Of Sunshine, Rain and Growing Up Once Again

Posted: March 18, 2012 in My Opinion

It’s exam season in India again. Final terms, units, board exams, entrance exams. The most decisive time in an Indian student’s life.The time when they are under the most pressure, burning the midnight oil to study some more, going to tuitions for longer hours than they spend at home, even jumping off terraces, getting run over by cars and the like. Whatever it takes to get there.

 Right from when they’re toddlers, Indian students have to deal with copious amounts of homework and regular tests. Examinations-and the hard work and pressure associated with them- become an integral part of their life. They have to compete with their peers for top marks to please their overambitious parents. Their teenage years pass by in the blink of an eye. And before they know it, they’re adults. They’re pushed into the big bad world with little or no soft skills, having been taught that every success, every failure must be taken personally. How can these stressed, overburdened slaves of the system see the little pleasures of life that their parents claim to have enjoyed so much?

If I bring this up with an education board official, a parent or a social activist, they will say in their insouciant manner that ‘kids these days’ complain too much. They will be quick to point out that most rural schools have a very poor teacher to student ratio. Areas affected by insurgency are worse hit. Stories of children being pulled out of school and made to work or get married are instantly narrated. We’re much better off in a good ol’ metropolis with shiny malls, multiplexes and big roads. We’re lucky to have even some semblance of an education. So why do we find reason to complain?

Because somewhere amid scurrying from one tuition class to another, juggling board exams and entrance exams, and coping with parental and peer pressure, the students of today’s urban India have lost their childhood.

As a student of the Indian education system, I have observed that most students just rote learn from their textbooks with no practical knowledge whatsoever. Their mantra: Rote, vomit it out on the answer paper and forget. The knowledge they receive from their teachers does not go beyond the textbooks designated by the education boards. If these kids make it to higher education, they are forced into career streams that their families would like to see them in. There’s no way to choose subjects from one education stream while pursuing another. This doesn’t seem to go very much towards fulfilling the purpose of a wholesome education. It’s no wonder that students begin to lose interest in academics and slack off, even dropping out sometimes. For those who have no way out, habitual addictions and clinical depression become a part of everyday life. Thoughts of suicide come naturally. Is this what being a child means today? Leaders of the past have insisted that the children of today are the future of tomorrow. What future will we have left if most of our children can’t go to school, and the ones who do, end up depressed and unhappy?

The pleasure of taking a long walk along the city streets at the crack of dawn (Nahi beta, you have tuitions!), being drawn over by the enticing smell of the bhel puri drifting across the road (Nahi beta, you’ll fall sick during exams!), taking a break to catch a good movie (Nahi beta, you will waste time!) and the joy of diving into a good book at the end of the day (kids are fed up of books or they have just no time) are unknown pleasures for the children of urban India.

A popular Hindi song goes,

“Kandhon ko kitabon ke bojh ne jhukaya

Rishvat dena to khud Papa ne sikhya

99% marks laaoge to ghadi varna chadi

Likh likh pada hatheli par

Alpha, beta, gamma ka chaala

Concentrated H2SO4 ne poora, poora bachpan jala daala”

(roughly translated as, “Our shoulders are weighed down by textbooks

We were taught bribery by none but Papa

If we got a 99%, we got a watch…if not, we got caned

The scars of alpha, beta and gamma stay on our hands from when we

wrote them over and over,

Our childhood was burned away by concentrated H2SO4“)

This is what I want to change. I want to give these students their bachpan (childhood) back.

The Indian education system needs to move from focusing on examinations to focusing on nurturing the students’ minds, letting them blossom the way they were meant to. It needs to refrain from stunting their growth by not forcing career options on them, and must teaching them them to make their own way through life. The options for higher education should be flexible, allowing for the occasional change of mind.

Giving every Indian a good, strong educational foundation, which will make them better citizens of the world, will always be my dream. I will work in conjunction with the Indian government to reach out to every young mind in the country. I will actively take part in social work, the administrative services or even ballot politics if I have to. I will do anything to bring the carefree smile back on the faces of children, the same smile that I had lost to the Indian education system years ago.

How nice it would be if students could truly understand the beauty and usefulness of the Van de Graaff generator, the depth and intricacies of human nature, the sheer cunningness and manipulative nature of Cassius during the reign of Julius Caesar, the intriguing diplomacy and play of emotions behind the Partition? If they really understood what they ‘roted’ and ‘mugged up’? Wouldn’t this create a zealous new generation of thinkers, speakers, listeners, and achievers who would contribute to making our world a better place to live in? Together, we will bring about this change, and I will definitely be an integral part of this revolution.

(please do visit the Stayfree India Facebook page and Like it)

P.S. To my fellow Indian students, don’t give up so fast. There’s always a way for those who try.

To quote H.W. Longfellow,

“Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!”

  1. kofykat says:

    you know, the biggest problem with the edu system is the teachers? I had an English teacher who didn’t know to speak in English. :-/ I think i left the class in a huff and she hated me ever since.

  2. Neeraj Kumar says:

    Deep investigation. We seriously need a change in this field and that too quite early.

  3. I see you’re taking part in the competition too 🙂
    All the best then 😀

  4. Arun Kumar says:

    A thought provoking post. Good selection of pics too. I think we all are victims of our education system. you are right, it’s time we should bring about that change.

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