About 47,000 out of 9 lakh students failed the Tamil language paper in the recently announced Class 10 state board exam results in Tamil Nadu.
This is the situation in schools today despite the state government’s efforts to boost Tamil by promoting the two-language policy in education and providing reservations in higher education for candidates who have studied in Tamil medium schools. However, it is to be noted that two years after the devastating COVID pandemic, Class 10 students have attempted the public exams for the first time this year.
Out of 9 lakh students, a total of 47,055 students failed in the Tamil language paper. This includes students from both government and private schools and from Tamil and English mediums.
It seems the state’s school education department does not have a record of the exact number of students who failed in the Tamil language paper in the previous years. However, a comparison of overall subject-wise pass percentage of this year with the previous years shows that there is an increase in those who could not clear the Tamil paper.
In terms of percentage, in 2018, about 96.42 per cent of students passed the Tamil paper. In 2019, it was 96.12 per cent. Due to the pandemic, the public exam for Class 10 was not held in 2020 and 2021. In these two years, all the students passed as the schools calculated their final exam marks on the basis of their quarterly and half yearly marks and attendance.
If one goes by that logic, the pass percentage in Tamil would be more than 98 per cent, if not 100 per cent, according to teachers. The same is applicable to 2021. However, this year, it has gone down to 94.84 per cent.
‘Politically motivated allegations’
The teaching fraternity told The Federal that though some students do fail in Tamil every year, it is only this year that the number has been shockingly big. “Also, the issue has come under the limelight because of the politically motivated allegations being made, especially considering the state’s recent opposition to the imposition of Hindi,” said a government teacher who requested anonymity.
Some BJP functionaries from the state are mocking the DMK government for this setback using the hashtag #TamilTheriyathuPoda (‘I don’t know Tamil, duh!’, a parody on the #HindiTheriyathuPoda hashtag that trends now and then). On the other hand, the supporters of Dravidian politics are engaging in whataboutery, comparing Tamil Nadu’s results with the 2020 Class 10 results of Uttar Pradesh.
“The failure percentage in Tamil Nadu is only 5 per cent, but the percentage of students who failed in Hindi in UP is 25 per cent, out of 30 lakh students who had appeared for the exams,” reads the social media post of a DMK supporter.
Many reasons for failure
Talking to The Federal, PB Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary, State Platform for Common School System, said that the poor performance is not new and it is not an isolated issue.
“It is not just the students whose mother tongue is Tamil fail in the exams. But across the board, students have failed in their respective language papers. So, failing the Tamil paper is not an isolated issue. Further, we have seen such failure percentages in the past as well. This is not new. But this year, the issue has been taken up by the fringe elements to mock the Dravidian Model,” he said.
One of the reasons for the poor performance is the lack of sufficient Tamil teachers in many government and private schools. Often, teachers of other subjects are told to teach Tamil as well.
Gajendra Babu pointed to other factors, too. “Every year, we find some mistakes in the question papers and even in the answer key sheets, which confuses the students. If the number of students failing in language papers is increasing every year, what are the steps taken by the government to prevent this failure? These are some of the questions which are unanswered,” he said.
A number theory
In a discussion featured on Puthiya Thalaimurai on this issue, writer R Narumpu Nathan made an interesting observation that many missed in the uproar.
“In Tamil Nadu schools, we use a tool called EMIS (Education Management Information System). The schools collect the students’ data from Class 1 and upload it. Once the academic year is over, the tool automatically considers that a student has been promoted to the next class. From Class 1 to Class 8, no children are detained.
“However, in the last two years of the pandemic, many students dropped out. But the data of those students is still maintained in the EMIS. It is possible that out of 47,000 students, the dropout numbers could have also been added and that’s why the number is so big,” he reasoned.
Impact of learning gap
Dhananchezhiyan, a Tamil teacher and a headmaster of a government school in Tiruvannamalai district, told The Federal that the paucity of teachers is an old issue and the government is taking steps to fill the vacancies in schools.
“The true reason for this failure is the learning gap created during the pandemic lockdown. The students who attempted the Class 10 public exam this year had not properly written their Class 8 and 9 exams. So, when they came to Class 10 directly, they developed a problem in reading and writing,” he said.
Dhananchezhiyan added that the number of academic days this year was lower than usual and the teachers were unable to cover the syllabus on time even though it was reduced.
“Also, the government had asked the schools not to stress the students to attend the classes regularly. This gave the students carte blanche to take leave frequently. Because of this, the monthly class tests, revision tests were not conducted sufficiently. Besides, we were unable to conduct various competitions related to Tamil, in which a large number of students actively participated in the past. So the claims that the students lost interest in the language paper is also false,” he said.
He added that the government has come up with the Ennum Ezhuthum (Numbers and Letters) scheme to develop the reading and writing skills and they hoped the condition will change from the next academic year.