18-year-old Devadarshini from Salem was thrilled when she scored 97% in her class 12 exams in 2016. For this young student from a state board school in Salem, these marks opened the doors to Sriram College of Commerce (SRCC), a premier institute in Delhi.
She joined the college for her under-graduation with great aspirations and a lot of hope that her parents pinned on her. However, within weeks of joining the institution, she found that the state board syllabus that had helped her score marks in class 12, was in fact putting her at a great disadvantage outside Tamil Nadu.
In July last year, an unprecedented 75% to 80% of students who got admission into SRCC, were from Tamil Nadu according to a ToI report. The reason provided for this was the high marks secured by students of Tamil Nadu. Faculty from SRCC told ToI that the number of students with an aggregate of 99% and above was highest in the Tamil Nadu board.
According to experts, however, the Tamil Nadu board has one of easiest syllabuses and is extremely outdated. A member of the Parent Teacher Association for Matriculation students, told The News Minute that the Education Department has not upgraded the syllabus in the last 12 years.
According to Devadarshini, a quarter of the first year students doing the Bachelor of Commerce honours course in SRCC currently are from Tamil Nadu and most of them were state board students. "We were completely out of depth when we came here. We were all students who had scored very well in our Class 12 exams but we realised after coming here, that our syllabus was completely outdated," says Devadarshini. "One of our professors asked how many shareholders a private limited company can own. All the state board student immediately said 50. But CBSE students and people from other states knew it was 200. That was when we were told that we were quoting the Companies Act of 1956, whereas the others were quoting the Act from 2013. It was so humiliating," she says.
From there, it was a downward spiral for Tamil Nadu’s students. Their classmates and teachers began to reportedly treat them with scant respect. A certain stigma has come to be associated with students from the southern state, they claim and even teachers largely ignore them. "Teachers skip teaching some concepts because we are already expected to know it, except that we were never taught some of these important things in school. The system let us down and now we are demanding that it be updated," says Devadarshini.
Following repeated instances of humiliation, the Tamil Nadu students of the Delhi University have written to Education Minister KA Sengotaiyan, demanding that the syllabus be updated with recent developments. In their petition, the students have said, "Each and every student is talented but the way of shaping their brains matters. For the past decade, Tamil Nadu state board syllabus has never been changed and is totally outdated."
The petition further goes on to say," Most teacher and parents in Tamil Nadu want their children to score high marks rather than gaining good knowledge. So, children face a lot of difficulties when they come out of schools." The petition had been handed over to Education Secretary, Udayachandran on March 13. The Secretary reportedly told the students that he will definitely look into the matter.
Teachers and Parent-Teachers associations that have been pushing for a change in syllabus are, however, very sceptical about any foreseeable change in the syllabus. "We have been asking the education department to update the syllabus for over 10 years now," says Nandhakumar, a member of the Parent-Teacher Association for matriculation schools.
"Tamil Nadu's standard of education is deplorable and our students are absolutely unable to cope outside of school. The first enemy here is the Samacheer Kalvi system. It has reduced the quality of education and made students incompetent for competitive exams post class 12," he says.
Samacheer Kalvi, introduced by the DMK in 2011, allowed for a common syllabus for State board, matriculation, OSLC and Anglo-Indian schools. Following its introduction, the syllabus is yet to be revised. The DMK itself had pointed out in 2016 that the uniform syllabus was not being revised and was leading to a drop in the standard of education but no action was taken.
Politics must not be brought into education," says Malathi Gopinath, Principal of the Vivekananda Matriculation Higher secondary school in Coimbatore. "We have been waiting for a decade now for change in syllabus. In my school, I encourage teachers to update students about the latest information as well. Several schools omit class 11 portions and immediately start teaching class 12 portions, so that students do well in board exams. But what happens is that they lose out on the basics and fail to catch up. The information they know is purely from learning their textbooks by heart. When such students leave school and go to universities they face a huge challenge and lose their self-confidence. We cannot allow this to go on any longer," she says.