Learning through films: In 13k Tamil Nadu govt schools, a monthly movie is now ‘part of curriculum’

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The Tamil Nadu government is launching an initiative to screen films at government schools. It aims to encourage positive behaviour and help children develop empathy and respect for others cultures, foster gender diversity and promote active listening, observation, critical thinking.

According to the initiative’s organisers, who are attached to the directorate of education, one film will be screened every month as part of the year-long film festival. This will be a screening for students in grades 6-9, and will take place during one of the weekly arts periods.

In each of the state’s 13,210 schools, a nodal teacher would facilitate the overall process. The teacher must prepare a summary of the film and make sure that the screening meets the requirements set forth in the circular by the education department.

Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, Minister for School Education, inaugurated the initiative at Kumbakonam’s government higher secondary school earlier this week. Covid-19Children’s minds were impacted by the pandemic. “The government had initiated counselling programmes to improve their mental health. The films screened as part of the initiative will have a core message on social themes and life values,” he said. The festival was launched on July 6 with the screening of the legendary actor-filmmaker Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 movie The Kid.

“We have identified close to 13,000 schools (middle, high and higher secondary schools). The best children will be selected and given the opportunity to meet with prominent names in the film industry. Fifteen children will be identified as the best film critics and would be given a chance to participate in children’s film festivals that take place abroad,” he said.

The screening will provide children with an overview of the film and then there will be discussion, feedback sessions, and a quiz segment, which will award the top team. “This is like giving some sort of encouragement to students, we cannot say the change will happen among students overnight, it will take some time, but it is a starting point for better things to come,” Poyyamozhi added.

The education department is planning to develop an exclusive application called the ‘Silver Screen App’ to capture the feedback and observations of the children post-screening and document the impact of films on students.

“Screening is a matter of culture. This initiative has never been attempted by any other state. It serves a purpose. The state believes that we must change the way we view learning. These activities are not extracurricular, they are equally curricular. When people talk about 21st-century skills, they mean that you can develop these skills by watching movies. It is important for children to see movies every month at school. Teachers also love the opportunity to engage with their students. The ecosystem changes when everybody sits together and watches a film, it enhances the bonding between teachers and students, so it is not a mere film screening, a lot of messaging is going out by one action, It is about how the state views learning per se,” an IAS officer involved in the initiative said.

“The idea of a film is to communicate, it helps children observe and learn, it doesn’t necessarily have to have a language and that’s why we started with Charlie Chaplin’s movie. We are planning to screen Iranian, Assamese films and even our Tamil movies once a month,” she noted.

According to organizers, the challenge is to find films that aren’t copyrighted. “If you show the films in about 10-15 schools that is not an issue, but here we are doing this in over 13,000 schools. Our idea is to get films that don’t have any issues,” an official said. The government intends to gradually expand this initiative to include children in government-funded schools and corporations.

Schools can start their own clubs with support from an anchor teacher. This teacher can help them access other movies or invite resource persons, such as poets and filmmakers, for interaction.

The organisers added that in the concluding month of the festival, children will be invited to Chennai for a week-long event showcasing some of the best children’s films across the world.

Kumbakonam MLA G Anbalagan told indianexpress.com that they expect a positive reception to the initiative. “In olden days, teachers used to explain concepts using porul (things), now they are explaining things using phones. We are living in a world driven by technology, classes are taught through smartphones, so to engage students, films that have comic scenes as well those that offer moral values are screened as part of the festival,” he said.



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