The question of uniform system of education (Samacheer Kalvi), the hot topic for last few months in Tamil Nadu, has come to an end.
Schools reopened on June 15, 2011 but without textbooks for the students – except for classes 1 and 6.
From that day onwards, for nearly two months, there was no regular academic activities like classes, homework, imposition, test, etc., because there was no syllabus, printed books, guides, or other teaching material.
Commonly, people say education can change one’s fate. But on many occasions, the fate of education has been determined by money and power, because British colonialism made it so.
Before the intervention of the British in our education system, there was no formal educational system. There was no specific place for learning - it could be held under a banyan tree, in a temple, in a common building of a village, at the teacher’s home…
There was no fixed fee – students paid fees depending on their capacity. Mostly, teaching was in the oral format.
All this came to end when McCaulay, in 1835, introduced English education – albeit only for administrative purposes and to expand the market for their goods.
The Father of our Nation, M K Gandhi, said, “Colonial education created a sense of inferiority in the minds of Indians. It made them see Western civilisation as superior and destroyed the pride they had in their own culture.”
Like the Mahatma said, we have completely forgotten our pride and values. Therefore, the last two months our schools were functioning partially, the reason being there was no textbook or syllabus.
Unfortunately, we still follow the colonial education system (McCaulay system), for we need textbooks or printed material for the learning process.
In the name of syllabus, we fence off true knowledge. Syllabus, examination, marks, etc., are all only to get marksheets and certificates. These marksheets/certificates are to help us enter society as a doctor, engineer, teacher and so on.
But if the students want to sustain their position in life, syllabus/marks don’t play any role. So, good education has to provide knowledge and not be bound by a syllabus. Though this is in the hands of the teachers, a majority of them draw a fence around themselves and are not ready to come out of it.
But, it’s not their mistake: the 250-plus years’ custom has made them so. If they want to do something out of the routine, we, society, see them as strange. Discouraged, they just mingle with the majority.
Now, the whole society, including the teachers, wants only an entry pass (ticket) through education. There is no wide vision about the life-long importance of education. For this reason, many social evils are increasing day by day.
Finally, the Supreme Court verdict ended the problem of uniform system of school education in Tamil Nadu. But, once again, we shouldn’t follow the old path. If we understand education correctly, then the problem of textbook, syllabus or language can’t affect the progress of learning.
Along with textbooks, we have to think about other books that a child must pick up.
Swami Vivekananda said, “Education makes man a complete man.” If we want to realise this, we have to change our attitude towards education and understand that it is not just for getting marks and making money - it is a man-making process.
(The columnist completed B.B.E. in 2009 from Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, and M.A. Economics in 2011 from The Madura College, Madurai. She has presented four papers - Food Inflation; Problems and Causes of Indian Agriculture; Health Care in India; Globalisation and its Impact on Indian Economy; - at various state-level seminars in Madurai district. She is also an aspiring civil services candidate.)