Bludgeoning Education

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Oct 7 13:53:28 UTC 2006

"Where have the carefree school days gone?"

 We explore how controversies in the education sector contribute in
building stress on students.

If Wordsworth was bemoaning the loss of childhood in 18th century Europe,
we're quite sure he would have been moved to write reams and reams in the
21st century, going by what students are facing in this part of the world.
As if unwieldy course structures and peer pressure wasn't enough, school
children across the country now have to grapple with controversies centred
around the most important aspect of their lives schools. If you thought
that school days were a safe refuge away from the big bad world, these
incidents will force you to do a rethink.

While the government's language policy in Karnataka has put English medium
schools in the state under threat of closure, a school principal in
Lucknow was murdered in cold blood. In Punjab, a woman teacher chased a
group of boys from one city to another to avenge a case of eve teasing.
Cases of molestation by teachers in schools aren't rare now. And the
much-publicised case of an occult session in a Lucknow school became the
topic of heated debates forcing students to take a 'for' and 'against'
stance. Putting things in perspective, Pramod Sharma, principal of Mayo
College, Ajmer avers, "The carefree school days don't exist anymore.

Of course, such controversies may not impact the entire student community,
but one cannot deny that there is a loss of childhood as students struggle
to meet higher benchmarks in this competitive world. Even when children
play today, it's with a purpose, with a target in mind." In fact, playing
isn't all that easy, if Dr Shyama Chona, principal of Delhi Public School
(RK Puram), Delhi, is to be believed. "There is so much insecurity,
children aren't allowed to go out and play either,"she says and goes on to
elaborate why childhood isn't what it used to be, "Apart from incidents
that put schools in a spot, students also have to deal with their parents'
ambitions, the absence of a secure family set up, the changing equations
in husband-wife relationships... The loss of childhood is very real."

Agrees DB Dutta, vice principal of Welham Girls' School, Dehradun before
delineating how students grow up way too early today. "Apart from the
psychological pressure that builds up when the media hypes such incidents
beyond logic, there's also the tyranny of choices that works on them.
Children today have so many options we never had, but that has worked to
build another kind of stress on them,"she emphasises. However, Dr Anil
Wilson, principal, St Stephen's College, Delhi, thinks all this is much
ado about nothing! "There has to be a degree of rigour in a student's life
at all levels. By being excessively sympathetic, we're disabling children.

Stress is extremely overplayed,"he asserts and goes on to quote
Shakespeare's seven stages of man that spoke of a student's life in no
complimentary terms. So what are we carping about? But Shakespeare can't
entirely justify stress. And according to sociologist Rita Brara, as
impossible as it may seem, "Adults have to insulate children to some
influences. So, though one can't curtail the freedom of the press which
sensationalises incidents in schools to its own benefit, parents must
discuss issues in a limited way with their children and prevent over
exposure to negative information that may form the backdrop for their
educational experiences."


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