Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Predictable and unpredictable stress

A great educationist was asked to express his views on the new policy of promotion of the students according to which no child shall be declared fail. This is done keeping in mind the stigma which is created in the mind of the children when declared fail. The thinking behind the policy seems to be very genuine but one question being asked by many people is to be answered. In the last ten to fifteen years, CBSE has taken initiative to reduce the stress of the studies on the children. The pattern of the question papers and the evaluation system has been changed so that all the children could pass irrespective of their learning capabilities. But have these steps reduced the stress level of the children? Are the numbers of cases in which the children take extreme steps reduced or have risen in number? Has the quality of education improved or deteriorated?  Now a dangerous trend is coming into picture and that is, the children are prepared in such a manner that they are not exposed to any tough circumstances or demanding situations. But the fact is, life is full of challenges and the children are not really exposed to all that but whenever they encounter the same they are likely to surrender. As per the views of this educationist, the policy may prove to be counterproductive to the children as well as the nation. He says that quality of education will decide the quality of the life of the people and if a compromise is made on the quality,things are going to be difficult for all. This may seem to be good to show to the people that we care for our children but in reality and in the long run it will turn out to be disastrous for the country. This view is shared by many educationists and the member of the society but either they fell isolated or are not heard by those who decide the fate of the country.
All this and more made me to think about what should be done so that neither the quality of the education is compromised nor the children are exposed to unnecessary stress and tension. I think the quality is important but education is not only the curriculum and the evaluation but also the most important aspect is the quality of  teachers and the teaching learning process. The other important factor is the kind of treatment we give to our children at home and in the schools. All children are good and nobody can be labelled as poor because he/she has some potential to perform well in one or the other field. We know all cannot be Sh. Ramanujam or Dr. Abdul Kalam ,but we need people for all walks of life like; Music, Arts, Dance, Web Designing, Animation, Creative Writing, Quizzing, Debating and so many other professions depending upon the potential of the individual child. But the most important of them is the virtue of a good human being. For this the teachers and the parents will have to look after the children and appreciate them for their qualities which every child has in plenty but many of us are not able to see those qualities.The latent talent should be identified and groomed. The children should be made to learn that nothing can be achieved without sincere efforts and hard work. The feeling of becoming a millionaires by answering twelve or thirteen question will have to be erased from their mind. Also, the success should not become synonymous to earning money. The teachers in the schools can make all the difference in the life of the children. The students must be treated with respect and should not be exposed to humiliating situations,which pushes him/her into any inferiority complex. This kind of stress should be avoided completely. The stress of  humiliation is very dangerous whereas the habit of working hard and achieving this by self hard work is positive. So the first thing which the policymakers should pay attention to is, the quality of  teaching . The teachers should be more humane in their dealing with the students. No child should be humiliated in front of the other children. The teachers should not have any pre-conceived notion about the child. The children can prove you wrong if some other teacher recognize their potential. I remember a case when a teacher had casually passed a remark which made the child to think negative about the subject she was trying to do well in. The incident was that one day the teacher was asking the children about their future plans .One child said that she wanted to be a scientist and the immediate remark of the teacher was , first pass your board exam and then think about becoming a scientist. Though the teacher might have been right while saying so because that child was not doing well in her studies and specially the science subjects. This sarcastic remark of the teacher disturbed the child so much that she gave up studies completely. She was fortunate that the other teacher and the parents of the child noticed the weird change and came to the rescue of the girl otherwise this remark of the teacher would have handicapped one creative member of the society. The children should be saved from unwanted stress because that will hamper their learning abilities. Many researchers have shown that the children who are exposed to uncontrolled and unpredictable stress cause learned helplessness. Sapolsky Hiroto said that unpleasant and unpredictable stresses create learned helplessness. He did an experiment in which one group of students was exposed to loud and unpleasant noise. For one group the noise was escapable and for the other it was inescapable. After sometime, both the groups were given some learning activity. The group which was exposed to escapable noise could perform better than the other group. He and his team did follow up experiments by taking numerous different learning activities and the result was the same. It shows that if the children are made to learn how to manage stress then certainly it will make learning better. The conclusion drawn here is that; to make children stress free will not mean no test or pass- fail policy but to enable them to learn without exposing them to unpredictable stress. Once they have the habit that stress can be controlled then they would not be worrying about pass or fail. In this endeavour, the teachers can play the most important role. They should not ridicule any child but appreciate whatever efforts are made by him/her.The basic understanding of the psychology of children will prove to be handy here. But at the same time, the children should clearly know what is the minimum level of learning they should achieve. Our children should be given an opportunity to become self sufficient and self reliant rather than being dependent on others for everything.As independent children can grow up to do great things even when odds against them are high.A positive self image will shine through our children if we foster independence,confidence and other life-skills.Also help them to grow stronger emotionally by building their self esteem to enable them to become less vulnerable to stress.Anxiety,stress,obsessions and depression are as much a part of adult life as of a child.However,the tolerance and ability to cope up with stress not only depends on genetics, but also the developmental age.Thus it is important to understand the manifestation of stress in children and help then to overcome it.

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