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A popular but unhealthy academic trend teaching & learning

Meera Srinivasan

Schools students ‘trained’ in studying select portions

FILE PHOTO.

What to study?: Fundamental concepts should be taught to students irrespective of whether they are potential examination questions, say experts. –

CHENNAI: As students move on to higher classes, schools eager to boost their board examination pass percentage or centum tally seem to be giving them many lessons on “omission.”

“It is enough if you study these chapters. The others are not likely to be tested in the examination” — this is a popular advice in many schools. Even in the “likely-to-be-tested” chapters, teachers mark portions that are important and parts of the chapter that students could afford to ignore.

This worrisome trend is not only prevalent in classes X and XII, but also in non-board examinations, and even worse, in some middle schools. “Our teacher told us not to waste time studying the fourth chapter, as it is not important for the examination,” said K. Siva*, a Standard VII student of a government-aided school, about his Social Studies subject.

R. Pushpa*, a Standard XII student, has a rather complex study schedule because of instructions from teachers. “My schoolteacher tells me to omit some chapters and spends very little time teaching concepts covered there. But my tuition teacher says these portions are also important and could be tested in the board examinations,” she says worriedly.

Parents such as K. Sreekala fear that this promotes an unhealthy academic culture. “The child will never learn how to study concepts first and then tackle related questions. This will become a serious issue when they pursue higher studies.”

Teachers, on their part, seem to have different concerns. “The pressure from Education Department officials is tremendous. They want us to achieve 100 per cent pass. How do we teach students who are not remotely interested in studies? The only way out to make them pass is to give them select portions to study,” said a teacher of a Corporation school on condition of anonymity.

At a recent training programme for teachers, a senior Corporation official, who was interacting with the participants informally, asked them why they were not able to produce even better results. Listening to reasons given by the teachers, such as lack of time, the official said: “Then teach them what is just enough for pass. That should not be difficult, right?”

The obsession with marks, ranks and high pass percentages are the main reasons for such “irresponsible” pedagogic practices, according to a senior teacher from a government school. “We don’t seem to realise the repercussions these could have after a student enters college,” he said.

A. Vijayakumar, chairman, Faculty of Science & Humanities, College of Engineering, Anna University, agrees. “Even some of the good schools rush through the Class XI syllabus, or ask students to omit certain portions. Many times, when we ask our students here why they did not perform too well in some subjects, they would say that they were not taught the concepts in school,” he said.

Teachers say students do not show interest in learning and students say the teachers do not teach them concepts. “We cannot blame anyone. But the issue is serious and needs to be addressed,” Professor Vijayakumar added.

(* Some names have been changed on request)

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