With the date for receiving suggestions on the draft of National Education Policy 2019 (NEP) likely to be extended beyond July 31, Suriya’s comments on its effect on students from remote villages and their education have generated a lot of buzz among citizens.
At a press conference organised in Chennai by the actor’s Agaram Foundation, Suriya spoke at length about how there’s not much awareness amongst public about the contents of the NEP and why they must act fast and register their views on the website to safeguard the future of their children.
He said, “In over 10 years of being involved in the field of education, we’ve seen students coming from various socio-economic backgrounds and working hard to complete their education and secure a good job. We have volunteers who work closely with people in various places and are aware of what happens at grassroots level. There are many, many small villages where students go to school after crossing various hurdles and barriers. I think we should talk about this (policy draft) because it involves the education and future of 30-crore students in our country.”
Talking about the proposed common entrance test, Suriya said, “Idhu samamana, tharamana manavargalukkaga seiyyapadavillai. Without giving standard and equal education opportunities, how can we expect good students? How can we concentrate on entrance tests when you are not thinking of problems at the grassroots level? The first deadline (for receiving suggestions) was June 30 and now, it’s become July 30. Why are students, teachers and parents not talking about it? This is one thing that will change our kids’ future.”
He continued, “Gramapurathu palligal, anganwadi palligal, sathunavu koodam… they were made for kids who stay there. The committee under the chairmanship of Kasturirangan sir had said that schools with just one teacher or less than 10 students will be closed (or merged). If that happens, where will the students from those schools go? Why not uplift those schools that lack facilities? There are villages where we don’t even have bus facilities. Students have to literally scale mountains and cross lakes to go to schools! Orunginaindha palli aaramithal, pazhangudiyinar-oda aaramba palli vaazhvu enna aagum? Reports suggest that 1848 schools will be shut down. India lives in its villages, and 60 per cent of students are from government schools. What will happen to those students?”
About the three-language policy, Suriya said, “Three languages will be forced upon kids who are just three. In my family, we have people who speak three languages. Even then, it’s a task to teach a third language to my son and daughter.”
Suriya also had strong views on entrance tests and public exams. “Students will now have to write public exams in Classes 3, 5 and 8 as well, whereas, in many countries, there are no exams till Class 8. There have been instances of students quitting school if they fail to score in exams. While 95 per cent kids enrol in primary classes, only 55 per cent make it to Class 11; 50 per cent of them are drop outs! Reports suggest that 6.5 crore students don’t go to school across India. We know of so many students who have cleared exams without having teachers teach them a subject. If that’s the case, how can you ask expect them to crack exams like NEET? We’ve come to a situation where students, after passing so many exams in school, have to still crack one entrance exam to go to any college. And for that, they have to join private coaching. Rather than teaching students, we will end up coaching them. We have 907 universities and 50,000-plus colleges. Now, they will be reduced to one fourth. Schools in villages will be shut. There will be many entrance examinations, but no affordable education. Why is there no awareness? I request every one of us – parents, teachers and students – to register their thoughts because it’s the future of our kids, and with the support of the government, we can bring in the changes we want,” he urged.