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Vol. XXVII No. 18, January 1-15, 2018

Our Reader’s Write

To be considered

The view points expressed in Madras Musings (December 16th) will be considered in all seriousness by our Committee.

In essence, the following points were made:

The syllabus for Social Sciences “has fallen short of expectations – it is just flat wines in old bottles”.

There is stress on information rather than knowledge.

“All these subjects – the Humanities as it were – are now clubbed under the subject Social Science, an obvious misnomer.”

In the 1960s and ’70s there was a systematic study of History and Geography. Economics and Civics were not included till the Higher Secondary level.

The syllabus at primary level is praiseworthy. At the middle level, there is no clarity. The secondary level is the most overloaded.

These are valuable points which will be considered by the concerned sub-committees.

There is an unfortunate impression that the syllabi have been drawn up keeping in view competitive exams such as NEET. Far from it. The attempt all along has been to emphasise the fundamentals. I agree with the view that a great deal will depend upon the kind of text books and the capability of teachers.

Regarding the “open letter”, all four points are indeed valuable and will be considered by the Committee.

Dr. M. Anandakrishnan
SCERT Syllabus Committee
8/15, Fifth Main Road
Madan Apt.
Kasturibai Nagar, Adyar
Chennai 600 020

Spilt milk

It is indeed interesting to note that Musings had time and space to comment on school syllabi! (MM, December 16th).

The views expressed by Muthiah and the two concerned educationists are true and appropriate. Comments are only a day after the fair: it is all cries in the wilderness.

From Std. VI to X, Social Sciences, as a subject is, and has been, a burden to both teachers and students. Besides, it is an ever-increasing subject. The NCERT is responsible for this maul. The SCERTs of the States follow the line.

The NCERT, which had been bringing out quality Geography and History text books for schools till 1986-1987, has shifted stance and is adopting new text book writing technique, plunging the school students in distress.

For the students of CBSE, Social Sciences is a bugbear. Students are trained to give by-heart answers to questions.

There are no fully qualified teachers. Most of the teachers have done only Economics or History in their degree courses. Knowledge of the Social Science teachers in Geography is minimal and miserable.

Teachers of Social Sciences in State Board schools in Tamil Nadu have never been taught the Geography and History of Tamil Nadu. No standard book is available in the market on this subject. The SCERT has not taken steps to update the knowledge of the teachers in Geography and History. They depend only on the textbooks published by the Tamil Nadu Text Books Committee. Further, the teachers spend little time in libraries. Hence, their knowledge in Social Sciences is static and confined to text books.

As a result, Humanities have lost ground in school education.

Alas, I join you to cry over the split milk.

K.S. Ganapathy
Former Member, Legislative Council, Tamil Nadu

Mere rhetoric

I was surprised to find two pieces concerning Social Studies syllabuses in MM, December 16th. Your comments are worthy of being considered by the committee. But the comments by two unknown teachers are to be discussed in depth.

During British days, the subject was ‘Outlines of the History of England and India and Geography’. When a new curriculum was drafted in 1948, the subject was rechristened as Social Studies and an integrated approach to know the story of human civilisation was suggested.

Dates and monarchs should give place to the changes in the life of people. For example, in western Tamil Nadu, Telugu-speaking people can be found from Mettupalayam to Rajapalayam. From where did they come and why has to be taught. It would be found they had migrated from the black cotton soil of Andhra to a similar black cotton soil land. The migration might be due to natural disasters or invasion. Students should be encouraged to ponder over these factors and find answers. Historical and geographical factors contributed to their migration. But this was too high an expectation and the integration of History and Geography never took place and are taught as separate subjects with only the name changing from Social Studies to Social Science with no scientific thinking of any sort necessary.

In UK, Economics is introduced at school level as a practical subject without any theoretical rigour. Students are asked to find the market prices of different commodities and hypothesise why they change. Unless classrooms get out of examination-oriented teaching and the capabilities of teachers are enriched, no reform would be worthy and meaningful. It would just be rhetoric.

S.S. Rajagopalan
30, Kamarajar Street
Chennai 600 093

A statue to save

I write to draw your attention to the condition of the Munro Statue on the Island Grounds. It is covered with rust and in poor state, due to neglect (Picture: Page1). I am informed by the GOC that this is Chennai Corporation’s responsibility, and that it has not budgeted for repairs and maintenance of the statue. I was also informed that the Army is willing to undertake the job, just as it did for the railing around the statue. The estimated cost is around Rs. 2 lakh, which the Army has offered to spend. The Corporation and the Secretariat is unwilling to accept this offer.

I fear, as does the Army, that the civil authorities will only paint the statue over and ruin this heritage asset of Chennai, if it takes up the restoration, unless it commits itself to a heritage expert-monitored restoration.

V.R. Raghavan, Lt. Gen. (Retd.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thomas Munro, beloved in South India wherever he was posted, was considered by Rajaji as the best civilian to have ever worked in the Madras Presidency. Munro was a former Governor of Madras who contributed much to land reforms and education. We hope our Governor of today takes a personal interest in this renewal.

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