapes. These kinds of learning methods look very promising.”
However, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We will offer our final evaluation after exams for the first term is held,” she signs off.