The 55-year-old government teacher from Payyanur who received the memo has written scores of articles about the public education system and was part of the state curriculum committee from 2004 to 2020.

Premachandran, a Kerala Government School Teacher Premachandran
news Education Friday, February 11, 2022 - 18:31

P Premachandran will retire as a Kerala government teacher next year. The 55-year-old has written scores of articles about the public education system and was part of the state curriculum committee (which creates content for textbooks) from 2004 to 2020. All this, however, didn’t prevent the Education Department from sending him a memo for writing an article that was critical of question papers.

Premachandran is a Malayalam teacher at the Government Girls Higher Secondary School at Payyanur in Kannur district. He wrote an article about the question papers for the final exams for Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC), Higher Secondary and Vocational Higher Secondary. The crux of the article, published on Malayalam website TrueCopy Think on January 15, is about how SSLC and Higher Secondary students will not be able to score high this year as the Focus Area (important areas marked in the syllabus from which questions for exams will appear) has changed.

The article says that in the past two years when the schools were closed due to the pandemic, a Focus Area in the syllabus was marked, which was the only part that students needed to study for the exams. This made them earn high scores. But the exam papers this year have been prepared by changing the Focus Area, because of which the students need to study the syllabus for each subject for the whole academic year in 20-25 hours.

“For both SSLC and Class 12 students, it usually takes 200 days to finish the syllabus. The schools in the state, which were closed due to the pandemic, reopened on November 1. That too, only half the students were allowed (on alternative days) till noon. So a student will get only two hours for a subject in a week. Only around 30 hours will be available for teaching each subject even if the schools functioned on all days in November, December, January and February. The gist is that students need to be taught the syllabus for each subject in 20 or 25 hours, which would have normally been taught in 200 academic days,” his article reads.

The Focus Area was changed from 40% to 60% (major portion of the syllabus) in an order issued by the Education Department in December last year. The order says: “Focus area to be fixed at 60% of the total portion to be studied. 70% of the questions to come from this 60% portion and sufficient choices to be given to the extent of 50% extra marks.”

The article, titled ‘Let Kerala students crawl with B grade in front of CBSE’, also says that with the limited hours available to learn, a student would be able to score only B Grade. “Last year students were given 100% extra choices in questions so they could answer almost all questions (since they had so many options). This has been reduced to 50% this year,” it reads.

He alleged foul play in the same. “Those who prepared the questions papers have done it in understanding with the Central Board of Secondary Education so that CBSE students would get higher scores while state syllabus students would get only B grade. There is no one to question this officials’ lobby.”

On February 10, Premachandran received a memo from the Education Department, which it called a ‘charge sheet’ for his ‘wrongdoings’.

Talking to TNM, Premachandran said, “The charge sheet says that by writing critical posts I have made students as well as parents apprehensive and turned them against the government.” He added that the Department did not seek any explanation from him before sending the memo.

The charge sheet also says that Premachandran violated the norms of the Kerala Education Act & Rules. He has been asked to submit an explanation in 15 days. “Usually a memo would be sent by registered post. But this charge sheet was sent through a Department staff member, a copy of which he gave to the school principal and the Regional Deputy Director. What is the need for this haste during a pandemic?” he asked.

Apart from being part of the State Council of Education Research and Training, which prepares the school curriculum, Premachandran had won an award for the best article about college education in 2010. “That article was critical of the credit and semester system introduced in colleges. I received the award from then education minister MA Baby. If this was the practice back then, I’d have got suspended for that article,” he said.

Premachandran is also a member of the Kerala School Teachers Association, a CPI(M) affiliated outfit. “I will be retiring from service next year. I may not want a good service entry, but why should action be taken against me?” he asked.