It is no secret that Covid has changed our lives forever. The virus-induced lockdown has not been easy for any sector. Sushmitha Ramakrishnan takes a look at how it affected the education sector in Tamil Nadu.
With Covid came the lockdown. All educational institutions were closed down from last week of March and higher educational institutions reopening only for final year students and research scholars in December. While staying indoors had its perks, the poor found it difficult to educated their children.
Students, particularly from government schools and small low-cost private schools were left to the whim of one-way lectures broadcasted on Kalvi TV, where they neither got literacy training nor a chance to clarify doubts.
A day after Express’ detailed reportage on school students’ lack of access to the internet, the government announced they would personally transfer recorded video lessons to the free laptops given to class 12 students.
Growth in EdTech sector
Forget playgrounds or the war between first and last benchers. This was the year of virtual discussions for a classroom with tremendous growth in the EdTech sector. Enter private schools and classrooms are online and assignments are uploaded for correction.
Why, even physical education and music classes mean performing in front of the camera of a gadget. “Hands-on experience” at laboratories happens through colleges buying mass subscriptions into virtual labs for college students.
Most college conferences and seminars these days have international invitees. The online-class mania is slowly but steadily catching up even among students from public schools.
Over 14,000 students from government and aided schools signed up for the Tamil Nadu government’s free NEET coaching classes in 2020, and the school education minister recently announced that the state would also run free IIT-JEE lessons online.
Medical seats and 7.5 per cent reservation
Tamil Nadu’s three-year-long gripe with the NEET mellowed this year after the State government announced a 7.5 per cent reservation for government school students. The NEET has led to at least 18 suicides in Tamil Nadu, five this year.
While clearing NEET is a singular bottleneck entry point for medical education, students often crack such competitive exams after spending on expensive private coaching which is largely inaccessible to the poor.
Further, the NCERT syllabus the exam is based on, is taught only at CBSE schools reducing the chance of poor students from state board cracking it. These qualms came to an end with the new reservation policy.
Politics around Anna University
One of State’s most iconic varsity has been in the eye of a series of political storms for a while now.
It began when incumbent Vice-Chancellor MK Surappa took charge in April 2018. Surappa’s appointment had stirred a controversy with politicians condemning the Governor for appointing a person hailing from Karnataka as the V-C, when TN and Karnataka were embroiled in the Cauvery water dispute.
Many levelled allegations that he was planted by the ruling BJP government to centralise the historic State university. While he denied these allegations, he was instrumental in getting the Centre to give the Institute of Eminence (IoE) status for Anna University.
This paved the way for two problems which bore a lot of political heat. One, many suspected that getting the status meant doing away with the existing 69 per cent reservation policy in Tamil Nadu.
Secondly, to get the status, the State had to bifurcate the institution. Many feared that the State would have to give up control of the parent institution to the Central government.
While the ruling AIADMK government hesitantly tread these grounds, Surappa allegedly surpassed the State and directly spoke to the Centre on the matter, pushing the government to once for all deny the IoE status.
Finally, the government has set up an inquiry committee to investigate administrative irregularities and corruption charges against him while some politicians have spoken in his support and called this a witch hunt.
Online, the future of recruitment
While virtual graduation ceremonies which simulate students receiving awards from chief guests sitting abroad have baffled many, placements too have become virtual. Students now sit in the comfort of their home while they stand in a virtual queue for a job interview with private company recruiters who are in an “interview room” at their homes.
Welcome to the future of recruitment. With growth in fields like big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, remote working and remote hiring is on a rapid rise. Colleges, if they do not board this train maybe left behind on grooming “employable” students.
National Educational Policy
Despite massive furore since last year, the Cabinet in July approved National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The draft was released just a day after BJP retained power. It copped severe criticism in Tamil Nadu which said that the three language formula proposed would impose Hindi.
The Centre later clarified that Hindi will not be mandatory and respective State governments would be able to pick the three languages. Further it sought to merge schools with poor enrolment, while many of these schools in the State are located in remote areas, with higher tribal population, where access to schools are poor.
The importance given to vocational education too was under the radar as many activists said this would reinforce caste professions.
'Hindi not mandatory in TN'
NEP copped severe criticism in Tamil Nadu which said that the three language formula proposed would impose Hindi. The Centre later clarified that Hindi will not be mandatory