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Updated: October 26, 2012 16:59 IST
LEARNING LESSONS

Make schooling joyful up to class XII

Meera Srinivasan
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These are students who have spent much of their childhood in a world that values nothing but high academic achievement.
These are students who have spent much of their childhood in a world that values nothing but high academic achievement.

In another month or so, we will read reports of the number of students who secured centum in mathematics, chemistry, or computer science. “My parents suspended our cable TV connection during examinations. I did my daily lessons regularly and did not go for tuitions. I thank my teachers for their support,” a top rank holder will say. “I expected a total above 1,000, but did not think I would top,” another will say, in apparent disbelief. After interviewing such candidates (we have been receiving mixed responses to the extent of our coverage of Plus Two results), I would invariably come back troubled.

Their academic achievement may be commendable in today's competitive context, but most of the top scorers have very similar things to say, from what they did to emerge successful to what they wish to do next – often medicine, engineering, chartered accountancy or civil services. This is not to say that these students lack creativity, but to point to one of the most disturbing impacts of the high-pressure schooling experience they have had. These are students who have spent much of their childhood in a world that values nothing but high academic achievement.

In this context, School Education Minister N. R. Sivapathy's recent announcement on the ‘Tamil Nadu Curricular Framework 2012' brings some promise, for it is an opportunity to review the state's school education system in its entirety.

It is not as if Tamil Nadu has never attempted changing its approach to teaching and learning. There are periodic syllabus revisions, and more importantly, the State has seen certain progressive pedagogic interventions such as the Activity Based Learning (ABL) and Active Learning Methodologies (ALM).

All the same, the focus, particularly in higher classes, is clearly on students' achievements and their comprehension. This attitude has, besides breeding a culture of rote learning, also nurtured an atmosphere of unbelievable high pressure. Students are left disillusioned, batch after batch. For some, this ‘hangover' lasts until they get out of college. Any attempt to challenge this culture of schooling has to begin at primary school. In that, the State is on the right track, with the ABL and ALM in place. The State Board is also set to adopt Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) from the coming academic year. But the real challenge is to carry the same spirit all through schooling, right up to the higher secondary level.

This is where Tamil Nadu is clearly in a danger zone, where competition and pressure are rather intense. Several residential schools along the Namakkal belt that are known to adopt a regimented approach to training plus two students, have, in fact, been building brand images as institutions that coach students to emerge as toppers. Their students may obtain high scores, but not many of them would have had the opportunity to experience the joy in learning and understanding. The sense of wonder they had as children would have also died a natural death by then. If the proposed curricular framework is successful in restoring that sense of wonder, in addition to equipping students to face contemporary challenges of today's highly competitive world, it will truly be a historic step.

For that purpose, Tamil Nadu will do well to reflect on the recommendations made in vision documents such as the Yashpal Committee Report (1993) on ‘Learning without burden' and the more recent National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005, and suitably incorporate them into its own curricular framework. The NCF says ‘The fact that learning has become a source of burden and stress on children and their parents is evidence of a deep distortion in educational aims and quality', and makes important recommendations, such as connecting knowledge to life outside school, and making examinations more flexible and integrating them with classroom life.

The State has now embarked upon a crucial exercise that has the potential to bring about a radical change in the school education space. The new curricular framework will be eagerly awaited.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012

@ Raamganesh
Well said.
When it boils down to earn a living in country of a billion you can certainly ignore the fact such as "fun","practical" or life.

from:  Ronak
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 19:50 IST

Every child wants joyful schooling and a pleasant childhood. Are we allowing them
to enjoy?Just blaming the schooling system is not going to solve the problem.
There should be a total change in all aspects. Right from over ambitious parents
no no avaricious parents,relating marks to jobs,admission in colleges,killing the
creativity etc have to change totally.At the end of the day to get admission in any
good institution you need high scores or money to pay heavy capitation.I have
seen and heard many parents saying that they are not interested in any
extracurricular activities. They want their children to score high marks to get into
top ranking institutions.In fact some schools are Marks producing factories. They
have no PTperiods,Library hour,and even reduce the number of periods for
subjects which are of less importance for a professional course.Studying in a so
called prestigious institution have become a status symbol also.Who should be
Blamed for all this?

from:  Malathy Sreenivasan
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 18:05 IST

Our education system is at cross roads. Its not clear with direction:
Whether to educate one to learn life or prepare for rote learning to
pass exam and get job. A recent tragic suicide of an engineering
student from a coveted university in chennai, rises many questions.
Let alone the present education system preparing students for life. It
could not even prepare students to manage exam stress, results and
failures! What should have made the victim - to face exams bold, learn
from mistakes, overcome failures, enjoy improving knowledge, make her
parents proud, being role model to her younger siblings,succeed in
life- could only force her to extreme end of the life. This would
happen in regular interval if the root cause is not traced and our
education system overhauled. The above mentioned victim's case serves
as a best example to show the wide gap in the education quality rural
pupil and their urban counter parts. So a constructive change in our
education system is the need of the hour

from:  Ilayaraja
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 16:43 IST

The title is rather absurd. What do you mean by "making joyful"? It is a competitive economy and students always have to compete and struggle to get ahead of their peers.

TN government (Jayalalithaa) is in a way responsible for the CEG suicide this week. When TNPCEE is scrapped and students who are only capable of memorising books enter a college like CEG, be assured they will find the going tough. Selecting the best students to study in the most competitive places will make education stress-free; no other special measures are required.
TL,DR: Bring back the TNPCEE, for God's sake.

from:  Shashidhar
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 16:05 IST

(1) It is not that the present day students are bereft of any creative activity. Even if they have ample time during holidays, they are engrossed in watching TV programs and playing computer games/PS2 etc. rather than even socialising (2) When the current system demands "marks" as the sole criterion for a student's career, what do we expect from them other than trying to score maximum by hook or crook? (3) There is no point in blaming some schools in a particular area which follow a "regimented pattern" of learning. In this, students do not have much of a choice. It is the parents' wish/expectation/ambition/greed that decides on the choice of school that a student studies. (4)Today, even a primary class student expects a lot from their parents like mobiles, laptop, videogames etc., unlike the previous generation. So it is but natural that the parent also has high expectation on his child. (I am a parent.) PS: What is the personal experience of the reporter during her school days?

from:  Ravishankar N
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 14:54 IST

Noble intentions like "learning" and "creativity" is all well and good, but my guess is that for most ordinary people, education is primarily about getting to a better life. And they're able to go from school to college to work to good life primarily by doing well in exams. This cannot change. When a million children compete for a few thousand seats in college, examinations become
the only way to discriminate. Schools, parents and children are
therefore right to focus on exams.
If we want our children to "learn" and not just "score", we must make sure that our exams test "learning" of the material. Do they? In most school boards exams, the only thing being tested is the ability to commit to memory large tracts of information. So that means that it is easy to do well in exams without "learning" anything. Unless exams are re-designed to reflect actual learning, most students in India will be dullards with poor
creativity and understanding, albeit with excellent memory and
test scores.

from:  Raamganesh
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 13:25 IST

One cannot change things merely by changing the school system. Indian society as
a whole has this problem. We are obsessed with academic achievement and one-upmanship. All parents want their children to study the sciences, become doctors, engineers etc. and participation in arts, sports, music are considered a waste of time.
Naturally, children learn to play the game by the rules and become masters of rote learning. Why should they be interested in learning and enjoying the experience when nobody seems to suggest that such a thing is possible, all the way from parents down to teachers? Their lives have been planned in detail by their parents who after all, know best.

from:  Vivek
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 13:10 IST

A decade ago i was successful in my high school examinations (Twelfth Standard). After the top scores i was overcome not with joy but - Relief. Relief that people and the "society" around will let me in peace atleast for the next weeks...
Since then when i am stressed or pre occupied i dream giving my high school exams again and not doing them good enough every time, and relieved when i am awake. It is just not worth it, period.

from:  madhu S
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 11:54 IST

when i had been to parent teachers' meeting in a famous school i suggested that upto 3 rd class infants should come to school with out any fixed hours in the morning so that they have healthy foundation most of the admin resisted saying that in North , children start coming to school even by 7 o clock in the morning and so my suggestion was nullified and to have a sound mind we should provide sound sleep in our children and i suggest that it should be made a mandatory not to wake up children by force but on their own since it is the focal point where they gather their mind set i think and job going parents will negate this only for repentance at their wards' teens

from:  s.rajasekaran
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 06:42 IST
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