The facebook post by an IIT Professor and a news story based on that should have awakened the conscious of all those who really worry about the plight of the children in the name of making them super stars. An article ‘overburdened school-going children’ by Rashmi Pramanik in the book ‘Childhoods in South Asia’ should also be an eye opener for all such people. The answer to the question of the child that ‘How would he find time out of 24 hours at his disposal when so much time is spent (much of that can be wasted)’. School going children were already over loaded with the number of books and other stuff to be carried by them almost every day. Then the sudden explosion of knowledge from different sources made available to them. Internet has already made their life difficult by giving the platform of social sites which take away substantial time from their already busy schedule.
The school is a place where the child should be given opportunity to explore and create but unfortunately they also became the source of information. The teachers most of the times are more concerned to finish the syllabus in time (and in some schools before time) so that they teach more of the next class. The situation seems to be alright in primary classes but secondary & senior secondary are really appalling I agree that academics is more important in higher classes but what has happened is that academics has taken over all space specially in classes XI & XII. The children are discouraged by the parents to participate in co-curricular & extracurricular activities so that they focus more on so called core subjects. For overall development of the students’, debate, declamation, story & poem writing, dance, music, arts & sports are very important areas of learning. The worst thing happened in the name of help and support after school is by the tuition centres and coaching centres. If we go back in time, then it would be realised that initially coaching centres cater to the needs of the students who have cleared their class XII and were appearing for some competitive examinations. I can also recall the doctors who did their MBBS/MS earlier (in 80s) used to feel proud of writing their degree as BSc, MBBS but now if a child does not make it to medical college while doing class XII he/she is considered to have lost one year of life and they are forced to waste and kill their entire childhood just for saving one year or perhaps to become a doctor. Same is the condition for the admission in Engineering or Law Colleges. They are pushed by the demand on the part of parents, friends, relatives and also advertisement in the newspapers. The school hours in India have always been around 6-7 hours and this gave enough time to the students’ for self study, games & sports and pursue any other interest one might have had. But now the problem is that school timings remain the same (which is right also) but additional time to be spent by the children is required at tuition centres & coaching centres. The child in this case who asked that important question to the professor is not an isolated case but most of our children are experiencing the same torture. When I talked to them individually, most of them do not want to follow this routine but peer pressure & expectations of the parents do not give them courage to leave tuitions. The situation has been worse due to lack of enough number of committed & devoted teachers available in the schools. I do not say that there are no good teachers, but they also get pressurised and influenced by the scenario outside in the society. School teachers are paid good salary but this is very less in comparison to the money earned by the people in tuition or coaching centres. There is rumour that coaching centres pay to the tune of 50 lacs to 1 crore a year. No school can afford to pay this amount of salary, so the people do get attracted towards coaching centres, but I always say that such people cannot be called teachers because they are merely tutors. I always objected to the term used for educational institution as industry or business. The problems have further aggravated since the time this has been treated by the people as business. I would like to share one example with you all. I usually avoid meeting the people from coaching centres. But one day somebody who was responsible for sales promotion of one organisation with a reference came to the school. My question to him was what has he come to sell here? As expected no convincing answer would be possible. We talked for some time and discussed the problems of education. I am of strong belief that actual education can neither be sold nor purchased and if it was not so then how can somebody be called a salesman in the field of education. Only thing what could be sold is tuition/coaching centre but not the education. Education is such a pious thing which brings out best in a person and makes him/her a human being with values. My sharing this example does not mean to hurt anybody but all should be careful about the words and thinking towards education and children. Education is not a toy or some other materialistic thing but learning of life and for life.
Though this example was out of context of the topic but the problem is until we all understand the reality, our children will keep suffering and for this we should not blame tuition/coaching centres but all will have to share the blame, the parents, teachers, education system and also the society. I have raised this issue a number of times that how many parents wish their children to become teachers? You will find that very few of them would like that to happen. But whoever is responsible for this plight of the children, we owe an answer to the question of this child.
We need to realise that every child is an individual and should be treated that way and given opportunity to grow accordingly. All can not be engineers from IITs only and Doctors from AIIMs or Advocates from NLUs. The doctors, engineers and lawyers and judges who were there earlier did not necessarily come from these institutions only but from not so much talked about colleges and universities also. Why have we made engineering synonymous to IITs? Why a child who is not able to crack IIT seems to be weak and not capable of doing great. This country needs good teachers, armed forces officers & personnel, politicians, central & state govt. officers, educated farmers, businessmen, entrepreneurs, musicians, painters, dancers, sports persons, journalists & the list is very long. Then why only few are given so much importance? We shall be able to answer this child if they are given opportunities to explore these areas also.
Now I come to the teachers who are teaching in schools. I always say that any child doing well required two important people in life, parents & teachers. The parents try their level best, the way they think right but teachers have to make children feel that they are very important. Most of the private schools pay well to their staff but there may be a few which may not be doing so due to many reasons. But a teacher takes a job in a school then his entire life should revolve around the children and he/she should be accountable to the growth of the children only. The teachers are accountable to the management also but the focus here should also be the children. So if a teacher is full time engaged in a school then he/she is responsible for the children twenty four hours. There may be some children who do not understand that fast as others do in the class so the teachers must give them extra time either in the school or outside as feasible. If a teacher has called a child after school hours then there should not be any monetary consideration in that. I think this makes the things clear to all the esteemed teachers. The question to the answer of the child can be found out easily if the schools and the management follow the spirit of true education and educational institutions. They should not allow themselves to be ridiculed by people outside by tagging them as dummy schools. There used to be good schools or not so good schools, but now dummy schools are also in the existence though fortunately I have not seen one myself. To blame coaching centres only will not be right because if all schools decide that they would provide all possible help to their children then nobody would waste money and time. Coaching & tuition would have come into existence because schools probably did not discharge their duties well.
Another answer to the child’s question would be if Government can create more quality higher educational institutions on the lines of AIIMS, IITs or NLUs. Why not all our schools, colleges and universities should be quality institutions so that all children get equal opportunity to get quality education. Why should there be only one college in Delhi for which the children of a school train themselves so hard that they take practice exams 20-22 times a year. This I am writing based on a report in a news paper regarding 50-60 students from one school only of South India getting admission in the most sought after college of Delhi. If they took practice paper 20-22 times then calculate the number of days they would have spent in that only. Where was the time for them to be creative or to play or do physical exercise? The parents and teachers must ensure that children pursue the field of their interest and not because of what others are doing that. As mentioned before, we need good people in all areas and our children have potential to excel if allowed to follow their dream which in turn will let them live their childhood. Parents when asked that they should allow their children some physical exercise, usual answer is that there are no playgrounds near their residence or they cannot expose their children to do cycling etc., because of the traffic. But when it comes to sending them to the tuition centres then they do take risk of providing them two-wheelers and expose them to the possibility of accidents which at times may prove to be fatal.
All children do not need tuitions or extra help but it seems to have become fashion now-a-days, but unfortunately this fashion does not seem to be fading as quickly as other fashions do.
My advice to this child and his parents would be to see life beyond some colleges/universities also. Follow the routine of the school and find time for yourself. Listen to yourself also in spite of listening to others throughout the day. Find out time to think because creativity comes from thinking only. Parents please repose trust in your child’s ability but do not force him/her to do more than his/her potential. Teachers please help these children to come out of this difficult situation by doing the best you can for them, thereby providing them enough freedom and nurturing their creative minds.