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Values & Education

The March Epidemic

Come March and the place around me looks like it is under curfew. You won’t find most of the regular socializing parents, children playing in the driveways and play area. All get-togethers come to a grinding halt, hurried shopping or mandatory outings only. And, even if they did appear in the parties, the parents would sport tense looks and the conversation would veer mostly towards exams, marks, grades and other curriculum related talks. Some, even go an extra step and invite old relatives from their native and outsource the household chores to them so that they can spend more time with their children and some come back early from work so that they can teach their children.

The March epidemics - students' examination fever - parenting issues

I am sure, you have guessed by now most of them are suffering from Examaria*.

The whole family sits around the child and studies with no break/recreation. The feverish parents bombard the child so much that the child is infected with the examaria virus of tension and stress. Though I admire the love and care for their children, sometimes, I wonder where were they when the whole year went by? Why catch hold of the child now and help him cram the whole year’s syllabus? They lay more emphasis on finishing the year’s syllabus within the stipulated time, memorizing rather than understanding concepts. Perhaps, that is why the tension, because while you memorize, your train of thoughts gets derailed when you forget even one word. As if this was not enough the target percentage is also fixed which adds more pressure on the child.

Many parents fail to realize that these stress levels cause mental and memory blocks along with loss of appetite and decreasing energy level.

Since I have seen all this, I wasn’t surprised when the newspaper reported that Doctors claim many children get examination fever, acidity, hypertension, stomach aches, headaches, dizziness, etc. and some older children even take extreme steps when unable to cope the board exam pressure.

Why should not everything be normal during exam times too?

If the child puts consistent efforts throughout the year, eats wholesome breakfast, goes regularly to school with an alert mind, concentrates in class, recalls all that is done when home, correlates it with real life and visualizes wherever necessary, it gets embedded in the memory. It is further strengthened by the child’s homework. But in most cases, during school days parents themselves wake up late, on most days the children even miss their regular school since they had a late night. I have observed some of the children are never regular to school and when their parents pitch in to teach, the fundamentals of teaching vary and they get more confused. Parents may be CEO’s, CFO’s or VP’s with international masters degree but when it comes to teaching there is no alternative to classroom teaching, hence, it is very important for children to attend school regularly, this is what I believe.

As if this was not enough, some children hop from Maths tuition to Science tuition to French/Hindi tuition with absolutely no time to play or to pursue their hobby. Some tutors are good but most tuition classes are money spinners and in my locality where some children go, the classes have 20-25 children and looks like an evening school. What individual attention can these teachers pay? Of course, you can hire a tuition teacher to teach your child on individual basis but that is only if you are willing to pay 5000 INR per month (Maths and Science only).

Another set of overenthusiastic parents enroll their children in the so-called techno schools. Though they love their children very much, they care less whether the child likes to take up the science stream or not. It is a social status for them to put their children in such schools.These schools which have chrome/glass facades look like corporate houses and train the children to face the IIT/ NEET exams from Grade V itself. They have no playgrounds and work from morning 7 till evening 7. Some overenthusiastic schools in order to get an overall pass percentage train the children even on Sundays.

Will it not stress the child and in many cases even parents? The very thought of all these triggers the stress hormones.

Fundamental skills, thinking skills, analytical skills, general problem solving capacities, decision-making – the essential results of a good education come only when the child becomes independent and starts thinking and working on his own. One needs to understand the concept, analyze and apply the knowledge as one goes to higher classes and higher in life. We as parents and teachers should only offer time, space, nourishment and guidance to the children. Apart from school where of course the base work is done. Let us encourage children to socialize, discuss among peers and friends so that there is a flow of information.

I believe a child learns and discovers better when he goes in search of knowledge. I have always used the playway method of teaching my children when they were small. We have learnt spellings on roads reading the billboards and signboards, by breaking big spellings like attendance into “at ten dance” instead of writing 10 times or 20 times, playing scrabble, playing thinking skill problems on our train journeys, listening to audio cassettes of stories like karadi tales (videos suspend the art of visualization), participating in many free workshops of storytelling and activities in leisure/lifestyle stores (not summer camps) to develop the thirst for knowledge and to face the crowd. Even at home we would read, work and comprehend from books on comprehension, composition, Maths, puzzles and grammar workbooks available on footpaths (very economical just for Rs.10/- book) and play with maps, etc. I would help them relate science and history projects to real life incidents or role play. Instead of spoon-feeding the child in the name of helping them to memorize, I would ask her/him to search the encyclopedias/scholastic books, the various ‘Tell me Why’s’ or Google to gather information. I feel this is be a better way of learning. I know a parent who does the entire project work for her child while the child is playing happily outside, unaware of his school project work. The project is in good shape and he gets an A+ at school. But how much has the child learnt here?

Let us accept our children as they are. Let all the creative juices flow during exam times. It is an outlet for them to relax. In fact, it has been proved that the children who relax through creative art, music, sports, etc. perform better in academics. Music, art and sports are supposed to activate both the cerebral halves (right and left) thus aiding your logical, creative and intellectual skills. Let our children face their exams with utmost confidence pumped from us. Let us learn to love our child with their failures. Last but not the least, let us not have expectations from our child. Let us give them unconditional love and allow them to enjoy their childhood. As long as the child is clear with the basic concepts it is fine even if he is a B grade holder. Sometimes children lose marks due to carelessness. All gold medalists are not achievers in life nor all of them are happy. Are they?

I know children in my own surroundings who have cracked the IIT and other entrance exams, have topped their class without any pressure during the exams. Let me share this, without any private tuitions, without missing the art and music classes and without missing the regular playtime prior to the day of the boards, my daughter scored a CGPA of 10/10 in AISSE last year. Same with my son, though with him I nudge a little as he is slightly playful, he always tops all his mathematics exams with 25/25 and reads the story book “Diaries of a wimpy kid” prior to his General English exam and still scores 23/25. All this is possible with the right balance of work and play and because they are clear with the fundamentals taught at school.

Let us help them to enjoy their academics and childhood and let us also enjoy the exam times . Also, I am sure many of you must be making learning time a fun time.

Do share what you do.

P.S: The above observations are based on my surroundings and experiences which may not be applicable everywhere and cannot be generalized.

*Examaria is not a general English word but a portmanteau, I made it by combining ‘exam’ and ‘malaria’ to denote exam fever

Asha Balakrishnan is a hardware design engineer by profession, a certified online grader for SAT, GRE, GMAT and other essays by choice, A SAHM, a blogger. Born in Chennai, brought up in Bangalore and now she calls Hyderabad her home. A mother to two teens aged 15 and 13.