The state school education department is mulling over making English and mathematics optional for Classes 9 and 10. But educators in Mumbai are divided over the benefits of allowing students to drop these two subjects at the school-level. Shikshan Katta, an independent discussion forum of educators, met on Saturday to come up with recommendations on the issue, which will be submitted to the department.
Last month in Pune, a few academicians asked education minister Vinod Tawde if these subjects can be made optional, as many students fail to clear them in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams despite repeated attempts. Tawde said that the department is willing to think over these reforms and asked academicians to come up with a plan to implement this.
One of the major reasons put forth by those supporting the move was that it will help students who are weak in these subjects to pass the SSC exams. While, the success rate for both these subjects look good on paper at more than 88% for math and 91% in English in the SSC exams held in March this year, experts argued that close to one lakh students fail in these subjects every year.
“There is a need to bring in flexibility at the school and university level in terms of subject choice. People harp on the importance of English and math but I personally feel that these subjects might not be of use to everyone,” said Vasant Kalpande, chief organiser of the Katta and former chairperson of the Maharashtra state board.
Adding that schools would face technical problems in implementing this, Kalpande said, “The government should not let that come in the way, administrative and other problems can be ironed out. We need to think from that point of view of students and if this measure can help them.”
Others, however, argued that the subjects must continue to be compulsory. “In today’s sociology, children need to be proficient in English and math skills are required in day to day life, so these subjects should not be dropped,” said Veena Donwalkar, principal, Chhatrapati Shivaji Vidyalaya, Dharavi.
Experts pointed out that when general math was introduced by the state board a few years ago as an option to regular math, only 6.5% students opted for it. “This shows that even if there is a choice, parents’ will force kids to take up regular English and math perhaps fearing stigma,” said Basanti Roy, former divisional secretary of state board and convener of Katta.
The school principals added there is a need to look at the reasons behind students failing the subject. “If a child is unable to learn a subject, it is the teachers’ failure. These subjects need to be made more interesting and teaching practices should be changed,” said Raj Aloni, principal, Ram Sheth Thakur Public School, Kharghar.
Some of the other suggestions:
English and math can be restructured into functional and advanced. Functional should be compulsory and the advanced be kept optional
Foundation courses for these subjects should be introduced even in higher education so that if a student wants to later on pursue a course that requires math or English, they can learn it through the course
The minimum academic requirements for admission to higher education need to be lowered to Class 8 instead of Class 10. So that even if students have been unable to pass Class 10, they can still take up certain courses
While, the government has introduced vocational subjects in Class 10 in lieu of social studies and second language, a few experts said that social studies shouldn’t be optional.