Teachers from various streams are appreciative of the work put into the textbooks, and say that the course work would be beneficial to students. However, the onus will be on teachers to ensure that the system works as the government intends it to.
But the shift from textbook-dominated classroom practices to a more interactive and involved method of teaching has some of them apprehensive. For those teachers who have been in the field for many years, the change in teaching methodology will take some getting used to. Just reading the text, marking answers and correcting the notebooks will no longer be enough. That was why close to five lakh teachers from all over the State were given training in the formative education and assessment system before the beginning of this academic year.
K Devarajan, Director of Tamil Nadu’s State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), informs that every month, reinforcement training will be given to teachers across the State. The new system requires that teachers develop activities best suited to their students. This needs innovation. “It is the duty of the teacher to make sure that all children have reached the same level of understanding before moving on to the next topic,” he says.
Jessintha Amalarasi, a Class II teacher in a State-run school in Tirunelveli district, describes her training as an interesting experience. “We were asked to come up with activities that expanded the students’ horizons. Being back in a classroom ourselves made us see things in a different perspective,” she says.
“Sometimes I take my students out on nature walks among plants and creepers to show them the different types. It is not very easy to come up with different ideas every time, but it makes my work interesting,” says the soft-spoken woman who has been a teacher for a decade now. “Some teachers would do it because they have to; others do it because they like it. If the teachers do not implement the system properly, it will be the children who lose out,” says Jessintha.
Nalini Karunakaran, a chemistry teacher for over 30 years, and set to leave the profession in a few years, says she finds the new textbooks and syllabus exciting. “Teaching my subject through activities makes it very interesting and keeps the students engrossed,” she says. However, she adds that the topics are sometime repetitive and too simple especially for classes VI to VIII.
While many schools have separate teachers for biology, physics and chemistry, it will be teachers in government-run schools who could have a tough time adapting to the new system, feels Nalini. “Since the teacher would specialise in one subject, that is what he/she may focus on. In the process, will the importance of other subjects be diluted and the effectiveness of their teaching and evaluation compromised? This is a potential pitfall and needs to be addressed effectively,” she suggests.
Some teachers feel application based topics like physics or maths might require students to go back to the previous term’s books but Shirley A Zac backs the new system.
Principal of a matriculation school in Thiruvottiyur, she says, “Rather than crowding too much into one school year, it is better they learn less and learn well. If they get their concepts strong, they will keep it in mind for many years.”