TNTB & ESC: committed to the world of books!

Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation(TNTB & ESC) was one of the main organisers of the recently concluded first edition of the ‘Chennai International Book Fair’ along with Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI) and Directorate of Public Libraries (DPL).Dr. T S Saravanan, Joint Director, TNTB & ESC shares the journey of the institution since its inception in the early 1960s, with Janani Rajeswari S.


Need for textbooks in Tamil for higher education

Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation (TNTB & ESC) stepped in when there was a need for textbooks books in Tamil for courses under the Arts stream in the 1960s,” says Dr. T.S. Saravanan. So, between 1960 and 1969, around 70 titles were published for the students taking up courses of the Arts stream. In 1969, TNTB & ESC also began bringing out textbooks for the courses under the Science stream in Tamil during the reign of Dr. Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi. By the year 1978, around 900 titles had been written.

School education and textbooks in English

This was also the time when the concept of Plus 1 and Plus 2 (Classes 11 and 12) was introduced in Tamil Nadu. This also marked the foray of the institution into producing school textbooks on large scale.

TNTB & ESC was already into publishing school textbooks in the 1970s. The syllabus framed by State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) is printed and distributed by them.

“In 1980, school textbooks were produced by both private publishers and by the government institutions. We began distributing free textbooks to government schools and selling them to private schools,” says Saravanan.

This was all also the time when UGC laid down new guidelines for higher education. “The syllabus comprised of 60 percent of common syllabus and the rest was local syllabus. There were also many students making a foray into English medium of instruction,” says Dr. Saravanan. He adds that they also began focusing on producing English medium books.

Competitive exam books

After 2010, books of TNTB & ESC gained great demand among competitive exam aspirants. So, TNTB & ESC began producing books for competitive exams and rare collector books. “Interestingly, our competitive books also gained popularity across other states as they were also available in English,” says Dr. Saravanan.

Going the digital way : Energised books

By the end of the 1980s, there were three educational boards: State board (Tamil and English medium); Matriculation board and Anglo-Indian board in Tamil Nadu. These three were integrated into a single syllabus under the name of ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ in 2009. TNTB & ESC started producing 4-colour books under the ‘Samacheer Kalvi’.

In 2017, they began creating ‘Energised books’ when it came to producing textbooks with supplementary materials for schools. “We were one of the first publishers from the government side to integrate QR codes in our books. For instance, if the students were studying about various places of interest in a particular place, they could scan the code and could enjoy a virtual tour of the place,” says Dr. Saravanan. This could be true for a virtual tour of a museum in the US or in Singapore. TNTB & ESC has created their own videos and also collaborated with other institutions who have created videos.

TNTB & ESC is also looking at making science a practical and fun experience. “We have collaborated with a team called ‘Let’s make Science Simple’ to offer innovative science experiment videos to students,” says Dr. Saravanan.

Tamil Virtual Academy (TVA)

“Created in 1989, one of the main objectives of ‘Tamil Virtual Academy’ was to take initiatives to preserve Tamil books through digitisation by converting them into PDF,” he explains. In 2017, the same books were republished for creating documentation editions. These books were exhibited at book fairs. “Following the great response during the book fairs, we began distributing these books to various district libraries. We also began selling them directly,” says Dr. Saravanan.

Around 900 books have been published. “We have also created compilation of nearly 1 lakh technical words across various verticals. This was done with the help of Tamil scholars, subject experts and various researchers,”he adds. For instance, a student of BA History or even a student of Radiology could look it for reference words.

Translation and co-publishing

TNTB & ESC has been into books on Western and political ideologies. Thus, they have produced original works as well as translation rights to other works.

In 2017, TNTB & ESC started looking out for partners for co-publishing. “The main idea was to promote Tamil language, culture and ideologies. So, we could either translate chosen books of co-publishers or bring out books as per the wish of TNTB & ESC,” explains Saravanan. Today, there are 14 co-publishers including leading publishing houses such as Penguin, Oxford University Press, and so on.

“We are glad to share that Chief Minister M.K. Stalin released five co-published books on medical sciences of which two were by Elsivier and one by Routledge and one by Universities Press,” he adds.

Challenges of co-publishing

One of the main challenges is convincing the Auditing and Finance section for co-publishing a book, says Dr. Saravanan. On the side of the co-publisher, it mainly involves terms of the agreement and the policies of the respective co-publisher. “Sometimes soft copies of translated books are not available,” he says. He adds that sometimes they would be entrusted with the layout of the book.

Bringing Keeladi Civilisation to light

In 2019, TNTB & ESC took up the project of creating awareness about the ‘Keeladi Civilisation’ from the Sangam Age in Tamil Nadu that dates back to 600BC. “This is one of the civilisations that is equivalent to the Indus Valley civilisation. It was one of the most important urban settlements. The Archaeological Department of Tamil Nadu uncovered artefacts from the place and sent it to the Beta Analytic lab to examine the samples. The findings of this archaeological survey were published by us in 24 languages include Indian languages, Russian, French , Japanese and so on,” explains Saravanan.

What lies ahead

From this year, TNTB & ESC has started conducting events like ‘Chennai International Book Fair’ along with the Directorate of Public Libraries. TNTB & ESC is also actively engaged in translating literary classics from Tamil to English and technical books from English to Tamil. Dr. Saravanan adds that nearly 200 books are in the pipeline.

“With the Tamil Development Department, we are working on bringing out the thoughts of E.V.R Periyar in 22 languages. We also plan to translate all textbooks for the Medicine stream in Tamil and co-publish it with Elsevier and other publishers. Five books have already been published. Other books will be done in phased manner,” ends Dr. Saravanan on a positive note.

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