Introduction The three movies, namely, Sattai, Appa, and Aduththa Sattai, have demonstrated the power of the media to take vital messages to millions. The director, Samudrakani, who has also acted in all the three movies has superbly used appropriate body language and the movies can be at least understood by those whose mother tongue is not Tamil. All three movies have had very good reviews and the director is a force to reckon with today. His movies have good as far movies with social messages are concerned. In this case, all three movies have messages that take on all the problems with the Indian education system. We will discuss these problems and the possible paths to reform, based on the core messages of the movies.
The Indian education system has several pitfalls. Firstly, the total emphasis on cramming is a big problem. Millions of students do not even understand the nuances of most concepts taught in any class. The emphasis is on the highest marks to be obtained in each subject. This stand has also the tacit support of most of the teachers at the school level who agree that this is all fine. This is because it does give them a chance to just teach the basics and get away with it. Secondly, the rat race produces terrible psychological problems of most students at both school and college levels.
The messages that the three movies talk about can be discussed with specific reference to a) Problems of students b) Mindset issues of teachers c) Commercial angle of the teaching shops d) Social and psychological issues of students and e) Problems related to careers.
Problems of students This is not one problem. There are several problems. For instance, there are teachers who never encourage any question. They would pounce on such students and severely reprimand them. This was a problem highlighted in the movie "Sattai" and also repeated in "Adduththa Sattai"(next Sattai). The word Sattai itself means whip in English. The first movie was a big whip on the Indian education system in schools.
It talked about the hero systematically reforming the Government school. He did so by empowering the students and tapping their latent talents. It also showcased the sexual harassment meted out to a girl who studied in the same school. The hero, Samudhakani, gets wrongly framed and the girl opens up to nail the actual accused. Even this problem has been reported from hundreds of schools in India. The emphasis on cramming was sought to be highlighted in bigger detail in the next movie called "Appa".
In "Appa" the father of a student (appa means father in English) was so strict with his son that he would discipline him day in and day out. After the school final stage, the father would force the son to study only in a particular boarding school at Rasipuram. This town in the Salem district is quite famous for most of the "cramming mills" in South India. It is home to the big multicrore business of making the student get 100% in each of the three or four subjects of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics or Biology for an engineering career or a career in medicine. Those who get 100% would walk into the best of engineering colleges of Anna University and the parents are game with whatever these schools do. It even attracts the students from the other parts of India, as at the plus two levels, it is possible to skip Tamil and study French as the second language.
The movie "Appa" showed the boarding student of the strict disciplinary father, longing to play and have fun with his best friends from his native place. The friends ( including a girl) manage to reach the place and the boy escapes from the hostel for just one day. The goonda-type supervisors at the boarding school find the missing boy and beat him black and blu when he returns to the hostel. He dies in the hospital and the school management attempts to hide all facts. The director then makes the father understand his foolishness.
The film "Aduththa Sattai' even showcases a mock Parliament, with a Prime Minister, a Deputy Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers. The students who are nominated by the dedicated teacher totally change the school environment with their scarce resources. This is excellently shown. The complaints against basic hygiene were neglected by the Principal, and these get set right by the students.
Mindset issues of teachers The movie "Sattai" and "Aduththa Sattai" talk about corrupt teachers who play dirty politics, in a school and college environment respectively. The hero reforms them against all odds. Teachers who just do their duty and do not educate the students even to the slightest degree are blatantly shown with the obvious messages. We need to totally change the mind-set of the teachers and the empowerment of the students to tap their innate potential should be a top priority. This is the core message of all three movies.
The commercial angle of the teaching shops The second movie, Appa talked about this in great detail. The "cramming mills" across the country are the root cause of the poor standards of students. This goes on at the college level also. This problem has been shown in the third movie, "Aduttha Sattai". The biggest question to ask is this: why and how is that there are few world-class colleges for economics like the Lady Shri Ram College for Women in New Delhi, Loyola College, Chennai, St. Stephen's New Delhi and the Christ University, Bangalore? The answer is that the syllabus is far superior and the undergraduate course is taught in conjunction with additional courses. The biggest challenge is to make all other colleges follow the successful methodologies of the benchmark colleges. This is just one example.
Social and psychological issues of studentsThe biggest disconnect is between what is taught and the jobs that the students get after graduation. There is absolutely no connection at all. Evidence of this can be found among clerks in Government offices where many of whom are post-graduates. The quality of research is pathetic and those who do produce such research are very few and far between. All the three movies talk about this and the hero advocates empowerment of students at school and college levels, as one possible solution. The other is to totally do away with just the academic courses and have tie-us between the local universities and the industries for all courses to increase the job-orientation.
Problems related to careers This is also talked about in great detail in the third movie, "Aduththa Sattai", which is set in an arts and science environment. The larger questions of placement bug the students. The hero goes about teaching them life skills and soft skills and then reforming the students to take on bigger challenges. The placement cells attached to the universities need to probe much deeper into each of the bigger issues of preparedness of students, who are found wanting at even level jobs.
For instance, it is wise to make case-study based learning a compulsory aspect of teaching in all the
B-schools, including the University-affiliated colleges that teach the MBA course. Those B schools that are directly recognized by the AICTE, offer only the Post-Graduate Diploma in Management, and this includes even the IIMs. However, the latter standalone B schools are streets ahead of MBA colleges. This happens only because of the exclusive colleges with a big focus on teaching a more practical syllabus with pronounced job orientation.
Conclusion Any Indian citizen who is bothered about the Indian education system with all its weaknesses, would do well to watch all the three Tamil movies. These movies are now available on CDs and DVDs. All three Tamil movies will make us think on the right lines to do whatever we can to reform the System. The total change should to focus on the issues and problems to the attention of the concerned authorities.