When I was in school, there was something called 'Martyrs' Day' on January 30. That was the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's death. A siren would sound all over Delhi at 11 a.m., and we'd maintain two minutes silence.
I can't remember when that practice was given up. 'Martyrs' Day' came to mind recently for a reason that has nothing to do with Gandhiji. Our neighbourhood seems to be going through a period of self-imposed 'state mourning'.
In our North Bengal, 'Chakka Jam' (Freeze the Wheels!) is the cry that goes up everytime a political party calls a 'Bandh'(strike) and life grinds to a halt. At this time every year, it is 'EGG-JAM!' that puts an end to all movement. And no, it has nothing to do with avian flu. Do read on.
My husband asked a young couple whom he met in a shop, 'How's life? Where are you, we don’t see you at all these days!' To which both husband and wife pulled long faces, looking almost like cartoon characters in their mock dismay.
The husband answered, 'My daughter's exam is there.' He sounded so tragic, as if something terrible had happened to him. The daughter is a student of Class One. When my husband laughed out loud, he was told, 'You don’t know there is so much competition, it is very tough, very tough.' 'Syllabus is too much' wailed the wife, and went on, 'If we don’t sit with her, she won't study. And if she doesn't study, where will she go tomorrow? There is so much competition in every area! We have to think of her future also.' My husband said 'Goodnight' as soon as he could, and made his escape.
For the last three weeks, one has heard of nothing but exams! Jokes apart, something has to be done about what final exams do to children and their parents in our country.
1. I cannot understand why parents are called to school to take home their children's progress report cards two or three times a year. Invariably, there is a session where the teacher presses for improvement in several areas, and the parent goes away feeling that all spare time should now be directed to supervising the child's study hours.
Suggestion to schools: Call only parents of problematic cases to the school. Do not allow parents to compete over compared report cards, and do not expect every child to score 80s and 90s.
2. Parents, especially mothers, 'teach' their children at home after school, and 'make them do homework.' They end up making life at home a nightmarish extension of school for the poor children.
Suggestion: Schoolteachers should instil a sense of responsibility in a child. The child should know that she/he has to complete the day's homework and bring it in the following day. This can be done if -:
(a) learning exercises are completed in school - e.g., oral question and answer sessions to test understanding, after which (b) only one or two questions are assigned as written homework. In some instances, the oral tradition should be revived, and no written work assigned at all. (For example, learning multiplication tables).
3.Children who are 'forced' into supervised study sessions will never do their own work unless supervised, and will never learn to take the responsibility for any of their actions.
Suggestion : Parents, get a life! Find something else to do with your free time! Rebel against the 'mourning period' and go to a party.
4. Coming first in Class 2,3, 4 and 5 are not going to count in 'today's competitive world'. Do you want your child to burn out early, lose interest in studies and turn rebel?
Suggestion: Exams come every year. Childhood never comes back. So are you going to take your loved one's childhood away?