Time and again I have been lamenting on the plight of our school going children who are not enjoying their school life the way we did. Competition is stiff and the children need to perform they say. What exactly is performance? Getting a good rank? Coming 1st in class? Will rote learning that children are presently subjected to help in the long run? Many of you are young mothers and I really want to know what is going on?
A recent report in Hindustan Times claimed that a grade IV student in a government school was not able to solve problems in math of the grade II level. Teachers were not able to answer questions from the lesson they were teaching. We would all like to take up government jobs because accountability is almost nil. But are private institutions any better? We have a bunch of kids in our complex that would be playing in the campus when I returned from work. They were probably in their primary school. I would have to be careful while entering the compound and parking my car. One never knew from where a little boy or girl would come running. Of late I noticed that there were no children playing downstairs. Where had they gone? There was a super expensive coaching class being run from a newly built multi-storey building in our neighborhood and at least 20 children from our complex were being sent there for coaching. They had subject teachers tutoring them from 3 to 6 in the afternoon. The children would be forced to learn since they would not be sent home unless they finished mugging up for a test or completed their home work. A little girl known to me was detained till 8 in the evening because she was taking longer to learn. The girl was so tired that she went off to sleep without having her supper.
What is wrong with young mothers? Why are they not able to handle children in the 1st or 2nd grade? Most of them are stay at home moms. Do these children have to compromise on their play time? Will they not lose their love for learning? I am appalled to say the least. All these children come from fairly affluent families and go to reputed English medium schools. Is the school over burdening the children? I hear that some schools in town do not allow the children to write answers in their own words. The teacher marks out the answer in the text book and they just have to reproduce it word to word. Just out of curiosity I asked a boy in Grade V to describe his hobby in 5 simple sentences. As I expected his language lacked imagination and he could not write beyond the 3rd sentence. He simply could not think for himself. He has never been encouraged to do so. He has also been packed off to the above mentioned coaching class. Teachers do not encourage children to write out answers in their own language since it would mean additional work for them.
Why am I worried? Long back a friend said in jest that we Indians could never be leaders. We are happy being followers. I disagreed. I gave the example of my own brothers who had studied in Gobichettipalayam with Tamil as their medium of instruction and recounted their efforts to stand out among their peers. I wonder if I’d be able to defend our present school goers with the same zeal. If schools are going to churn out robots what can I do with them at the undergrad level? We have students who have opted for Botany Honors because they were not offered admission in any other subject. These girls do not have an idea about the basics of Biology. I have to start with cell organelles and often give up midway because nothing that I say seems to register in their minds. I cannot be expected to start from grade IV level.
Things were not this bad even till about 4 years back. I recall the golden days when I took up my job as Lab in charge. The girls would take 5 minutes to settle down for their practical class. They would discuss the lesson taught in theory. Their enthusiasm would be contagious. Most of them did not have educated mothers. But they were schooled by dedicated teachers who saw to it that they got their basics right. I am afraid that these days teachers expect parents to teach their wards and parents particularly mothers do not have the confidence to teach children in their pre teens let alone children in high school classes. Coaching centers are mushrooming and it seems easiest to pack them off to tuition classes and relax.
My advice to young mothers would be to encourage your child to think for him/herself. He may take a while longer but will benefit more. I am not going to be working when these kids move on to college. It is in the interest of making the best use of the intellectual resource of our country that I write. The available potential in the form of youth energy needs to be groomed and utilized.