Illustration: Saai
Illustration: Saai

Is Annai Thamizh languishing?

Tamil teachers lament over students’ lack of enthusiasm for the subject as it’s irrelevant for their future in pursuing higher education, and the discrimination they face among peers for teaching it

CHENNAI: Tamil language has often been a point of discussion and debate in TN politics, culture, land and literature, ultimately striking an emotional chord with its people, who have held the language in high reverence. However, several Tamil teachers in government schools have opened up about facing disdain from fellow teachers for teaching the subject.

Ranjini, a government school Tamil teacher in Mayiladuthurai, said, “In schools, Tamil is mostly viewed as an insignificant subject, as marks secured in it do not contribute to higher education. So, Tamil teachers are also treated in the same manner. As I teach higher secondary classes, fellow teachers often request my class for teaching physics, chemistry or mathematics.”

Ranjini, who was given four classes per week, says she can hardly finish the curriculum in the given time. “When students come to Class 11, most struggle to write alphabets. So, we’ve to begin the class from alphabets and then go on with lessons. This forces us to rush through the topics for the exam,” she added.

Ranjini says she has been mocked by her fellow teachers for teaching an ‘easy’ subject. “My fellow teachers tell me that a Tamil subject does not require a teacher or that students can study by themselves at home. This has made me feel unworthy sometimes. Somehow, the language is not as important as other subjects,” she rued.

My fellow teachers tell me that a Tamil subject does not require a teacher or that students can study by themselves at home. This has made me feel unworthy sometimes

Ranjini, a government school Tamil teacher in Mayiladuthurai

Ranjini is not an isolated case. Hemalatha has been facing discrimination from other teachers who teach in other subjects. Working at a government school in Kallakurichi, Hemalatha is a veteran with over 25 years of teaching experience.

“Tamil teachers, in addition to curriculum, impart knowledge on socio-cultural and economic values of the society. And play a huge role in disciplining the students, while also understanding the troubles they face. They equip kids to face tougher situations in life, ultimately bringing down the suicide rates,” she stated.

D Santhanalakshmi, a Tamil professor for 15 years in Poompuhar, concurred, and added, “I noticed a certain easy attitude among fellow teachers and students towards Tamil language. I was also often asked not to go deep into literature and sometimes, given minimum class hours. Students who join college can barely write a letter in Tamil or even alphabets. Hence at school-level, it’s important to concentrate on Tamil subject, specifically, grammar.”

She pointed out that due to many concessions and schemes, and job opportunities announced by the State government, currently there is interest among students to learn Tamil.

Ways to lower number of failures in Tamil subject

Tamil faculties have also placed many suggestions to the State government that can help in decreasing the high number of failures in Tamil subject and promoting interest for Tamil language among students. Teachers urged for more class hours in a week and the addition of 10 practical marks in language subjects for Class 10 final exam. They also want a strictly enforcement of library and leisure hours meant for students, where they can pick up reading habit. Speaking to DT Next, a few teachers, pointed out, “We have to motivate students to participate in Tamil competitions held by the State, as the interest among students is still poor.”

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