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Preparing children for future

After the cancellation of school-leaving board exams due to the second wave of COVID-19, social media is full of jokes mocking this year’s batch. Furthermore, widespread discussions have been taking place on the disastrous effect of this decision on children’s future. The fundamental assumption seems to be that board exams are the only credible proof of school learning and that children’s future prospects are a direct off-shoot of board exam performance.

Veiled under new concerns, this is a familiar monster rearing its head — the idea that there is only one kind of good future and that good marks are the only way to reach there. Every year, children studying in standards 10 and 12 prepare to sit for a series of exams that don’t just evaluate academic knowledge, but act as the litmus test of future-readiness. No matter which subjects the children takes the exams for, one lesson is etched the clearest in their head: if they don’t score well, their future is in trouble.

But every other year, when children step out from school and into the real world, they are met with the breaking news that their board marks ultimately do not matter. It does not dictate how much one will enjoy work. It has no bearing on the kind of friends and family one will nurture. In fact, it does not even impact how well one does in college or on a job. Regardless of whether one was celebrated on the newspaper pages for topping the exam or whether one barely scraped through, everyone ultimately realises that they were cheated into giving up much of their childhood for only an exam. 

There is logically no way that we can create any one litmus test to check children’s readiness for future and by continuing to hold on to this illusion, we are only harming the way children think about their self-worth. Hence, is cancellation of boards the real concern or is it the fact that we are looking over the shoulders of our children to peer at their marks, while they are being left alone to learn what is actually important for their future life?

Current research trends suggest that children were not prepared for COVID-19. The prolonged separation from school and peers has overall resulted in threats to mental health and decreased engagement with academic learning. The worrying news is that the pandemic is neither the first nor the last time that we will be living in conditions of immense uncertainty and change. The truth is that we have very little knowledge of the lives that today’s children will be leading as adults in the future. Majority of them will go on to work at jobs that don’t even exist yet! They’ll be using technology that we cannot even begin to imagine today. So, the real question is, how do we prepare them? How do we prepare them to be ready to constantly learn and improve themselves so that they remain employable in a rapidly changing job market? How do we prepare them to build and hold on to supportive relationships? How do we prepare them to build a good life that can withstand and embrace continuous change?

As the pandemic has made abundantly clear, our quality of life depends a whole lot on our mental health. So, one way to help children become future-ready is by teaching them social-emotional skills, which will provide them with tools to understand themselves, their emotions, and navigate social situations and relationships constructively. These skills will build their resilience and equip them with the necessary tools of adaptability and openness to change. There are organisations and schools that are already imparting social-emotional training with very positive outcomes for children’s mental health and learning outcomes. Similarly, keeping the unique needs of every child in focus, there can be many ways that schools and parents can support their growth and future-readiness. Falsely pinning all the importance on board exams and marks is not one of them.

abhilashadas96@gmail.com


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 5:04:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/preparing-children-for-future/article35650939.ece

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