Tamil Nadu has initiated a deep introspection of its school education system after the fiasco over the national-level entrance test for medical admissions. M Anandakrishnan, who is heading the TN Curriculum Framework Committee, shares his thoughts with Ashmita Gupta on where Tamil Nadu schools went wrong and the way forward. Excerpts:
There were lots of accusations that the Samacheer Kalvi (the current syllabus) was made very easy to help students score high marks. So while drafting the new syllabus, do you plan to keep it in mind?
Even in the existing syllabus, there is nothing wrong. The teachers and the children were misguided under Samacheer Kalvi. The examination was based on anticipated questions and answers. For class 11, they skipped the entire syllabus. The children would answer anticipated questions even if they didn’t know the fundamentals behind it. We have a whole generation (of students) who have been ruined. But nothing wrong with the syllabus. So the children would get centum by not knowing the subject, but only because of the anticipated questions and answers. This is how our children were not able to write the NEET exam. Their fundamentals are absolutely weak because they never studied it. So we have to go back and set that thing right.
Will there be a complete change in the syllabus?
We are going to have a syllabus which would be dynamic. We expect at the end of 12 years (of school education), a child should have acquired whatever is there in the syllabus. But as with the passage of time the syllabus should be modified as technology develops, as children’s own ability develops. We want to create the linkages (between) what is taught in class 3, and related with what is taught in class 5 and as the step goes on. We would like to make sure the syllabus remains dynamic.
The school education department is also looking at other State textbooks, and involving the other boards like ICSE, IGCSE and organisations like British Council etc. Are you planning to incorporate their pattern of teaching?
Kerala has some very good textbook and syllabus. We have to prepare the textbook in English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Urdu. We will have textbooks in six languages. Everything written in one language will be available for the children studying in one of the other five languages. Kerala also follows the same thing. This is for students who are coming from other State boards. This is exactly the same for child studying in English medium or Tamil medium. We are looking into the content of these boards and into our content. We are seeing what they are missing in their syllabus and what is missing in our syllabus. We are not incorporating anything from them. We are now doing a comparative search between the different boards. We have a team which is now preparing the comparative search.
From my observation of a few teacher training sessions the committee conducted, many teachers struggle even to speak in English.
The entire teacher community will go through a training process before the new curriculum is introduced in schools. We will also evaluate the teachers and we are thinking of some kind of incentive for them. Rather than transferring or detaining we are planning incentive system which works well.
Another point experts were stressing during the training sessions was Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). One of the experts blatantly said that ICT penetration in Tamil Nadu will take 10 to 15 years. They may be right since many of teachers appeared not to be knowing even the basics of computers. But some of the teachers raised the issue of providing the infrastructure before including ICT in education. So what is the plan for ICT? Is a lot of investment required?
ICT training will be done on a war-footing. These teachers are intelligent people and capable people. Nobody has bothered to make sure they are given proper training and also give them the facilities to keep up with the training with their actual day-to-day work. I feel that is not a major problem and we can do that in a systematic manner. ICT training investment is not as large as the school infrastructure. I feel Tamil Nadu government has enough resource for ICT.
While framing the new curriculum, what are the new parameters that are to be kept in mind?
One of the goals of the committee is to prepare a manual for the teachers. This manual consists of whole lot of things like what is the aim of the curriculum, what is the aim of the syllabus, what is expected to be the learning outcome of the children and what are the other practices that the teachers can adopt to deal with the children’s intent. How do the teachers ensure that the various learning outcomes are fulfilled. Besides the textbook (we want) other modes of learning through technology. Children should also be aware of their environment; so we would divide Tamil Nadu into eight to ten zones to capture the zones’ important architecture, or arts, or cultural evidences in that area, economics of that area, linguistics. We want the children to have these knowledge; so for each zone there will be small book and we will give it to teacher. Also textbooks should be attractive, so special publishers have been hired.
For all these to happen proper infrastructure is a must. What are your thoughts on that?
Improvement is required in school infrastructure. All these would not happen if there is no proper infrastructure. If school doesn’t have proper toilet. the government should invest in the children’s health and curriculum.
Every school should have some sort of smart classes. Availability of internet, wifi, computer (are must). So that all that you are talking about it won’t be possible without these. Children must have the capability to both observe science experiment as well as perform science experiment in their own hand with simple devices. For this we need facilities in every school.
When is the draft of the new curriculum expected?
We are going to have the syllabus for the whole set ready by the end of September. We will have the syllabus for classes 1, 6, 7 and 9 (alone) by October.