Evaluating Samacheer Kalvi in TN and possible alternatives – Part 1
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

The newly elected AIADMK regime, in one of its first major policy decision, decided to put in abeyance the Samacheer Kalvi Thittam (Equitable System of School Education) this year thus potentially disrupting the academic schedule of millions of school children and causing enormous confusion. The predecessor DMK government had announced the implementation of Uniform System of School Education (USSE), and the system is already in vogue for classes I and VI. A protracted legal wrangle is in offing and its unfortunate the school children will become victims to whims and fancies of various ruling dispensations. Any regime change in TN is typically accompanied by such dramatic reversal of decision making.

The previous DMK government had introduced Samacheer Kalvi Thittam by making the ‘syllabus common’ for classes from 1 to 10 cutting across multiple school boards -Oriental, Matric, State and Anglo Indian – based on recommendation of Dr. Muthukumaran committee report, the content of which is currently not available to public. This populist move was a consequence of sudden embrace by the DMK of a sustained campaign by left aligned civil society organizations battling for common public school system as magic bullet for all that ails education sector and in which standardization of syllabus is a key cornerstone.

Debate over utility of Samacheer Kalvi in a state like TN which has a flourishing, relatively low cost privates schools and reasonably functional public schooling system has been contentious. It would be pertinent to note that its not  fanciful private schools that people  in urban areas typically envisage, but  rather “budget” private schools that cater to poor and lower middle class parents’ (Muralidharan & Kremer, 2007; Tooley 2009, etc.)

Unfortunately the debate over standardization distracts us from more fundamental issues affecting the education. Standardization of syllabus, besides leading to bureaucratic overreach and increasing governmental footprint on this sector, is possibly an euphemism for standardization of mediocrity and serves as a massive disincentive for boards like matriculation which have strived to innovate and formulate curriculum aimed at achieving academic excellence. One of the key competitive differentiators that private schools enjoyed  is sought to be done away from government intervention. Its based on a one-size-fits-all while need of hour is targetted strategies. In this post we argue that broader education reforms is more important and not merely the Samacheer Kalvi (read as common syllabus)

What we need more importantly at this juncture is reforms / improvements in the infrastructure facilities, teacher training, proper teacher student ratio, good syllabus, hygienic environment. Our education system should aim to produces quality students with “human” intelligence and students capable of thinking on their own and able to find answers to questions using their intelligence. It is a pity that our present system as well as the Samacheer plan does not meet the expectation mentioned above. The assessment of the student’s intelligence is based on marks which is again based on the “book syllabus”. We should educate our youngsters with not only the book syllabus but also provide a strong moral foundation. This has been a huge limitation in taking a completely cognitive approach to education. The students must be encouraged and allowed to learn everything in this world as per their choice.

It appears that Dr. Muthukumaran committee has recommended infrastructure development, syllabus that can kindle the interest of students to ask and find answers for questions, 1:30 teacher – student ratio and many other suggestions besides the “common syllabus” plan. The common syllabus idea was mooted with the intention that implementation of this will make private schools reduce their fees or bring their fees to state run school level.

What is Samacheer Kalvi thittam?? What are the advantages  and disadvantages of Samacheer Kalvi Thittam?? Is there any alternative model available??

While implementing the Samacheer Kalvi Thittam  previous DMK government has conveniently omitted all other suggestions except the “common syllabus” idea and effectively propagated that committee report is merely about  “Samacheer kalvi”. First of all, in my opinion, it’s not desirable have a common syllabus for the entire students community. It will not deprive education of much needed choice and diversity to cater to range of learning needs. It will also not encourage academically superior students to breach new frontiers of excellence. By nature all of us have different level of absorbing capacity, memory, interest, etc., how can the government expect all of us to “learn” the same syllabus and excel?? Several well informed academicians have expressed apprehension about the quality of the content under Samacheer Kalvi syllabus.

Secondly instead of framing guidelines on school fees for private school for different classes based on their facilities, teacher – student ratio, quality of education, etc., the previous government has simply made the syllabus uniform so that the private schools will come down to the corporation school level in both education standard and fees. This will only result in bringing down the quality of education and the fees will remain the same.

In my view there is either no positive points in the Samacheer kalvi implemented by the previous government. Besides more significant recommendations  suggested by dr. Muthukumaran committee was not at all considered for implementation.

Is there any alternative model available for us?? Yes… there are…. For example krishnamurthy foundations “rishi valley” school & “the school” are offering a different model which is not based on marks alone. We will explore in the concluding post

S. Ramasubramanian (CS.Ram) is a Social Activist & Entrepreneur