2 ISRO scientists, alumni of TN government schools, recall how teachers set them on a Moon trajectory

Former ISRO chief K Sivan said parents sending their wards to private schools would decrease if government schools had good infrastructure.

ByLaasya Shekhar

Published Aug 28, 2023 | 2:00 PMUpdatedAug 28, 2023 | 2:00 PM

Tamil Nadu government schools

Padma Shri awardee Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, popularly known as the Moon Man of India, is a product of public school education.

He had attended the Panchayat Union Middle School in Kothavadi, the Panchayat Union Middle School in Nallattipalayam, the Government High School in Kinathukadavu and the Municipal High School in Pollachi.

However, early days in school were not smooth for Dr Annadurai.

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‘Teachers’ enthusiasm can make up infrastructural shortfall’

Of the facilities that were available back then, Annadurai told South First, “The infrastructure of my school was not good. My primary school did not even have a permanent building. A cowshed was used as a makeshift classroom. Even the playground was put together by the students.”

Mylswamy Annadurai. (Facebook)

However, things began to improve slowly, he said, adding, “By the time I was in Class V, the school was in better shape,” he added.

The teachers’ enthusiasm made up for any shortfall in infrastructure.

Recalling how his school teachers helped him, he said, “Starting from my father, who was a teacher himself, there were a fairly good number of teachers and professors who played a role in my upbringing. The teachers were extremely committed and very well trained.”

“They discouraged the conventional rote-learning. We were one year ahead of the curriculum. We studied subjects of Class 3 in Class 2,” he told South First.

With mentoring and encouragement, he developed a love for reading. He was fond of history and historical fiction like Ponniyin Selvan.

Related: College that produced Magnificent 7 who helped us to the Moon

Recalls mentors

A picture of Moon Man, Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, from his school days. Mylswamy can be seen in the second row from the top, second from right. (Supplied)

Annadurai mentioned some of the key mentors who aided his journey, and by extension, India’s space ambitions.

“I would like to mention CK Krishnan from high school who taught me Mathematics which became a vital skill in attaining the position in which I am now. This made it easy to understand other subjects like science and flight dynamics,” he said.

“In college, Dr Palaniswamy taught Electronics and Communications and Peter Stanley Bebington, who taught us means to put theories into a practice, were immensely influential,” he added.

Rocket science is nothing but multi-disciplinary engineering, he noted, adding that his learning in government institutions helped him in his approach in ISRO.

ISRO scientists government schools

Dr Mylswamy Annadurai is an alumnus of the Panchayat Union Middle School in Kothavadi, Coimbatore district. The school celebrated when Chandrayaan-3 landed on moon.

“Government schools are equipped with trained teachers and spacious grounds. However Infrastructure should be set up to elevate it to the next level,” Annadurai said.

“I am almost on a personal mission, along with various NGOs and volunteers, the ‘Digital Equalisation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education’, to improve the required infrastructure in government schools. I want such efforts to reach as many schools as possible,” he said.

“Beyond the government, people who benefit from such schools need to play a supportive role to improve STEM infrastructure as much as possible,” he added.

“Government schools are no less — that is the message I try to convey to the parents. Budget-wise, the government is spending a lot on modernisation,” Annadurai said.

Related: Capable of launching more interplanetary missions, says S Somnath

Need for better infrastructure facilities

Dr K Sivan, who served as the Secretary of the Department of Space and the chairman of the Space Commission and the ISRO from January 2018 to January 2022, was also a product of public schooling.

He had spearheaded various projects, including the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

K Sivan. (Creative Commons)

He credited his school science teacher for positively influencing his journey in science.

“My science teacher Ganesan was very casual in his approach to the subject. He made it feel like it was not a complicated subject,” he said.

“I studied in the Government Primary School at Sarakkalvilai in Kanniyakumari district. The teachers were very enthusiastic. When I studied, there were six teachers and a headmaster,” Sivan told South First.

According to him, government schools were in no way inferior to private ones. However, he felt that to attract the students, a few steps needed to be taken.

“Support from the government is the need of the hour. Teachers are interested; they often rely on funds from philanthropists to improve the schools. With a push from the government in terms of increasing amenities, government schools can do wonders,” he said.

The percentage of economically struggling parents sending their wards to private schools would decrease if government schools had better infrastructure, he added.