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Updated: January 21, 2012 23:35 IST

Allow the child its latitude

Dr. S. Dandapani
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While reading the article of Deepalakshmi in the Open Page (January 1, 2012) I felt immensely happy to have grown autonomously during my school days! (I am an octogenarian today).

I lost my father during infancy and my mother was spared the tyranny of formal schooling. Yet, she was knowledgeable and wise. The advantage of growing up in a large joint family of several cousins, aunts and uncles lies in a kind of unfettered freedom to study or not to study, to play all the time, attend school or bunk classes and go to matinee shows surreptitiously and several such escapades!

I went to school more to have fun in the classroom. Honestly speaking, I felt I had no brains to understand science or maths and my interest in history was moderate. As I was clearly out of the race with a bunch of front-row creamy layers, I used to daydream in the last row, awaiting eagerly the last bell so that I could rush to the playground to play my favourite game: volleyball. My drillmaster trained me to be a spiker because of my tall stature.

Looking back, I wonder how I survived the onslaughts of scores of exams to become a college professor! I thank my mother who allowed me to grow all by myself, neither reprimanding me for my poor scholastic performance (I failed in my Std VIII because I secured single-digit mark in maths!), nor rewarding me for passing exam after exam! I set my own priorities, my own goal and my own way of living unhindered by intrusive parentage.

Much water has flowed under the bridge over several decades. Parents today are overzealous in shaping the future of their progeny. Every examination for a youngster is a traumatic experience because of the surveillance by mother and father. Just watch the faces of people at the announcement of results. One could perceive the bearing smiles of the “rankers” and the bleeding eyes of those who missed the honour by a whisker, not to speak of the despondency of those left far behind.

Winston Churchill had a dig at his teachers and exams. He said: “They are more interested in knowing what I do not know than what I do know. While I would have willingly displayed my knowledge, they sought to fathom my ignorance.”

Have we inadvertently brainwashed students by blowing out of proportion ranks and grades as the sole yardstick of schooling? Has it not reduced schools to mere coaching shops where a relentless grinding replaces rejuvenating teacher-pupil dialogue?

The excitement of discovery, the exuberance of experimentation, the ecstasy of participation in debates and, above all, the eagerness to read for fun and enjoyment seem to be sacrificed at the altar of sharpening one's skill in responding to anticipated questions with tailor-made answers. In this process, creative thinking is decimated, convergent thinking promoted and pupil participation eliminated!

Eminent jurist N.A Palkhivala, in his convocation address at Bangalore University, observed on January 15, 1972: “As regards those who have not been as successful in their exams as they thought they deserved to be, I can only recall the words of Prof. Walter Raleigh, that the college Final and the Day of Judgement are two different exams! They may also take some consolation from the fact that A.E. Houseman, the great scholar of Greek and Latin and better known as a poet, once failed in the papers on those very languages at the Oxford University. His biographer commented, “The Nightingale got no prize at the poultry show!”

(The writer is a retired professor and his email ID is: dr.dandapani@yahoo.in)

Keywords: childcareParenting

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As a student i very clearly realise the growing competition...but the wierd thing is,if the competition is between students or parents.In today's world parents want their students to know everything as the other child knows it all.They are not interested to know what the their child wants.Agreed that today's world is based on the marks scored by the child. But this should not become a reason for nightmare for the children.Parents should try to analize the capacity and capabilities of their child.Parents should support their children at the time of failures.Their ability should not becoma a matter of debate in the family.It will only make things worse for the child. children should also accept failures in a positive way. As Failure is the stepping stone to success!

from:  vidhya krishnan
Posted on: Jan 27, 2012 at 20:13 IST

The author grew up in a period where opportunities were plenty. Now it is not the case. Good opportunities are mostly based on what marks you scored unless there is a godfather or extremely fortunate (not everybody has). A second class degree student will understand the difference it plays in every stage of career. A track record of hard work is inferior to a qualification from big branded university/college at any stage of career. Parents want their children to excel because they feel that their parents did not give enough encouragement for them to excel and ended up in a state which they feel inferior by comparing themselves with someone superior. People have to develop courage to accept things as they are. At every stage in life there is someone superior and someone inferior. There is no end to miseries if comparison is the way of life.

from:  Sivakumar
Posted on: Jan 27, 2012 at 15:00 IST

I had the great privilege of being a Student (1968 - 72 Batch)studying B.Com.Ed in the Regional college of Education of Mysore where Dr.S.Dandapani was a Prof.teaching Psychology. He has been writing regularly in The Hindu for more than four decades. He is multi-talented - acclaimed as a great teacher - Writer- Singer and above all a perfect gentleman. He learnt to drive a motorbike when he was almost forty years ! He had no qualms about challenging himself. He was open to criticism and encouraged creativity. Many of us owe our position to his unflinching loyalty to his profession.

from:  S.H.Subramanian
Posted on: Jan 26, 2012 at 23:44 IST

This article is well-written by the author with quotes from eminent personalities. I wish each and every parent read this article and do not impose their un-realised dreams on their child. As far as Mr. Kiran's anguish is concerned that reality will never change since the author rightly pointed out.

from:  S Gopalakrishnan
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 17:26 IST

Very true article with a cartoon which shows the agony of a child.This very topic has always ruled in Hindi cinemas as well as Novels. They say that Exams have always been a key to judge the knowledge. 0 marks means that the kid knows nothing about the subject but does not mean that he or she does not have potentials to learn or grow and succeed in Life. Life is not always about being judged. Sometimes its more about learning with experiences and experiments and grow as a better person out of all odds.
Every parent's concerns are natural on their part but anxieties and over concerns knocks down the child's confidence. Its difficult to be a parent but its even difficult to understand the child's psychology. For i believe that mature and healthy communication between Parents and children is very important and they should learn to understand each other .

from:  Shalini Joshi
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 12:20 IST

In the constant and exhausting grind called "education" today, there are a small number of winners, and a vast number of also-rans. In such a scenario, none are happy. The few winners must live with the burden of unreasonable expectations, and the innumerable also-rans must live with the bitterness of undeserved failure and rejection. What a dark future this foreshadows for our society!!

from:  Purushotham M G
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 03:00 IST

Kiran's musings indeed are genuine. Dr. Dandapani says the same thing. Interestingly he found the answer in his period when he finally retired as professor. What is education, that draw your knowledge from where but for creativity. Creativity is what education is. Creative writing makes one a writer else he ends up as a clerk and disappears in the dust when nature takes his mortal coil. After all if education really fosters creativity thousands of thousands would have left foot prints on the sands of time!

from:  dr.g.balakrishnan
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 01:54 IST

This article rightly pointed out today's scenario of schools being
mere coaching shops.let it be a school or a college, the pressure from
all spheres of life ,had resulted in students becoming merely
enthusiastic in getting ranks, rather than attaining knowledge. It
should also be noted that teachers and parents, should guide the
students towards perfection, rather than mere bookish knowledge. I remember reading about shantiniketan in internet.And i think in today's educational system, every educational institute should be like
a shantiniketan. only then, could the attitude of parents on outlook
of education can change on a large scale.And if, truely this happens,
then the child can fly to the maximum levels of true success.

from:  Usha Amulya
Posted on: Jan 22, 2012 at 21:46 IST

Being an octogenerian, I take it that Dr. Dandapani might have finished his schooling in 1940s(after giving an allowance for his failiure in standard 8) & in any case before India became independent! And on those days he had had the privilege of studying in the Madras Presidency with a unique curriculam & with a comparatively better standard of education(presumbably because of the tough syllabus in Maths, he failed )Whereas to day's educational standard in any part of the country unfortunately is not comparable with the erstwhile Madras Presidency.Yet another advantage Dr. Dandapani had grown in an environ of a joint family system which is defunct today. All these attributed freedom with an indirect disciplined regimen in a crucial period of adolescence. For these reasons, no wonder, if Dr. DP could claim success in life. Today the entire set-up has undergone a metamorphosis.There are instances where a student could not complete Matriculation could succeed with many innings in life!

from:  P.M.Gopalan
Posted on: Jan 22, 2012 at 15:27 IST

I have been reading The Hindu since i was a kid , and it has been a recurrent topic over the years by different writers...Now i have attained adulthood , but things have never changed or will it change in my life time, Does anyone got an answer?

from:  kiran
Posted on: Jan 22, 2012 at 12:56 IST

There is no guarantee that a brilliant man will make a mark in life. An average student can emerge as a great man in later life as well. Success in life depends upon various factors.The environment, the support that one gets in the journey of life, the guidance given by The parents from time to time and the respect given by the children for the guidance Given by parents and elders , in later life, market forces, integrity, godfathers in the work Situation or in society and many other factors.I agree, the child must be given full freedom.But the child also cannot and should not ignore MATHA, PITHA,GURU and DAIVAM in Life at any stage till death. The writer is always grateful to the above four and that feeling Will take us forward on life, and the individual merits and demerits is only secondary for An individuals growth in life. Many may not agree with the views expressed by me and I
have no quarrel on that. Please look inwards.

from:  C.p.Chandra das
Posted on: Jan 22, 2012 at 09:36 IST

The article rightly points out how our exams fathom a student's ignorance rather than his knowledge.The joy of discovery of learning has been lost in the name of never ending quantification in the name of marks and ranks. When means become ends, the process is subverted. It's time our system of education got changed into more creative one rather than filtering out "unwanted"

from:  J.Ravindranath
Posted on: Jan 22, 2012 at 07:38 IST
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