The debate on the uniform standard of education imposed by the previous Government refuses to die down. Introduced last year, it aimed at equalising standards of education by prescribing uniform text books for schools operating under the State, Matriculation, Oriental and Anglo-Indian Boards of education. The new Government has joined the fray by declaring the text books of the new scheme to be substandard. But in all this, what is clearly being lost sight of is that the new scheme is clearly an attempt to dumb down education to the lowest common denominator. It does not in any way attempt to lift education standards in the State.
Tamil Nadu may claim to rank as one of the most literate States in the country. Much credit is given to the widespread availability of schools and colleges for the success of IT and other knowledge based industries in the State. But ask around at any of the organisations that are in the business and what you get to hear most often is that those who come out of our education system are completely unemployable. They need to be moulded afresh at the companies they join. The organisations themselves, in desperate need of numbers to fill vacancies take on any and every applicant after the most cursory of evaluations and try and make do with whatever material has made it on board. When these candidates are sent for postings abroad, the lacunae in their primary education becomes even more apparent. All this gives the State’s education system a thoroughly bad name.
The only way to overcome this would be to uplift the standards of education in the State, both at school and University levels. But in the name of providing literacy to all, what is happening is that the standards are being lowered year after year, both in terms of prescribed material and also in terms of evaluation. If the former is manifest in the quality of text books as is evident in the ongoing Samacheer Kalvi controversy, the latter is clearly seen in the high pass percentages and the high scores that these successful candidates achieve. The scores unfortunately do not stand up to scrutiny when these same top-ranking candidates join the workforce. How else are we to explain 100% marks in subjects such as English and Tamil? Once even a score of 50% in languages was considered high but that was the era of essay type answers. With even language papers now reduced to the level of multiple-choice questions, it is easy enough to score extraordinarily high marks, which do not in any way indicate felicity with the language.
Is this then Samacheer Kalvi? We would think not and the same concerns are also reflected in the opinions of parents who are clearly worried about the falling standards of education in a State that was once known for the quality of its educational institutions. Several demands have been made to State Board run schools to switch over to the Central Board and some school managements are even looking at this idea in a favourable light. But such a change requires a no-objection certificate from the State Government and that is not likely to happen in a hurry. As a consequence parents and schools are caught in a bind and as for the students, an uncertain future awaits them, for no fault of theirs.