Pause whatever you are doing. Take a moment and think back to the time of your childhood when you were in school. Bitter sweet memories of you in a uniform, playgrounds, the smell of new books, lunchboxes, your crush and panicky last minute exam preps.
It was a wonderful time indeed, for the most part. We look back at those times with a blend of nostalgia and fondness. And it almost always puts a smile on our face, doesn’t it?
How Things Used To Be
I remember the time when I was in the 6th grade. It was not so long ago, just 14 years back. I can clearly recall my days as if it were yesterday. Like yourself, my days consisted of classes, sports, story books, chit chat with friends and a teeny tiny amount of studying for academics.
As far as I remember, neither me nor my friends had to over exert ourselves for academics. Having said that, we were all above average students and performed reasonably well in the studies.
How Things Are
Fast forward 14 years to the present. I am helping 6th grade students with their studies. When I first took the kids under my wing, I had presumed that their curriculum would be more or less the same as my 6th standard curriculum was. I had lost touch with academia for some time. Little did I know that I was in for a surprise. The unpleasant kind.
Not only was their course material vastly expansive but also the amount of additional school work being given was staggering. Huge amounts of homework, projects and activities enough to ensure that the child doesn’t have time to breathe. It somehow didn’t feel right. I could see the world crushing these kids. It was as if we want our kids to always be busy and working. Just like ourselves. The concept of leisure is looked down upon. “Why is this lazy fellow sitting idly? He could use this time for studying or learning multiplication tables“. And I was asked to be a part of this fiasco.
This encounter opened my eyes to a rather disturbing reality of the present times. The sorry state of the school children of this country.
Child Labour of a Different Kind
I remember being able to pick up any story book or comic book of my choice and read them slowly, enjoying every page, savoring every word and illustration. In addition to that, I was actively involved in sports and a bunch of other activities. Nowadays 6th graders do not even have the freedom and leisure to read story books of their choice. The school decides which story books they should read, what sports they should play and what activities they should engage in during their free time. The freedom to choose their own leisurely activities is like a distant dream.
Teachers and parents suggest ‘productive’ leisurely activities to their kids like learning spellings, multiplication tables or the keyboard. Not all kids want to spend their free time engaging in more of these productive activities. The day is planned out for the kids from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep. What happened to the idea of kids having their own time? It is sad to see them operate like clockwork.
Parents and teachers seem to have united in their neurotic drive to make the kids excel in academics and countless other ‘productive’ pursuits that we talked about earlier. They control the life of the kids to a great extent. For some parents, it has become an obsession. They make the excellence in performance of their child the purpose of their own life. This is hardly surprising as most adults and parents out there hardly have a clue about their own lives or purpose. Parents driven by fear and insecurities about their children’s future fail to see the hellfire they are putting their children through.
The Lost Essence of Childhood
If we take the present collective neurotic structure of our society into account, we will see that as a community we are gradually becoming hostile towards children. In the mad rush to provide our children with a safe and secure childhood abounding in achievements, we are taking away the very essence of childhood from them. This kind of society is not exactly a child-friendly one.
Most of us will agree that childhood is a time for freedom, happiness and a curious exploration of the self and the world. It is about wondering in amazement about every little thing one encounters, laughing for no reason and basking in the beauty of life.
Then why is it that these very things which constitute the essence of childhood are becoming scarce day by day? Why is it that our children are being deprived of these beautiful things that childhood offers? It feels as if we are preparing our children for war. Survival being the most important factor. We are human beings. Survival is important for us, yes, but what good is survival if the very essence of life is the price for survival? What is the point of living if the things that make life worthwhile are taken away? Even animals find time to express their joy of being. Birds sing, bees dance, wolves howl.
Where Are We Headed?
All this poses a serious question. Are we, as a race and a species, really moving forward? What purpose does this mad rush serve? What type of world are we creating for our children? Do we really want to create a world that is full of competition and no compassion, beauty and love? Is this the best way to show our love for our children? Their happiness should be more important to us than anything else. But we are all running this race with no finish line in sight. And we are teaching our children to do the same. It is time to stop for a moment and think. “Where are we headed?”
( Author’s Note : This article is only intended to highlight the sorry state of the students in India and is not a detailed research replete with statistical information. A more detailed analysis of the problem and possible steps to be taken will be released in the next part. Please follow us on facebook & twitter to get notified about the next part. )