Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stress : Designed or destined

The months of March/April come with a lot of academic activities in a family. All these are related to one point programme and that is the final/annual examinations in schools and colleges. I am more concerned about the problem (self created) faced by the parents in addition to the stress faced by the children who appear in these examinations. The ministry of human resource and development and central board of secondary education have taken several steps to reduce this stress of the parents and the children. The designers of these policies seem to be happy with the steps taken by them. They feel that the stress level of the  concerned stakeholders has gone down significantly. But the reality of the situation seems to be otherwise. There may be some cases where the children and the parents would have been happy with the reforms in examination and evaluation system. I would like to share with you all the real situations and activities in the families whether children appeared/ are appearing in school/board examinations. I met number of parents who stopped going out for any social function or recreation. There are a number of parents who have taken off from their office or business because of the final examinations of the children. Many parents do not encourage the visitors (including close relatives) to visit their home because they think that studies of their child will be disturbed thereby obtaining less marks than any other child of the class. This is not the case with less educated parents only but even the highly educated parents also behave in the same manner. You will be surprise to know that even the teachers who council the parents and children not to be stressed during examination have a lot of stress themselves. When I tried to talk to some of the parents and asked for the reason for their being so much anxious about the performance of the child in final examinations. Some of them said my child had been doing well throughout the year hence he wanted to ensure that he does better in final examinations also. There was a sizeable number of parents who felt that due to the new examination pattern their  children did not work hard during the year hence they were worried  about their performance. There were a few parents who did not bother about the exams and were quite relaxed in contrast to the majority of the parents. They felt that up to class eighth the children will not be detained in the same class even if their performance was poor because as per RTE act no child can be detained up to class eighth. On the basis of this the responses of the parents were analyzed and it was found parents of the children of classes IX and X were more stressed. Notwithstanding the fact that up to class VIII many children did not worry about studies at all because they knew that they would not fail. Now in classes IX & X that rule does not apply because of which they are worried and stressed as they did not develop the habit of working hard throughout the year. This gives us a food for thought and do the needful so that our children and parents do not suffer unnecessary stress.
I would like to discuss about the real impact of the reforms initiated by the concerned authorities. What people may feel that in the name of reducing stress, keeping in mind the philosophy that change is the only thing constant, these reforms were introduced. There are two reasons why these reforms could not yield the desirable result :-
1.    These reforms were introduced in scurry without taking all stakeholders into confidence and preparing them to administer these reforms with precision.
2.    While introducing these reforms the ground realities were not considered critically.
Now let us try to understand these reasons in detail. When people say it was done in hurry which is evident, because CCE was introduced in the mid session in 2009-10 when not many parents, students and even the schools had any idea about this wonderful concept. Though the workshops and seminars were conducted in the months of November and December (after the introduction of CCE) but most of the trainees had ambiguity about the whole affair. Not only the trainees but also some of the downline trainers were also not very clear about the newly introduced concept  hence they were not able to satisfy the queries of the teachers (who were to play a major role  in proper and effective implementation of the reforms) . In turn the teachers were not able to satisfy the queries of parents and children because of which there was lot of confusion in the starting. As is believed that ‘well began is half done’, which did not happen in  case of reforms  under discussion. If all stakeholders were prepared and educated  about the importance and usefulness of CCE they would have taken the reforms in the right spirit and results of the same would have been much more successful and positive than what we witness as on today. 
The second reason mentioned was the ground realities. The reforms introduced by competent authorities did not match with the local conditions and situations. Many schools in our country do not have even the basic amenities like the proper class rooms, activity rooms, library, laboratories and the play grounds. Also the number of schools available is far less than required as per the number of students to be provided school education. There are number of schools in which the number of teachers is much less as per the requirement of PTR. All know it well (until one does not want to face the reality) there are crowded classes in many schools and the number ranges from 50 to 100 and in some cases even more than this.  I would like to understand how can a teacher pay attention to an individual child in such a big class and help the child as per his/her need. How can a teacher be expected to use differential teaching in such classes.
It is not only the number of schools but also the scarcity of qualified teachers which further compounds the problem of effectively introducing the reforms. I mentioned it earlier also that the qualified and committed  teachers  are urgently required  for making school education more child friendly which ensures proper learning without forcing much stress on small kids. I understand that before pushing for the reforms (for name sake) the government should cater to the burning issues which are responsible for the stress among the children and parents. The stress which gives enduring learning should be taken in the positive way and word stress should not always be painted as an humongous evil. In the end, I would like to suggest that the quality of learning should not be compromised in the name of reforms and making children stress free rather we should have an education system which promotes the habit of hard-work, honesty and love and respect for the nation.