Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Over Anxious Parents !

Today Google reminded me of Charles Dickens, one of my favorite story tellers whose novels I had the opportunity to study in my school days as part of our English literature class. This great writer was born 200 years ago and lived and watched England during the peak times of the Industrial revolution in that country.

The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, The Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, etc interestingly depicted the life of people on those days in England.

Of all the things what this great writer humorously detailed out for the attention of his readers, what got my special attention as a school boy in a village in one corner of India after over a century is the way in which our school education system has evolved.

Dickens took special interest in depicting the old school headmasters and their tough styles by which they disciplined the boys.

The teachers of our times were also not very different. There were tough task masters who used to find pleasure in punishing the children for every small and big mistakes with their sticks and canes in every school. The toughest one being the head master. The children used to be scared of such beating masters even in their dreams.

When I was a student, I remember the adults of our times recalling their school experiences occasionally. By what they used to describe, they all had a tough time in their school days with heavy syllabus to study and pretty little to eat. Some thing similar to the days of Charles Dickens !

Fortunately during my days, the syllabus was not so tough, at least in my home state Kerala for those schools affiliated to the state government's education board. Fortunately that was the only kind of education available for almost every one in the state. Though we had heard of the existence of some other kind of schools which followed a tougher syllabus, apparently for the boys and girls from the elite and the rich class, such schools were not very visible.

Fortunately, when I was a high school student, my school had a team of matured and well natured gentlemen as our teachers. They were very broad minded and were not very keen in making us mug up the text books. They were liberal and encouraged us to read widely and discuss the things with them without fear or remorse. Some of them used to tell us that we should read the text books also for answering the examinations for the purpose of scoring and securing a mandatory school certificate and not essentially for acquiring knowledge and wisdom!

Those days, the majority of the parents never took extra ordinary interests in our studies. Though occasionally they used to remind us about the importance of studies, they never ever seriously interfered with our studies or day to day progress in the schools. The exposure what we got in the schools were sufficient for us to get the grasp of the subjects and we had plenty of free time for extra readings and other activities. Schools were never a botheration or pressure.

Under such a scenario, the Charles Dickens stories were humorous and enjoyable, as it gave us an opportunity to compare the education scene in those century old days and the levels at which we had progressed that we no more were afraid of our teachers or the text books.

But things did not remain that way. I think, it has slipped back to the Charles Dickens era. Just after I majored from the school, the government in my state went for a major overhaul of the syllabus making it extremely difficult for the students and the teachers. The ambitious policy planners were too eager to teach the students of all the great developments that had been taking place in science in one go, lest they go behind in the world in knowledge and competency.

As the school syllabus became heavier and heavier, it was no longer easy for the teachers to cover those things in the class in the time allotted. Students who were weak in grasping things soon found that they were no longer in a position to get good scores in their examinations which tested mostly their capacity to memorize from the thousands of new concepts of the so-called modern knowledge.

Passing the school examinations became more and more difficult. The school examination certificates with good scores became the yard sticks for admissions to higher learning and the fate determiner of the future career of most students.

Parents soon began to get anxious about the future of their wards. Private owned schools appearing in the guise of English medium public schools soon were thought as the panacea for the parents to over come their anxieties.

They were fooled. The education planners were bribed by the new venture capitalists in the education scene who pretty well understood the great opportunity that existed by keeping the anxieties of the parents as high as possible always to do every thing possible to enhance the difficulties for the students in their studies by loading up their study materials.

It was all for the better future of their wards. The boys and girls need to be taught everything in this world before it is too late! Who can find fault with this kind of a good thinking after all.

The poor over anxious parents are spending through their noses for educating their children. They try the best schools that take the highest fees and the heaviest study loads on their children. After the schools, the children are sent to scores of coaching centres for additional coaching so that the child is trained and trained in all possible manner to score over ninety nine percent in the examinations if possible.

Stressed up boys and girls who are not able to cope up with this decide to say good bye to their pretty lives in scores every year in every nook and corner of this country. Their numbers keep increasing year after year.

But yet no one ever dares to say a thing. How can they ? Some soldiers always die in a war. They say.

I was just thinking. 

Do I ever need all these mathematics, physics, chemistry and all the other things that the schools are so eager to force educate to do my job or that matter any one's job. I have serious doubts.

But then these things are not for imparting knowledge or skills. It is meant for creating a business which has a potential of billions. The success of the business lies in keeping the poor parents as anxious as ever. The more anxious they are the more they are willing to spend on 'educating' their children. Even at the cost of their dear children!

Dear Charles Dickens! Would you please re-incarnate once again to write some more novels with a few of our children as your characters ?

[I remember discussing this issue with a prominent politician from our state over a decade ago. He was a powerful minister at that time and also happened to be the father-in-law of a very senior bureaucrat. The latter was brother of a classmate of mine and hence I knew their family backgrounds to some extent. The minister acknowledged the issue I raised and admitted that he agreed with me fully. But then he cited the example of his bureaucrat son-in-law who he said was so worried and anxious about the studies of his school going children who happened to be in the 'best' available English Medium Public School in the state capital. Though the bureaucrat himself had a very humble schooling in his village schools he was 'anxious' about the 'best education' possibility for his children! What he forgot was that life opportunities do not necessarily be what we plan. So what the minister was stressing was that if this could be the feeling of a top notch bureaucrat, who could rise to top career position without the so-called English Medium Public School education, the not-so-fortunate citizens would be no better. They are all likely to imitate the rich and the famous or the so-called celebrities! If the celebrity is anxious, the followers are also going to be anxious ! Anyway this was the explanation of this politician who understood the psyche of the masses well.] 

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