The Nov.27, 2006 edition of India Today carries the report of an exclusive survey of top schools in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore. It claims to have exposed ‘the alarming gaps in student learning, with performance falling way below International levels’. I grabbed the magazine and took it home and to be frank I was not prepared for the findings which stared into my face. In the following week we were to take a group of students on a tour to Orissa. I took the magazine along to either try involving our Honors students in a group discussion or at least get the opinion of my colleagues. Unfortunately I could do neither for want of time. The summary of what I understood is as follows-
1. Learning seems to be taking place in watertight compartments with little relation to real life.
2. Class VIII students consistently faltered even on concepts they had learnt in junior school.
3. Only 37% of the students were able make a two step reasoning that water is H2O and it evaporates to form steam. Therefore the chemical formula for water and steam is the same.
4. Class VI Indian students were outdone by international students of class IV in some tests.
5. Class VI students know that whales are mammals and mammal breathe through their lungs but many fail to make the connection.
6. Students fare well in rote questions but trip up on those needing interpretation and analysis.
I suggest that those of you with school going kids, go through the article, and, get first hand information of the outcome of the survey and come up with a strategy best suited to your child to make learning a pleasure. Do incorporate the practical application of book knowledge in their day to day life. Let their analytical skills develop to the maximum. On the one hand we send our wards to school even before they overcome stranger anxiety and pressurize them to come out in flying colors and on the other side is an education, that when imparted, is not even encouraging them to think logically. Do we have the right to force such methods down their throats? Could this be a reason for the spurt in teen age suicides and depression? I read with a heavy heart the news of a father who was so ambitious that he would beat up his son for every wrong shot he played while practicing Table Tennis. One day he hit him with some hard object for refusing to practice. The boy collapsed and died even before reaching the hospital. Would it not have been better if the father had tried to find out why the child did not want to practice? The world is in the grip of terrorists. Let us no alienate our children by setting unrealistic goals for them. It takes just one step in the wrong direction for us to lose them forever.