The schools under the State Board of Karnataka which were busy heaving a sigh of relief at the announcement that the trimester system has given way to the semester system not very long ago are finding themselves sailing through the semester system with mixed feelings.
The schooling system that remained in a set pattern of the annual scheme for more than half a century found the exercise monotonous and not very fruitful. Experienced faculty in the field of education, social activists and observers of the global trend emphasised on the need to change – for the better. The well acclaimed and acknowledged education system had inadvertently fallen into the beaten path of routine leading to a repetitive process that made learning no longer a meaningful exercise.
After much research and ground work the State board took a bold decision to adopt the trimester system from the academic year 2004-05. The teachers who had ingrained themselves in the fine art of teaching over the expanse of nearly ten months found the trimester system very constraining.
They expressed their anxiety over the quality of their delivery and the ability of small children to imbibe the basics of language and the subjects. They were not very happy with the agenda but they were convinced by the concerned authorities that everything would settle down in due course of time. A hectic academic year passed by with little or no marvellous result.
Even as schools gingerly set foot into the next academic year they unanimously requested for the semester system which was granted in due course. This way they hoped to wriggle out of the exacting trimester schedule which was proving to be an onerous task for the teaching staff. A talk with teachers of different subjects in private schools with a high profile among parents, teachers and students revealed that though the semester system certainly gave everyone more time than the trimester system, it is no better than the annual system for several reasons.
For instance, teachers have to always be on their toes and strike a balance between academic, cultural and sports activities that are conducted from time to time in the schools.
Completion of the syllabus and evaluation of students in both written and oral formats appear to be taking up most of their time leaving little time to experiment with new teaching methodology or interact meaningfully with students. Moreover the board has insisted that every school must include “project work” in all subjects to make education more relevant. The Board has apparently, introduced this system with the best of intentions, to step up the quality of learning but the idea has boomeranged badly especially in urban schools where most parents and elder siblings invariably end up working on these projects with hardly any involvement or even assistance from the children.
The semester system has reduced the quantitative load on the student with reference to examinations as they get to learn only fifty per cent of the portions for each semester. Though this system works in favour of students at the high school level teachers have their own doubts whether children in lower classes are able to grapple with the rudiments of a subject within a span of three or four months.
Learning languages, mathematics and science well, lies in reiteration of the fundamental in the formative years of the student.
Parents, teachers and students are getting increasingly apprehensive about the quality of education received by the younger generation where the emphasis is on clearing examinations with a high grade since recording marks on the mark sheet is obsolete. Teachers revealed that the parents are always very anxious to know the marks of their wards because the grades do not help them understand where their wards stand in the class in comparison to their peers.
All the teachers and heads of institutions consulted on the subject said that the semester system will prove to be detrimental at the elementary school level, as it will result in corrosion of the quality of education in the long run. The annual system permitted even a mediocre student to come to grips with the concept of the subject by repeatedly studying for the various tests and examinations which finally culminated with the annual examination.
Thus far Indian students have been doing very well in the international educational scene for the simple reason that they have a strong foundation in basic language and mathematical skills which forms the basis for further education in any field.
These skills can be acquired only through hard work, practice and parents, teachers and the students themselves are apprehensive about the impending future. While a few smart teachers, students and parents are taking the new system in their stride most others are not very happy with the inconsistent changes in their study pattern.
Perhaps the time is just ripe for teachers across the State to voice their opinions and suggest possible redresses and come to a consensus about what best can be done in the situation before the next academic year begins.