A ‘blueprint’ from the APSCERT for the SSC ‘composite course’ Telugu paper has indicated that students can study a few selected lessons to clear the exam.

Many of us – especially those of us who went to state board schools – have memories of our school teachers pointing out ‘important’ questions between lessons, which were more likely to show up in exams. Study guides also mark out these questions. The ‘importance’ of the question is usually based on how frequently it has appeared in previous years’ question papers in the case of board exams. Students often mug up the answers to these, even for topics that are meant to test creative thinking and problem solving, like essay writing or mathematics. 

In a move that is strikingly similar, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) Andhra Pradesh is handing out its own ‘blueprint’ of the class 10 question paper for composite course Telugu to students in both Telugu and English medium schools. This blueprint shortlists a few chapters and topics from the overall syllabus, and students can expect questions only from these chapters. However, the move has raised concern among teachers about promoting rote learning. 

The composite course Telugu paper is comprised of 70 marks worth of questions to test students in Telugu, while 30 marks are set for Sanskrit questions. A school that follows the Andhra Pradesh Board of Secondary Education can choose to teach either regular Telugu (which has all 100 marks allocated to Telugu) or composite Telugu as the first language. While the Telugu syllabus is similar for both, it is shortened and compensated by adding Sanskrit in the case of composite course Telugu, says Sarada, a Telugu teacher at Abhyasa Vidyalayam, a Vijayawada school with an alternate approach to education. “The perception is that private schools which are highly focused on students’ marks and ranks opt for composite Telugu, as it is believed to be easier to score higher marks in the paper,” she says. 

In an article published in Telugu newspaper Eenadu on October 15 titled ‘Batti ki Pattam’ (hail rote-learning) Telugu language educator Josyula Lakshmikanth criticised the move. “Language teachers feel this is against the norms … The blueprint is likely to drive students to memorising just two or three lessons from the textbook, which is sufficient to clear the exam,” the teacher wrote.

Eeswar, who teaches both Sanskrit and Telugu at KKR Gowtham School, received the notification about the ‘blueprint’ questions last week. “They must have done this to ease the burden on students, as many of them are not comfortable writing long essay answers in Telugu,”  Eeswar says, adding that the remaining lessons left out of the blueprint will also continue to be taught. 

The blueprint specifies which lessons the questions will be asked from in the ‘creativity and expression’ section. For instance, the three character sketches from the supplementary text can be asked only out of the 10 specified options in the blueprint. Similarly, it goes on to specify under each question number, which lessons from the prose and poetry sections the question must be from. Students further have ‘choice’ in attempting these questions too, which means that they can get away with studying 3-4 chapters from prose and poetry sections. The blueprint paradoxically begins by claiming that the paper tests critical and analytical thinking while promoting creativity among students.

However, students whose schools have regular Telugu syllabus – like Abhyasa Vidyalayam and most government schools – have not had any such blueprint issued for them. While this means that students taking the regular Telugu exam are at a ‘disadvantage’ when it comes to scoring marks, the larger problem is that the APSCERT itself is implicitly legitimising rote-learning by suggesting that mugging up a few sections of the textbook is sufficient to test a child’s ‘creative expression’ in a language, critics say. 

Last month, the state government had decided to scrap the internal assessment and objective questions component for Class 10 students. The internal assessment was introduced as a part of Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation prescribed by the RTE, but educators in Andhra believe it cannot be implemented in the current education system which is prone to malpractice to obtain high scores and ranks. 

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