I was already in tears on a lazy Sunday evening thinking about the week ahead. Projects, Escalations, deadlines, team meetings and team outings, Traffic and a lot more to deal with. I was lying on the sofa watching the Daniel Craig starrer Sky fall. That’s when my 5 year old niece came in with an expression which actually reflected a real sky fall. I was on the as usual, pull her legs mood. Made fun of her. She was angry on me and frustrated. She shouted, “I have my own tensions. How dare you disturb me! “ . I couldn’t control my laughter, but didn’t want to annoy her more. I picked her up in my arms and asked what “THE TENSION” was all about. She said. “I have an UT tomorrow and I haven’t prepared yet.” I seriously didn’t have any idea what an “UT” meant.
I asked her what it meant. She was all angry again. “You fool, you make fun of me. And you don’t know what an UT is? They didn’t teach you in schools is it? UT means Unit test.” It was my turn to be tensed now. A unit test for a 5 year old? I hadn’t turned towards school or anything related to education once I had finished my studies. It was a nightmare for me. It was annoying and boring to go to school, do the same thing again and again day in and day out. I had to ask my sister about what was with all these unit tests. After hearing what she said , all my ideas of having a rebirth vanished. (I am giving 30 more minutes every day from now on to try and attain MOKSHA :P)!!Such is the state of education today.
Well, let’s start. She studies ICSE syllabus. So the routine is quite fixed. Every Monday they have an UT. It could be, to recite a poem, sing a song, enact a play ,take dictations , write numbers in reverse ,color the shapes on a drawing book ,Add numbers ,subtract some and so on .After that, they will attend classes as usual, and come back to home in the evening. They have these red days where they wear red color dresses, a nature day where they dress in green, a salad day where your kid has to carry salads to school share it with peers and eat it. They have abacus and mental mathematics training, parent teacher meeting once in a while. They support sports and games, they have yoga classes on Wednesdays. And prayers every day. Kids having birthdays will be made to occupy the podium and everyone will sing for them. This is just a small part of the big curriculum. That’s not all. She has six homework books (cursive writing, coloring, one for numbers, one to stick the stickers).And she also goes to dance class (Thanks to the hype created by reality shows). This is her normal day.
Let’s just go back to say 18 -20 years. There I was. I was admitted to one of the best schools in the town then. I also used to go to school .Back then I was considered a slow learner (Now you can’t call them slow learners .There are some other terms for it). And my UKG exams were to write numbers from 1 -50 in the normal order. And even today I remember, my teacher had eyes which mimicked fire balls and had with no other option had helped me write numbers from 30 to 50. I was not the best I should agree .But I wasn’t pressurized then. I used to eat the PARLE-G biscuit cutting every alphabet one by one ,and my dad had asked me to read it when 3 letters were left, (leg). I was in first standard then. I had pronounced it as (LEJI). If (parley-g is pronounced as PARLEJI, then le-G must be leji right?)!! Such was my knowledge base back then, some share of blame has to go to English language as well. It has this weird pronunciations which can kill a normal kid like me. But then I learnt it to be leg (aka Limb). But today’s kids know to pronounce and spell the words which I type correctly only because MS- word marks it in red or auto corrects it. The real pressure of exams and education on me was when I was in 10th. By then I had learnt to study and I had a bit of expectations on me. I got through that phase. Then PUC (11th and 12th) was the time when our asses were on fire. That’s maybe the first time when we started sacrificing sleep to study. And then there was engineering. That really took us from amazon jungles to alpine mountains, from Sahara deserts to coniferous forests. Well, that thought us everything .But that’s when we were around 22. These poor kids do it so early in their lives. I used to reach home by 3. I then had to do my homework, That was mostly 2 copy writings, and after 5th it was 3 ,and say 1 or 2 mathematical problems. I used to spend my evenings playing cricket and nights were spent watching the stars. If you are from Karnataka, you will have heard the names of these comics like Balamangala, thunturu, champaka, balamangala chitrakathe, chandamama. I used to read all of them, and at least twice .And when I was done doing so much I would have the next editions with me ready. ( I didn’t read English books ,because reading English was difficult for me, even though I was in an English school. I guess I was a slow learner really)!! But take it to today’s kids. All that they know is chota beem and his laddus. The stories I learned had logic, they had moral, and they had life values. We have lost them today in the name of competition and the global “RUN TO WIN”
My point is, yes, that amount of competition and spirit and readiness is required to survive today. In this world which doesn’t have time for losers. But in the meantime this shouldn’t take the childhood away from the kids. It shouldn’t make them machines which read something, memorize it and reproduce it. You can teach high-level problem solving, aptitude, physics and chemistry and help the kid crack IIT –JEE mains, or help the guy clear CAT.
It is not difficult to solve 101th question after solving 100 similar questions. But the point here is, the kid loses it intellectual, normal ability to think and act when we do that. It just becomes a machine which breaks down when a pressure beyond a particular threshold is applied. One of the possible reasons for the increase in the number of teens committing suicides, the drug abuses, the juvenile crimes is this pressure to succeed and to be a winner. Remember this every next kid that is born can’t be a Sathya Nadella or a Sunder Pichai. And every kid that learns karate can’t get you a state level gold medal. Don’t pour down your expectations from kids on them, and don’t push them beyond limits.
I was lucky to have parents who said, no matter what happens come back to home. We are there for you, there Is a home where you belong, and there are people who love you. They were the same people who held my hands and wiped my tears when I found it difficult to write and read (Slow learner again) when I had fear to talk to people. It’s because of them that I can today confidently say, Give me any book, and ask me anything, I will surely understand it,assess it and tell you what you want to know. That’s because my parents thought me there is something beyond marks and books in life. I call it common sense. Remember one simple thing, when there is a falling building all that you need is the sense to run,when you are in a flood, you need the sense to swing your arms. Your abilities to apply what momentum was associated with the building when it fell, and what was the reason for the state of change of rest of the building won’t help you , Or your ability to solve a trigonometric expression or to write a C program won’t help you when you want to save your life in an earthquake . Try to nurture this quality in kids. Mere syllabus and exam preparations are going to give us computers without feelings and not Humans who can think!!