Most children are physically unfit Tuesday, Nov 10 2009 

A health related physical fitness programme among school children last year showed that not even 20 per cent of Kerala’s school children were physically fit.

What were tested under the total physical fitness programme was the capacity of heart and lungs, aerobic capacity, body mass index and flexibility of body. The tests covered 16.29 lakh children in 2008-09. Of them, only 19.61 per cent had minimum physical fitness. Only 4.1 per cent of the children could win more than 75 points (C Grade) in all tests.

Large number of girls were found to lack in abdominal strength. Only ten-year-old girls were better when considering the average scores. Girls were found to lose their abdominal strength as they grow. More than 53 per cent of the girls could not make the grade in tests of abdominal strength. The percentage was 68.3 among 15-year-old girls. Majority of them (64.82 per cent) lacked flexibility of body. Their percentage rose to 73.11 by the time they reached 15 years of age.

Boys were also found to lose their fitness as they grow. The State averages for those aged 10-12 was equivalent to D grade. (Only 474 boys and girls had won A grade in second round of tests conducted by State Testing Authority. A grade required more than 90 points.)The condition of others were worse. Nearly 54 per cent of boys had the necessary abdominal strength and 78.67 had strong upper body parts. Only 38.53 per cent fared well in respect of flexibility of the body.

This alarming situation is the result of lack of sufficient physical exercise. Students could not find time for physical activities as they move to higher levels of study. Girls kept away from physical activities because of societal inequalities and barriers.

Ban on mobile phones point to weakness of education system Tuesday, Dec 30 2008 

schoolfestlogoThe ban on use of mobile phones by pupils at the State School Festival points to utter failure of the education system in the State to teach good conduct and manners. It shows that though the festival is highly supervised by teachers, they fail to guide them in proper use of the mobile phones. Instead, they have chosen to seek the easy way out by banishing mobile phones from the venues.

The festival is once in a lifetime experience for many pupils. Many would like to preserve memories in the form of photos. They may very well be the entry point for some students in to photography as a hobby or profession. The phone can very well be a tool for creativity if the teachers directed the students properly.

A few aberrations here or there is not a good reason to shut out a useful technology. In fact, one can often see that the real reason for incidents like suicide is just not the phone. The incidents point to serious problems in the upbringing of both the accused and the victims. In fact, suicide rate among students are increasing and the reasons are varied. But most have reasons rooted in the failure of the family and educational institutions to bring up students to face the challenges of the information age.

schoolfestThere is little doubt the guidance for living in the information age should start at the schools. It is at the schools and school festivals that pupils could be imbibed with values and behavioural norms that they would tend to follow in later years. If prohibition is used for behavioural control, that may not always yield results. The pupils, who could be stopped from using mobile phones at the school festivals, cannot be stopped from using it during their college days.  And in this age, it is not difficult to get a photograph of anyone, and prohibition will do only more harm than good.

So, the authorities should take the school festival as an opportunity to train pupils in the good use of mobile phones and against abuse. Taking of pictures need be discouraged only in the green rooms and hostels. At the same time, parents could restrict unnecessary access to mobile phones to prevent abuse and any ill-effects on health.

Plus 2 Admissions through Minister’s Office Thursday, Aug 28 2008 

Baby M. A., Education Minister

Baby M. A., Education Minister

The Education Minister M. A. Baby has announced that applications for admissions to Plus 2 courses could be faxed to his office (Fax No. 91 471 2518482) up to September 2.

This confirms the allegation something is seriously wrong with the system of admissions. The colleges and nodal offices are not playing their role sincerely. So, the Minister’s office has to step in. It is also possible that the software used for the single window system is not working properly. There were complaints that even students with 60 per cent marks did not get admissions when more than 40000 seats were remaining vacant.

The Minister is now making an ardent effort to fill the vacant seats to ward off criticism. Though the Minister’s intentions are good, they would not do any good in the long run. What he should do is to make the system work at the lower levels. His job is not to dispense services, but to set policy and make the administration work.

Despite all the talk about decentralisation, it is pity that the buck stops only at the Ministers’ offices in several departments.

Curriculum committee members should resign Thursday, Jul 17 2008 

The Curriculum Committee (Kerala State Education Department) has decided to make cosmetic changes to the Malayalam textbook in Social Science for the seventh standard and rewrite the English version.

The Committee members who approved the English version earlier should resign from the committee for permitting the printing of such a textbook. If the committee members had bothered to read the book, they would not have sent it for printing not to speak of distribution to pupils.

The Director of State Council for Education, Research and Training could not also disown responsibility. (See earlier posts on the multiplicity of errors in the textbook including the distortion of the writings of Jawaharlal Nehru and A. K. Gopalan. The address of Nehru to Parliament was also mutilated.)

The director writes to the students in the beginning of the text as follows:

Dear students,
It is by interacting with the varied fields of society that we learn Social Science. This text is designed with this objective. We encounter very many issued in the immediate vicinity of life….
…. Let us proceed with bettering the activities grounded on your response and date collections, discourses, debates and analysis.
With love and regards
(no punctuation)

The Director could have communicated with the students in a simpler manner:

We learn Social Science by interacting with the society and its varied activities. This textbook is designed to facilitate that. We come across many issues in our locality….

Well, if that is what he meant.

As mentioned in earlier posts, the Malayalam version too is not free of deficiencies/errors of language and translation. However, the committee has not expressly announced a decision to correct them. It has also not decided to change the emphasis on violent side of the freedom struggle.

The textbook fails to highlight the non-violent character of the struggle led by Gandhiji. Besides, an attempt has been made to create a different impression by referring to Gandhi’s call to “do or die”. This ought to be corrected and the freedom struggle put in the correct perspective.

Finally, without comment:

Page 41 of the Social Science Textbok

Page 41 of the Social Science Textbok

Compendium of errors– Part III Tuesday, Jul 15 2008 

An extract from the textbook- Page 20

An extract from the textbook- Page 20

Here are some “gems” from the textbook (not exhaustive, there are many more)

Page 9:

The roof was not thatched for the last years and so it was not friendly with the wall.

The family mix the previous day’s left over cooked rice with the rice soup they got form the landlord’s house and ate.

Children used to quarrel while discussing how they should act when father plucked them and how they should cook and eat.

At times they would have burning bites on the chilly.
(Idakkidacku karuthalode mulakilonnu kadikkum).

Page 10:
The far stretching farms and fields, swelling grounds and hill.
He reaps who sows (Vithittavan Vilakoyyum)

Page 14:
Highlights of reply talk of Smt. K. R. Gowri Amma to the discussion of Kerala Land Reform Bill

Page 20:
As they enter what faces them is a litter of waste remains on plantain leaves spread on the floor.

Page 31:
By bloodshed and intimidation, they started to rule and we were forced to become servants at orders.

Page 36:
The exhortation words thrilled the agitators with vibrant enthusiasm.

Page 46:
We have seen that the temperature received by the earth’s surface is not equal in all seasons.

Page 50:
The rain occurs from the sky without any cost.
The impact of the difference in the temporal and spatial distribution of rainfall is detrimental in nature.

Page 52:
If we want to retain rainwater in the soil in Kerala which has an inclined relief, the overland flow should be restricted.

Page 62:
The area encompassed between the place of origin of a river to the place where it is empties out is called the watershed.

Page 63:
Resurgence of water channels
Attappadi is a place in Kerala which stands out from the other places because of its peculiarity in relief, climate, ecosystem and social advantages. The place is situated at an altitude between 450 m to 2300 m above the mean sea level.

Here are some of the wrongly used words in the textbook

Chances instead of opportunities
Achieve instead of win
Resurged instead of revived
Wills and fancies instead of whims and fancies
Temperature instead of heat or sunshine
Rainfall instead of rain or rainwater

The latter two errors are serious since that would prevent pupils from understanding temperature and rainfall as measurement and quantity respectively.

The text is full of errors of punctuation and capitalisation. Many words have been mispelled. Several of the headlines could have been improved. The printing quality is poor.

Part I: Social Science textbook is a compendium of errors

Part II: Controversial textbook

The controversial textbook– part II Tuesday, Jul 15 2008 

Extract from the English version of Social Science textbook

Extract from the English version of Social Science textbook

The prose (above) does not qualify for teaching in any class if you value good English. The errors are marked in red ink. They include wrong construction of sentences and use of words besides errors of grammar and spelling. Carelessness is obvious: the panchayat’s name (in the Malayalam version, it is Nagalasseri) as well as the name of the book (Pokkuveyil) has been misspelled. Punctuation is incorrect both in the Malayalam and English versions.

The following is the controversial portion from Lesson 2 of the textbook as appearing in the English version of the reader.

No Religion for Jeevan
Jeevan”s parents came to school seeking admission to him. The parents were seated on the chairs and the Headmaster started to fill up the application form.

“What is the name of your son?”
“Good, nice name; “Father’s name?”
“Anwar Rashid”
“Mother’s name?”
“Lakshmi Devi”
The headmaster looked at the parents and asked.
“What about the religion of the child?”
“Need not record anything.”
“Write no religion”
“No need of that too”
The headmaster reclined in the chair and asked seriously.
“When he grows up if he wish to have a religion?”
“In that case let him choose the religion of his choice”

A better translation from the Malayalam version can be seen at
Textbook Controversy -translation

Let us forget that English needs a more polite form. (Eg. Please leave that blank or you may write ‘no religion’.) The first sentence has a grammatical error. There is no consistency in the capitalisation of the word Headmaster. The translator has not even cared to note that the first question was addressed to the boy in the Malayalam version. It was only at a later stage that the Headmaster looked up at the parents and asked them about religion. He went on to ask about caste though the answer was obvious. The last three sentences have awkward construction and the middle one has a grammatical error. It should have been “What if he wishes to have a religion when he grows up?” “In that case, let him make his own choice.”

(To be continued)

Part I: Social Science textbook is a compendium of errors

Social Science textbook is a compendium of errors Tuesday, Jul 15 2008 

While the controversy over the Malayalam textbook in Social Science for Standard VII is raging, many seem to have ignored the English version of the textbook. It is meant to be taught in English medium schools that follow the State syllabus.

The controversy over the political content apart, the book is not fit for teaching because of the sheer number of errors, wrong usages, poor style and erroneous quotes. Many of the sentences in the English version are crude word-by-word translation of the text from Malayalam. The problem is compounded by the mistakes in the Malayalam text itself.

Reports have already appeared in the Press about how the textbook distorted the will and testament of Jawaharlal Nehru. The original English was translated into Malayalam with two mistakes. Apparently, this was then translated back into English. The result is something that does not resemble Nehru’s elegant prose. The word delude became scare because of the erroneous Malayalam translation. The word ‘any‘ also had its roots in the Malayalam translation. The word (yathoru) was probably a deliberate addition to add emphasis.

However, misquotes are not confined to Nehru. The quotes from the Bible and Mahabharata are also incorrect. Words of Muhammad Nabi and Guru Nanak also underwent changes. See the scan of page 25 of the textbook below and the actual quotes from authentic sources:

Page 25 of Kerala Reader in Social Science with erroneous quotes

Page 25 of Kerala Reader in Social Science with erroneous quotes

Jawaharlal Nehru’s will and testament
“I wish to declare with all earnestness that I do not want any religious ceremonies performed for me after my death. I do not believe in such ceremonies, and to submit to them, even as a matter of form, would be hypocrisy and an attempt to delude ourselves and others.” Jawaharlal Nehru

“This is the sum of all true righteousness: deal with others as thou wouldst thyself be dealt by. Do nothing to thy neighbour which thou wouldst not have him do to thee hereafter.”

In other words,
One should not behave towards others in a way that is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of dharma.
Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8

Or in simple terms:
Do not do any thing to others that you do not want to be done to yourself


“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 7:12, King James Version

Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets.
Today’s English Version published by the Bible Society of India

Prophet Muhammed
“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Prophet Muhammad (from Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths)

Guru Nanak
Guru Nanak’s words appear in the text as follows:
Don’t desire evil for others. Don’t speak harsh about anyone. Never obstruct any one’s work

It could have been put in a better way:

Do not wish evil for anyone. Do not speak harshly to anyone. Do not obstruct anyone’s work.

(To be continued)

Previous Post on the subject

What is wrong with textbooks in Kerala Monday, Jul 14 2008 

Opening page of controversial Chapter 2 of the textbook (Std. VII)

Opening page of controversial Chapter 2 of the textbook (Std. VII)

The Social Science textbook for the Seventh Standard (State Syllabus) has been in the eye of a storm for over a month now. The Christian and Muslim communities, the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) and even the BJP have made an issue of it. The accusation is that the textbook promotes atheism, communism and hatred against religions.

Much of the criticisms against the textbook (on religious grounds) are exaggerated. The issue is being hyped up by the Opposition with an eye on the coming Parliament elections, as the fight in the State would be between the CPI (M) led Left Democratic Front and Congress led United Democratic Front.

A lot of the criticism was centered on a lesson that presented a conversation between parent and headmaster of a school at the time of admission of their ward. The father asks the headmaster not to record his religion as his was a mixed marriage. The lesson emphases that the boy can chose a religion, if needed, when he grows up. There is nothing offending about this lesson. It could even be said to be in tune with the secular character of the country’s Constitution.

However, the first lesson is in campaign mode, highlighting historic wrongs against the peasants and lower castes. The communist parties take the credit for the transformation that had been brought about in removing untouchability, feudalism and associated evils. Though the book also discusses freedom struggle, emphasis is on those who fought violently for the country s freedom. In this process, Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violent agitations did not get adequate emphasis. Jawaharlal Nehru gets better attention possibly because of his socialist leanings.

The graphic narration of the practices associated with untouchability would embarrass Hindus more than Christians and Muslims. But it is the latter who are in the forefront of the agitation against the textbook. This has something to do with the strained relations between the communities and the Government over government’s efforts to regulate admissions and fee structure in self-financing colleges.

The basic problem with the subject dealt with by the textbook is that it is recent history. It is debatable whether current history should be taught in the seventh standard. It is a must that students should know about untouchability and other evils that existed in the near past. (Many in the new generation think that reservation is unjust because they do not know about what had happened in the past.) But imparting of recent history could perhaps wait up to the higher secondary level, especially when class level discussions and conclusions are emphasised. Teacher’s skill as well as his prejudices can play positive and negative roles when lessons are interpreted. It is better not to leave much to subjective interpretation of upper primary teachers who are not scholars.

There is little doubt that the standard of the textbook is poor. There are several mistakes too. Its English version for the English medium classes is full of wrong usages, spelling mistakes and errors.


Seventh standard textbook controversy in Kerala

Textbook, religion and related politics in Kerala

Scanned pages of the text book