Even as Tamil Nadu gets ready for public exams for classes five and eight, which will be held in March-April for the first time this year, questions remain about the intentions behind the move and its impact on first-generation learners.
Before the move, the schools following the Tamil Nadu state syllabus had three exams held for each term. However, this would be the first time that the students in these classes will be made to appear for the public exam that is based on the cumulative portion for the whole year.
PK Ilamaran, president, Tamil Nadu Teachers Association, says, “We have been opposing this move because it will burden students, who might drop out of school due to the pressure of appearing in a public exam, as they might need tuitions.” Ilamaran adds that conducting a district-level exam would be a better idea.
Amendment to RTE Act was not for public exams
A recent amendment to the Right to Education Act which removes the No Detention Policy and proposes examination in 5th and 8th classes. Andrew Sesuraj from the Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch (TNCRW), adds, “Fortunately, the amendment does not speak about Public (Census Examination) and allows the appropriate (the state government) government to decide on the issue of holding the child back in schools. The state should take a stand to respect the social justice movement that brought children to school and the enormous progress we made in retaining the children in education and higher percentage of children reaching colleges compared to Pan Indian Statistics.”
Some activists claim that the announcement of public exams has made teachers pull up their socks. “In some schools, we have heard that the teachers have become more serious about taking classes and revisions. So long, they have been complacent about their classes,” says Virgil D Sami, executive director, Arunodhaya, an NGO working with indigent children.
Virgil questions the need to impose public exams on the children as young as 10 years, to ensure that the teachers get their act together.
Move has merits and demerits
The Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights (TNCPCR) has been receiving complaints from the public and activists about intervening in the issue. A member from the TNCPCR said that there are merits and demerits in the move.
“There are some genuine concerns about how children with disabilities will cope with it. We have to see how the exams pan out to weigh its pros and cons or take a call on continuing it. There are states like Karnataka that are mulling a move like this — public exams for class seven. However, it is important to see how the public exams are being implemented,” adds the source.
He also adds that the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) has been flagging the poor learning level among students and makes this exercise significant.
Study to be held
Activists in the state have decided to reach out to students to ascertain their response and feedback to the public exams. Earlier, they had sent out a petition from children to the government to reconsider the decision, and it was turned down, says Virgil.
Sesuraj also says that following a meeting between members of TNCRW on January 28, they will be meeting the State Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan to present their arguments against the public exams.