Tamil Nadu assembly elections are expected to be held in April or May 2021, and before that the state government has a compulsion to conduct Class 10 and 12 board exams. But, there are a myriad of problems.
With issues in online education such as lack of mobile phones and computers for economically backward students, intermittent power cuts, no mobile connectivity, and lack of money to recharge data packs, most of the government and private schools are finding it difficult to complete the syllabus.
“Four months ago, we urged the government to reduce the syllabus by 40 per cent. But till now it has not taken any decision in this regard. We are just four months away from the final exams. The government should reduce the portions by 50 per cent. Only then students and teachers can breathe a sigh of relief,” said PK Ilamaran, president, Tamil Nadu Teachers Association.
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However, the state School Education Department had earlier said that the exams will cover only lessons that were telecast through Kalvi Tholaikatchi (educational channel of Tamil Nadu Education Department), he added.
“However, we demand the government to reopen schools by January 2, 2021, only for Class 12 students. Only then we can prepare them for practical exams to be held in February. There will also be enough time for revision,” Ilamaran stated.
But, how are they going to implement social distancing at schools?
Ilamaran explains, “If a class has 40 students, it must be divided into four sections with 10 students each. For every 10 students, one teacher should be appointed. Through this ‘micro classroom,’ social distancing can be maintained. Since Class 12 students are going to face all India-level entrance exams, the focus must be given more to them than any other classes.”
Lessons via WhatsApp
Thanjavur-based Bhuvana Gopalan, who teaches in a government school said students are lackadaisical towards their studies due to the false hope that the government may announce this academic year as “zero year”.
“I am handling accountancy subject for 170 Class 12 students. Through Kalvi Tholaikatchi, I can teach only for 30 minutes. Within half an hour, it is difficult to make them understand the lessons and if they have any doubts, there is no scope to clear those,” she said.
Teachers like Gopalan often go the extra mile in reaching students through WhatsApp and also in person.
“Out of 170 students, just 40 can afford to have a phone. And, among them, only 10 can use WhatsApp because others are dependent on their parents’ phones and if they go to work, it becomes difficult for the students to study. Due to these issues and having a false hope on the government that it may announce the academic year as ‘zero year’, most of the boys have started working and girls lack awareness about their future,” she added.
‘Life more important than education’
“Generally, schools function for 180 days. If the government decides to reopen them, it may do so after January 2021. It can also think of holding assembly elections in July,” said A Kanagaraj, state president, Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation, Higher Secondary and CBSE Schools Association.
“The schools may work between February and June. Then, we will have 150 days and can conduct classes for seven hours a day. It will give enough free time for Class 12 students to prepare for exams like NEET. As it was during this year, NEET and other entrance exams can be conducted in August,” he opined.
Kanagaraj said considering 2020 as an exception, the government should come forward to reduce the syllabus. According to him, the government should set questions only from the first five lessons in a subject, which must be objective type. Also, during correction of answer sheets, the evaluators must be liberal.
“If the government wants to hold exams, this method can be followed for all others up to Class 11. Life is more important than education. Even though we are running private schools, students’ lives are most important for us than money,” he added.