Thiruvananthapuram

Counsellors address students’ apprehensions during exam at schools

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Students are encouraged to seek help from counsellors even without informing the school authorities

Come the fag end of the academic year, examination stress seems to be on the mind of both parents and children. Not only students taking the Class 10 and 12 examinations but younger children also, albeit in smaller numbers, report lack of concentration, nervousness, low confidence, and even depression.

Azeem C.M., State coordinator, Career Guidance and Adult Counselling, under the higher secondary education wing of the General Education Department, says a number of students worried about the upcoming examinations contact We Help in the first week of March every year.

The number dips once the examinations start, but whenever there is a tough paper, the number of calls spikes. The children worry they have not done well, that it is the end of the road for them, or that they can bid their career dreams adieu.

Parents too call up concerned that their child is not feeling well after the exam, is emotional, or incommunicative and ask the We Help counsellors to speak to them.

Many schools, both State schools and private, have full-time counsellors to address students’ apprehensions.

Shirley Philip, Vice Principal of St. Thomas Central School in the city, says students are encouraged to meet the school counsellor without even informing the school authorities.

Jaya K., counsellor with the school, says the most common complaint from students is that parents want them to study all the time, with no time for rest or recreation. While not many younger students come seeking her help, secondary and higher secondary students, particularly Science stream students, do reach out to her to know how to manage stress and pressures to do well.

Parental pressure

She also tries to persuade parents to allow the children some free time. An extra 10 minutes of listening to songs will not much affect a child’s exam performance, she tells them.

But if a child’s idea of recreation is sports, she cannot even imagine broaching the subject with parents as it is very difficult to convince them.

Parents, in turn, also complain about the children watching too much television, or computer, or mobile phone, much beyond the agreed-upon limit. Finding a balance between parents and students’ expectations is not easy, says Ms. Jaya.

Aswathy Das, counsellor at the National Health Mission (NHM)’s round-the-clock Disha health helpline (ph: 1056) says most of the calls they receive are from children appearing for the Class 10 and 12 examinations.

Students complain of drowsiness while studying, not remembering what they read, problems with time management, or forgetting what they studied the moment they step into the examination hall.

While some students take the pressure in their stride, others feel burdened by the expectations of their parents, friends, or the school.

Students are sometimes so overwhelmed by certain curricula that they refuse to appear for examinations. Some others are dejected by their performance in some papers and consider throwing in the towel in the middle of the examinations, says Ms. Aswathy.

Parents, worried about the children’s behaviour and realising that stress is at the root of it, too contact the Disha counsellors seeking assistance.

Adolescent health clinics

At times, the children’s problems are so severe that Disha refers them to the NHM’s adolescent health clinics at hospitals for further intervention by counsellors or psychiatrists.

Parental pressure also forces students to choose study options that they have no interest in or aptitude for. The schedule of early morning tuitions, school, then some more tuition leaves them stressed and unfocussed as exams approach.

Elizabeth James, counsellor at St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School, Pattom, from where over 3,400 students will take the SSLC and higher secondary examinations this year, says often it is the brightest students who report the most exam anxiety. They also experience pressure to do well from their peers. The positive aspect is that they come seeking help on their own.

Children who are not studious complain that parents’ insistence that they focus on studies to the exclusion of everything else can be very frustrating.

Mr. Azeem says their counsellors are teachers too and hence able to draw upon their experience to help students with memory techniques, time management, or even specific subjects.

If students want continual support, they are given the personal phone numbers of the counsellors.

Counselling is also provided to students through the 1,500 Souhrida clubs in State schools. Directions have been given to put up the phone numbers of the club teacher coordinators on school notice boards during examination time.

Counsellors address students’ apprehensions during exam at schools

Sarvodaya Vidyalaya (ICSE) Principal Fr. George Mathew Karoor says the school has a counsellor to help students experiencing exam stress. The CISCE too has taken steps to address students’ anxiety. It has directed schools to conduct half-day or full-day sessions on how to cope with exam pressure. It has also introduced a common examination for Classes 9 and 11. This ensures that the syllabi for these classes are taught thoroughly by schools and portions are not skipped. This prepares the foundation for students to face the ICSE and ISC examinations with confidence the next year.

The counsellors say while suicides by students are not unheard of, they are thankful not to have come across cases of such extreme stress. Recognising any signs early and referring the students to experts for sustained interventions has probably helped save many a student’s life.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 11:56:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/testing-times/article30958706.ece

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