The pressure to perform is not confined to private schools that are obsessed with State ranks. Chennai Schools, that have recorded a remarkable increase in their pass percentage in Board examinations over the last few years, also seem to be succumbing to pressure.
While there is genuine enthusiasm to help students perform well and score high, some schools seem to be going overboard, if accounts from some students and teachers are any indication.
For instance, in a school run by the Chennai Corporation in north Chennai, the school head shared a record that showed as many as eight students in class X as having dropped out in the middle of this academic year.
A look at the attendance register of class X revealed that well over 10 students have been consistently marked absent for the last few months.
Enquiries with students of the school revealed that teachers expected them to score high and those who could not cope, were virtually forced to leave the institution as they could not match teachers' expectations.
Selvi (name changed), who is presently working in a petrol bunk, dropped out of the school two weeks after Class X commenced. “They asked me to leave citing my behaviour as a problem. Most other schools refused me admissions in Class X, so I decided to work,” she says.
A teacher with the primary section of the same school says teachers tended to be rather harsh with “weak students” in higher classes, ever since the Corporation started honouring achievers with incentives and schools producing them with cash awards.
However, a social science teacher handling higher classes says the school did not insist that “weak students” leave, but only told them to work harder. “Some may have dropped out due to personal issues,” she adds.
A senior teacher with another Chennai School admitted that the prevalent levels of pressure were high. “It comes from the top. Senior officials, in a few cases, tell teachers that their increments would be cut, or that they would be transferred to a far away locality if they did not produce good results. The teachers may, in turn, speak the same language to students,” he says, adding that the trend may be true in some schools, but certainly not all.
Another teacher says there are schools that go out of their way to organise snacks and tea for students in the evenings, so that they can stay back and study in school itself. “Many children don't come from homes where it is very difficult to even sit and study,” she says. The schools cannot perform as well as they have been doing, by sheer pressure, she adds.
Last year, Chennai Higher Secondary Schools registered the best results so far with 84.8 per cent in the class XII examinations.
When contacted, Mayor M. Subramanian says the intention of the Corporation is not to squeeze students or put undue pressure on them. The incentives are purely to motivate them and teachers.
“We even hold counselling sessions for teachers to enable them to motivate students in positive ways. If complaints of students being pressured is brought to our notice, we will take immediate actions,” he adds.