Kerala panel moots change in school timings, Muslim body opposes

Samastha Kerala Jem-iyyathul Ulama has opposed the recommendation to change the school hours stating that ‘it would affect classes in madrasas.’
Abdul Samad Pookkottur Kerala, Samastha leader
Abdul Samad Pookkottur Kerala, Samastha leader
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The recommendation by the Khader Committee to change school timings in Kerala has evoked opposition from Samastha Kerala Jem-iyyathul Ulama, a Muslim body which feels that “it will affect the religious study offered in madrasas.” The committee has recommended that the school timings be changed to 8am-1pm for students of Upper Primary onwards up to Class 12.

The recommendation is in the second volume of the report of the committee on general education, submitted to the government on September 22. The current timing of state run schools is from 10am to 4pm or from 9.30 to 3.30 in case of some schools. However, the Muslim body of Sunni scholars, known as Samastha, alleged that the recommendation is aimed at discouraging the study of religion.

MA Khader, former director of state Council of Education Research and Training, is the chairman of the committee. The committee was appointed in 2017 based on the concept of ‘Quality Education- the Right of Children’ in the context of Right to Education Act 2009. The first volume  of the report was submitted in January 2019.

The committee while making the observation said as per the current timing that exists in the Kendriya Vidyalayas and schools with national syllabus, classes begin in the morning between 7.30am and 8.30am. This is being followed for academic reasons, it said. Stating that the current school timing in Kerala had been existing for a long time, the committee felt it should be revised for the overall development of the children. “This revision should be able to give them experiences to stimulate the mental, emotional, physical and creative elements in children. For this the age and the physical as well as mental peculiarities of the children should be taken into consideration,” reads the report.

The committee recommended that the timing for pre-school and anganwadis can be decided by the local communities. From first to fourth standard, the timing can be from 8am to 1pm. "However this can be done considering the local needs, only that all the schools should keep the total working hours,” the report said. The committee recommended 8 am to 1pm as school hours for Class 5 to Class 12. "The afternoon hours from 2am to 4pm can be utilised for libraries and labs,'' the report said.

Samastha state Secretary Abdul Samad Pookkottur said that it will affect the religious study offered in madrasas.

“The change in the school timing will affect the functioning of the madrasas. The madrasa classes are now for a short duration only from 7am to 8.30 am. If the recommendation is implemented the school children won't get time at all to study religion, that is why religious community organisations oppose this strongly. The study of religion is a process that cements faith in God in children. Those who are atheists might have put forward the change in timing with the aim of destroying it,” he told Asianet News.

He said the change in school timings has become a topic of discussion in Kerala because a section of the atheists have taken up the issue. “We had flagged the Chief Minister about our apprehension when the suggestion was made in the curriculum framework. Now that the suggestion has come through a government appointed committee we want the government to reject it.The leaders of the Samastha, including president Syed Muhammad Jifri Muthukoya Thangal, will definitely demand a rejection of this recommendation,” he added. 

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