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Learning through films: In 13,000 Tamil Nadu govt schools, watching movies is now a monthly activity

The initiative is expected to help improve critical thinking skills in children, and is part of the Tamil Nadu government’s efforts to promote mental health and bridge the learning gap among students in the post-pandemic scenario.

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. (Twitter/@AnbilMahesh)

The Tamil Nadu government has launched an initiative to screen films in government schools to encourage positive behaviour in children, help them develop empathy and respect for other cultures, promote gender diversity, and improve active listening, observation and 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 would primarily be for students in classes 6-9 and will be conducted during one of the arts periods allocated every week.

In each of the state’s 13,210 schools, a nodal teacher would facilitate the overall process. The teacher has to prepare a synopsis of the film and ensure that the screening meets all the criteria provided as per the circular issued by the education department.

Inaugurating the initiative at a government higher secondary school in Kumbakonam earlier this week, Minister for School Education Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi said the Covid-19 pandemic had left a deep impact in the minds of children. “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.

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“We have identified close to 13,000 schools (middle, high and higher secondary schools). Children who provide the best feedback will be shortlisted and later provided an opportunity to interact with major 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.

Besides providing children with a broad overview of the film ahead of the screening, there will also be discussions, a feedback session and a quiz segment (with a prize for the best team) after the screening. “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.

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A senior government official, who is in charge of facilitating the initiative, said: “Screening films is a matter of culture. I have not heard of any other state doing an initiative like this. It has a purpose. The state believes that the whole way of how we look at learning has to be expanded. These are not extra-curricular activities, these are equally curricular. People speak about skills in the 21st century, these you can actually develop by watching films. For children, seeing movies every month in school is a big thing. Teachers are also happy that they can engage with children. 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.”

The interaction and discussion sessions are aimed at strengthening a culture of keen listening, waiting for one’s turn to respond, using data points to build an opinion, understanding and respecting multiple perspectives and so on, the official added. The approach is such that it will provide teachers a deeper insight into how students learn, think, perceive the world, and arrive at conclusions of right or wrong, good or bad, she explained. The entire concept is designed around the core message that learning is not limited to textbooks.

“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 Tamil movies as well as Iranian and Assamese films once a month,” she noted.

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The organisers said the challenge is to get films that are not 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 is planning to gradually extend the initiative to cover children in corporation and government-aided schools.

Schools can form their own clubs with the support of an anchor teacher who can help them with accessing other movies and by inviting resource persons like writers, poets, 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.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Kumbakonam MLA G Anbalagan said they are expecting a good reception for 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.

First published on: 10-07-2022 at 12:15 IST
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