Tamil

Tamil at "Minority Schools" in Tamilnadu

Inia Pandian

TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2015 (ID. 2015-12-01)
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OUTLINE

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1. What is a Minority School?

2. Background

3. What should we do with the current Tenth Standard students from minority schools?

4. What about minority student from next year (2016-2017)?

5. A Role for Tamil Organizations

Appendix I: Tamil Language Act of 2006

Appendix-II: Situation at CBSE Schools in Tamil Nadu


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Some "minority schools" in Tamilnadu did not follow the Tamil Language Act of 2006 that requires all schools under the Tami Nadu State Board to teach Tamil as a subject starting from the First Standard in 2006. Those students, now in the Tenth standard, would have to take the state board Tamil examination in March 2016. Some of these students are saying that they should be exempt from the Tamil examination because their schools did not teach them Tamil properly. This article offers a solution fair to these students and suggests procedures to assure that students get a quality Tamil education in these schools in the future.

UPDATE: There was an important development after this article was published: Madras High Court ruled that state government should exempt over 7,000 Class X students from Tamil language examination in the 2015-2016 academic year (The Hindu; January 27, 2016). We agree with the court decision. Students should not be forced to write examinations on subjects they were not taught properly. There are lessons to learn from this whole episode. So please read the article to understand the lack of empathy of some government officials, lake of implementation of well-meaning laws passed by state legislature, and the sorry state of Tamil in Tamil Nadu.

1. What is a Minority School?

In the context of this article, "minority schools" refer to schools in Tamilnadu serving students  whose mother tongue is not Tamil ("minority schools" is the phrase some newspapers used, and we are also using it). There are Telugu schools, Urdu schools, etc. in Tamil Nadu where the respective languages (Telugu, Urdu, etc.) are taught. The Tamil Language Act of 2006 requires that these students learn Tamil in addition to their mother tongues.

2. Background

Tamil Nadu state government passed a law in 2006 (Tamil Language Act of 2006) requiring that all schools under the state board must teach Tamil as a subject (as a language) starting from the First Standard in 2006; first and second standards in 2007; first, second and third standards in 2008, and so on. By year 2016 all students up to the 10th standard would have been taught Tamil as a subject from the first to tenth standards. 2016 is a significant milestone. Why?

Yearend examinations are held within the school up to the ninth standard and state-level examination is held at the tenth standard. This seems to have instilled fear in students attending some minority schools. Requirements of the Tamil Language Act of 2006 apply to minority schools also; they must teach Tamil in addition to their mother tongue. This is a good move. Those living in a state should know the official language of the state in addition to their mother tongue. States were reorganized in the 1950s on the basis of language and all these students as well as their parents were born or came to the state well after that. They should learn the state language. It is no different from the hundreds of thousands of Tamils living in Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra learning the respective state languages. But some of the minority schools did not teach Tamil at the or did not teach at all required level. Since the yearend annual examinations were graded within the school, those students not learning Tamil passed from one standard to the next. Now, in 2016, these students have to pass state level Tamil examinations. This is going to be a problem to these students. So some parents, organization and schools want minority students be exempted from Tamil examination (The New Indian Express; November 22, 2015).. What should Tamil Nadu government do? Will any student or school be exempted from passing mathematics examination because the school did not teach mathematics properly? Absolutely not. Then why an exemption for Tamil?

Should the students suffer because some minority schools did not obey the Tamil Language Act of 2006? In my opinion, they should not suffer; they are innocent victims. We propose later in this article a fair solution.

Who is at fault? It is not the students, it is not their parents. It is those minority schools that did not teach Tamil and the headmasters and state government education officials who allowed it to happen for 10 years.

These people should be punished so that this type of step-motherly treatment of Tamil does not happen in any area (not just in education) in the future. What should be the punishment?

Those schools that did not teach Tamil at the required level should be heavily fined (It should hurt them financially). Also, unless they appoint Tamil teachers for all standards from 2016, those schools should be fined heavily (at least five times the salaries of the needed Tamil teachers). Will we allow a school to operate if it does not teach mathematics? Also parents should be notified immediately that their children will fail Tamil and will not be able to complete school successfully.

As for state government education officers, they should have monitored these schools since 2006 and corrected the problem years ago. It serves no purpose to enact a law but not implement it. They should be given a chance to explain how and why it happened so that we can learn from it. Some type of disciplinary action should be taken so that this type of ignoring Tamil does not happen anywhere in the state government. Also, a letter from the state education minister's office should be sent to all officers that it is their responsible to assure that Tamil is taught at the required level in all schools including minority schools. If they do not follow this order in future years, they should be demoted or annual salary increases and bonuses withheld. There should be no laxity in teaching Tamil in schools.

3. What should we do with the current Tenth Standard students from minority schools?

What should we do with the current Tenth Standard students from minority schools? They are expected to take their annual examination around March 2016. Those minority schools that did not teach Tamil at the required level should offer their students intense, remedial Tamil classes from January to March 2016 per a special curriculum prepared by the state education ministry. The state education minister shall set up a three-member committee of teachers to prepare that curriculum immediately. All expenses towards this shall be paid by the errant schools (this is in addition to the punitive fines discussed in Section 1 of this article).

4. What about minority student from next year (2016-2017)?

What about minority student from next year (2016-2017)? State government must make sure that all schools appoint adequate Tamil teachers to teach at all standards. If there is a shortage, pay higher salaries to attract Tamil teachers to these schools. Train new teachers if necessary at an expedited manner. No school would leave mathematics teacher positions vacant. Why should they be allowed to leave Tamil teacher positions vacant?

All minority schools must teach Tamil at the state board level for First Standard students entering school in 2016. No exceptions. A slightly altered curriculum shall be used in Standards II to V so that these students could catch up to the state board level by the time they reach Standard VI. These students should be able to take state board examination when they reach the Tenth Standard.

A substantially different curriculum (at a level lower than the state board level) may be used for those students entering Standards VI to X in 2016. This approach is fair to all students.

5. A Role for Tamil Organizations

In Reference 1, we proposed how Tamil organizations may play a role in assuring Tamil is taught at CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) schools in Tamilnadu. Tamil organizations may play the same role in monitoring Tamil teaching at minority schools also. So we reproduce a section from Reference 1 here (with a few minor changes).

Local Tamil organizations may play a supportive role by monitoring whether nearby minority schools have Tamil teachers and if they are providing quality Tamil education. They may report it to state education officials. Schools have no obligation to talk to private organizations. Ultimately it is the responsibility of state education officials to assure that minority school students are learning Tamil at the same level of proficiency as other state board students.

If state educations officials are not enforcing the Tamil Language Act of 2006 fully, Tamil organizations may report it to newspapers. They may also bring it to the attention of the local MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly), political parties and the state education minister.

Appendix I: Tamil Language Act of 2006

We want to point out that Tamil Language Act of 2006 requires that Tamil must be taught as a subject (language) and it does not require Tamil as the language of instruction for other subjects like history, science, etc. In fact, most minority schools teach those subjects in English or some other language. Both the Madres High Court and the Indian Supreme Court had rules the act is legal and does not violate the Indian constitution.

Appendix-II: Situation at CBSE Schools in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu State School Education Department issued a government order on September 18, 2014 making Tamil a compulsory subject in Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools also. Tamil newspaper Dinamalar (April 16, 2015) reported that some of these schools have not yet hired Tamil teachers. State education officers did not do anything to correct the situation as of April 2015. Dinamalar (April 16, 2015) reported that Tamil Nadu State education officials are not checking up on CBSE schools to see if Tamil is taught. State education ministry should ask officials to check each and every CBSE school to see if Tamil teachers have been appointed and Tamil is taught at the required level. If it is not done now, we will face the same situation in 2025 with CBSE schools that we are facing with minority schools this year. I request Tamil organizations to check if CBSE schools are teaching Tamil and publicize it through news papers so public will know what is happening. You can read more about the CBSE schools situation in Reference 1.


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REFERENCES

1. Tamil in CBSE School (Tamilnadu) (by Inia Pandian), TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2015 (16 KB) (t)

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