Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Fever Called Exams


I woke up with a smile this morning, gently slapped away the mosquito singing the morning raga in my ears.  As I stretched out like a cat or so I thought I managed to topple a few jars on my bedside table.  I didn’t fret and no I didn’t frown either.  There was a spring in my step, a silly grin pasted on my face as I tottered to the kitchen.  Today is special, Tee finishes her exams.

For days I have been bubbling with excitement.  Even before my daughter’s exams could finish, I went out with my girlie gang to raise a toast to liberation which was just around the corner.  The bistro was brimming with women, the mall jam packed with even more women – all of them wide eyed, excited, celebrating their reunion with freedom with gusto.

When your progeny sits for the exams, it’s the Mum who breaks into a sweat.  Tee doesn’t get too bothered about such trivialities; she outsources all her worries to her Mum.  True, she has to bear with me in my truly annoying avatar.  It’s 10 in the morning, are you still in bed!!  (Insert eyes popping out, horrified expression)  Do you really have to watch Castle.....can’t you miss a single episode of Las Vegas!!   Gosh are you sleeping again!  When will you study? (My voice pitch is touching the 10th floor now)....It’s two in the morning when will you sleep!  (A mix between desperation and air of resignation)

I hate how the exam fever dents my chilled out Mom image! But what to do, my Tee makes up for all the sleep she lost in the year, during her exams.  And whenever she finds time between sleeping and entertaining herself, she deigns to pick up her books and studies.

Secretly I do not blame her. One look at her books and you know that it is enough to put even a confirmed insomniac to sleep.  The language is stuffy and unimaginative.  Imagine describing the big bang theory as a small dot that exploded!  If Stephen Hawking reads it, he will be banging his head in frustration.  NCERT books have this magical quality of making even the most interesting subject sound mundane.



Sadly, our students are saddled with a curriculum so dull that it actually discourages creative thinking.  At the root of it is an archaic colonial education system, which has not kept pace with emerging social needs.  It is still fixated to the doctor-engineer mindset.  In today’s world where we have so many exciting avenues like sustainable development, green energy, film making.....  How are we preparing our children for it!  Rather than giving them choices, we are limiting them.  We are caught in a framework which overloads kids with information but no knowledge... a system that does not equip them with skills, the ability to think and create. 

So, it is up to the teacher to unravel those tricky concepts, to make those lessons come alive, to encourage the child to think, to question and go beyond the text book.   We want good teachers for our kids but how many of us encourage our kids to become that teacher?

When the ministry of HRD implemented the much needed reforms in the examination system by introducing grading system and making class X boards optional, it was met with much scepticism.   In class X despite the much hyped changes, Social Studies still has 52 chapters and students are expected to mug up names like Dien Bien Phu, Sun Yat Sen, Ngo Dinh Diem. How does the new scheme of things provide deliverance from the agony of having to remember dates and places of every single Congress session held since 1916! How does it equip the child for life beyond the class room?  I couldn’t agree more with a friend’s opinion that our education system is creating morons with memory.

As parents we cannot absolve ourselves from our responsibilities either. It lies with us to make sure that the children know the opportunities and possibilities around them.  It is up to us to give our child the confidence to tackle peer pressure.

People often ask me whether I’d like to relive my school days and my answer is always a vehement ‘No!’ I cannot make myself sigh and say ohh to be sixteen again! I do not want to relive those days when we were free yet tied down by expectations.  We were happy, yet had to face the unbearable pressure of doing well.  You could not question, you just had to accept.  Do you realize how de-motivating it is for the child to be judged on the basis of marks!  And haven’t all of us been guilty of it at point of time?

When Tee throws up her hands in despair and says she can’t take it anymore. I just give her a warm hug and say....be patient my child, there will be better things in life.  So study for the sake of the dreams you dream, this will be your ticket to a good life.

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47 comments:

  1. :) good one.
    and reg this "curriculum so dull that it actually discourages creative thinking"
    Will the Dead Poets Society way of teaching help it to make it interesting? ;-)
    NCERT does have this knack of making things so boring. I had to go through it till my class 10 and then switched to TN state board which supposedly gave me the edge. but truth be told, it only made matters worse.
    Also, I have a diff opinion abt making class 10 exams optional.

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  2. Thought Provoking article....
    Like we discussed on chat, the system is a bit outdated and the books...do have to talk about them. It is the easiest thing to write a text book. Take a better book, underline the main text in it as you read, go to a publishing house, ask them to publish a new book in your name by printing the underlined words.

    It is a really good thing that you are so supportive. Most of the people just can't think beyond the "Paths Lot Traveled and Now Over Crowded"
    We need people who can create paths of their own, use their mind and knowledge. Not just mug up and vomit the facts on a white ruled sheet.

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  3. Tell me about it. I'm so glad to have passed the stage of school and trying to be in the rat race for grades and all-section highest marks. In school, I had no time to even spare a thought for myself or look into the mirror to see how a 16 year-old girl looked like. No time to do my hair nicely or think about make-up or fashion. It was always about studying, board exams and engineering entrance exams. Gosh I'm glad that terrible phase is over.
    But once people get into college things get infinitely better. I'm sure Tee will understand too. :-)

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  4. I'm not surprised with the birth of 'alternative' schools that remix most of the curriculum to make it more interesting. It's actually the need of the hour!

    But I was really saddened to hear that these very schools are turning into only-academically-focused monsters because that's what the parents want! Students don't have much say in these matters, but if parents are choosing academically-focused schools then we'll have to wait for a generation for change.

    Imagine the cost .. a generation full of morons with memory!

    Really nicely written - and that too on a nice debating topic :)

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  5. Cannot agree more..My sister is having board exams and when she complains about the boring syllabus my advice is "Please bear with this or you wont get to do things that you truly like because of your stupid marks". Hope she listens to me

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  6. If I think back my board exam days, I have only frightening memories! People around me were building pressure around me to score more marks and most importantly to score more than kids in my neighborhood! Is this a rat race? Even though those days were pain, one good thing was that I did score good, infact very good fearing Emotional Attyachaar from my super cool relatives.

    HRD Minister has made some big promises, don't know how far they will work out. Hope the next generation will enjoy their studies.

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  7. Karthik...Most students study for the sake of marks and not because they are inquisitive and definitely not for the sake of learning. Exams cannot be done away with, we just need a better child centered infrastructure. We need more quality schools and teachers.

    Prats....Studying by rote should be discouraged by schools. Questions should be framed in such a manner that it compels the child to analyze and write.

    Samadrita...Exams, heavy curriculum, the pressure to perform take away the joy of childhood.

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  8. Karthikay...Unfortunately quality education is very school centered. And these schools are meant for the elite. For us to progress as a nation, education has to be inclusive and not for an exclusive few.

    And agree most parents are too scared to experiment with new age methodologies.

    Perception...Mind numbing and so vast! I feel sorry for the kids and glad that I am well past that stage.

    Anto...I used to get exam nightmares. Blessed are the ones who enjoy sitting for exams!

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  9. nice one purba.
    i am not even sure if creativity can be taught..or if the ability to think creatively can be taught.

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  10. Reminds me of my son a day before the SST exam...he just couldnt memorize the net sown areas...and then there was a disaster management book to be gulped...it was painful to see him struggling with meaningless numbers. And now in Engg he is memorizing the same books which my husband did decades ago. We need an overhaul if Mr Sibal has time off reacting to Jaitlys barbs he should do something about it.

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  11. Am glad you are not the typical parent who only worry about what the grades are and what the position is in the class.
    I was indeed a bit of rebel in my school days, studied what i liked and when i liked and thankfully made it through till i got caught up in engineering & MBA mania. So here i am, quiet aware that had i had my way i wouldnt have been what i am thats for sure. Promise not to let this happen to my son and am glad we have moms like you too.
    :-)

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  12. I was awesome at school. All play no work still jack manages to score. But what took me off the charts were the Engineering Entrance Exams. I don't want to remember that phase anymore but my efforts still makes me smile. :)

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  13. A very debatable topic has been picked this time.

    I think the move made by the Ministry of HRD came at a time where India has probably become extremely competitive. You skip one 10th board, you've so many others to face.

    I personally think it wouldn't make a difference if the 10th board exam existed or not. I'd rather that it stayed, and the pressure that was put on the students was reduced instead.

    Another thing to be noted is that parents mostly prod their children to be more competitive, and would therefore think that their children would be at a loss, if they took the internal evaluation method.

    All said and done, I think the number of students who skipped the boards was a handful, countable bunch.

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  14. Heyyy don't give her false hope that exams will leave her for good in anywhere in near future. She's just had had a trailer to what lies ahead.

    Thinking of NCERT books, I might want to argue in favour of the books. Say for example, Chemistry XII standard. It has little snippets giving history of the discovery of phenomenon or substances. Like benzene, how its inventor had a dream of a snake coiling around grabbing its own tail over a flat plate, that is from where he got his Kekule structures. Similarly physics.
    I would even say that NCERT science books were better than any reference books, each word a pearl. And the support goes only for the NCERT books. :)

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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  15. I was so tired studying (I still get tired) and trying to mug up all those dates and names. But it didn't end at school. I gotta bare it two more years. :(

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  16. Menon...Agree some are born creative but the school's atmosphere matters a lot. Children when exposed to the right set-up can do wonders.

    Alka...Thankfully Disaster Management has been removed from class Xth syllabus now. We need more reforms and it has go beyond lip-service.

    Mayank....I don't worry because I don't have to. Luckily for me, she is actually a responsible kid :)
    But I never berate her if she doesn't do well in exams.

    And yes as parents we should support them despite their so called failures.

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  17. Prateek...All's well that ends well :)

    mazingout...My daughter never had to face a single exam till she finally came to IXth. The school has a no exam system and it works wonderfully for kids.

    But agree when you say You skip one 10th board, you've so many others to face

    Anshul...Good to read something positive about NCERT books. Good marks may not be the ticket to good life, but it certainly makes things easier for you.

    Nethra...Be patient my child :p

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  18. Letting kids be is the best thing a parent can give her children. Am I glad that Tee like my brats doesn't feel pressured to perform.

    And you have said it. Exam times are the testing times for parents, especially moms.

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  19. More than a student, their Mother would be under lot of stress and tension worrying about her child's study during exam time. Same applies during fresh admission time as well. My wife & I are fortunate enough that, both my children studied on their own, scored high ranks in board exam and went on to get admission in BITS , Pilani.

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  20. great article....Luckily my parents never forced me to study...and i enjoyed my childhood...unfortunately i never got good marks and was amongst those who preferred the last bench...not surprisingly my fav song was Pink Floyd's "We don't need no education"...now after i grew up i feel lucky to have parents like them which i never realized as a kid....i realized that one doesn't need good marks in schools to be successful...talent will never stay hidden so children should enjoy the best time in their life...

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  21. quite an oft discussed subject but you have handled it differently. its oft-discussed nature,anyway, has done it no good so far!.
    nice read.

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  22. ahh! those NCERT books were the most potent sleeping pills one can ever imagine! but our Indian education system is such that things don't really ever get better until u leave studies once n for all. just that college provides a break from monotonous study schedule!
    I remember my mum so badly tensed before each of my medical entrances..its sad to see the plight of our parents, m sure ur daughter too understands it..Good luck to her and u too :D

    sarah

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  23. I have a friend who is flunking accountancy and economics board exams.He created his DMAT account, something which we had a vague idea about early last year. He has, as of today made more money, than I will in my first year or so after college(by today's starting salaries). I could write a book on various solutions to the educations system, but I think a blog post in the near future, will suffice for my vent out.

    I'm so glad I'm over with it.Irrespective of what my score is. I know my capabilities. And I guess at the end that's what matters more...

    I loved history until class 10. It was the one subject that I found to have good material. Science was pathetic. And I'd rather not get started on English. The only problem was I was asked what and when, instead of why. Which is one helluva a flaw. But I still did very well.

    We Indians pride ourselves on having an education system "better" than the united states nada nada, but it's far from the actual reality.

    The board and the government wants to do away with board exams completely. Which is not the solution. At all.

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  24. "I woke up with a smile this morning, gently slapped away the mosquito singing the morning raga in my ears. "


    Wht a way to start the post..!

    Wht we need is a complete change in the educational system. We need to be more practical than rubbing our head reading theories.. That way even the kids will be able to understand when they do it practically.

    They will not remember wht they read 2 years back, but they can remember a song/scene which is 5 years old because they have seen it..!!!

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  25. Indian and Hindu history has been edited, fabricated, reinvented and indoctrinated through NCERT by acolytes of the Fabian Society. Try reading Arun Shourie or the recent book on Ghandi. "Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth." - Ludwig Borne

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  26. Poor kids!! Too much on their plate. I liked this approach by Salman Khan:
    TED Talk: Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education

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  27. Zephyr...Why make it worse for them by burdening them with expectations.

    Ayyangar Sir...Blessed are such parents. Thankfully Tee has never needed my help either and has performed consistently well.

    SUB...True, you don't necessarily need a good academic record to excel in life.

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  28. 4 those who care...Things will change some day. At least the parent's mindset is changing.

    taio....:)

    UjjwalRaaj...Your score card is not an indicator of your IQ level. Not many students are aware of it and those who know rebel.

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  29. Raghu...Memory unfortunately is a slave to interest :))

    gompiepie...As long as the education system is state controlled - history will be fabricated to suit the ruling party's agenda!

    Giribala...Salman Khan's academy has quite a following.

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  30. wonderful analysis but strangely it is the same education system that equips our children to beat any other in the world when they go for higher studies abroad!

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  31. Very true Purba...I was nodding 'yes' all the while reading your article.

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  32. Just rememberd about the no-good movie '3Idiots' ...everyone knows our syllabi is bad, our teachers are bad, and the parents are bad...everyone has a loads of suggestions and opinions. But I doubt if there is any change happening.
    There was a rwality show in DD Kerala 'Haritha Vidyalaya' it was good to see that there are poepl who still think school books doesnt mean text books

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  33. Nice post, my mom also sued to freak otu when i had exams.. and i used to say mom chill ive got it covered.. nevr work.. i guess mommies worry for us and themselves as well huh :P

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  34. Purba,

    I am cursing myself for not having visited you earlier. I had your link for sometime but due to little this and that it kept getting put off. Yesterday I decided to venture and lo what I missed so far. Loved putting across sensitive issues with wit. Read not only current but older posts upto one on S A L E. I agree honesty is forgotton word now and soon may be deleted from dictionary. Nice on one mobile booze vis-a-vis age. Yes, some person make you wish they were miles away. There is no dearth of person stooping to anything for rise, why blame Behenji? His middle name is Fida, isn't it? So he is living upto it. I was so engrossed that I had visuals of your wedding in my mind. Congratulations on turning 1. So true, some women do use that weapon very effectively. What are you taking as present for Will-Kat? I agree lungi is so handy, colourful shorts???. Holi is HOLI, but upto you how to play. Hope some sense prevails before they need to expand facilities in Tihar. Good one on MAA, more so on young lady's write up. Eat and be merry. Had good laugh on Skirting episode. How did you fare in examinations this year? Kapil Sibal must take note of this.

    Take care

    PS : If you find time, do give your views on my space.

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  35. thank you for sharing with us, I think this website genuinely stands out : D.

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  36. Today it is better to unlearn whatever we have learnt. Our education system is burdening our children with loads of stuff and the competition and expectation is increasing. Are exams the only way to test our children?

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  37. Harish...:)

    magiceye...All that stress hardens up our kids to face challenges with aplomb?

    Priya..Glad you agreed

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  38. Jon...Reforms are being implemented, even if they are not enough. Subjects like Maths, Accountancy now have practicals. But a lot depends on how the schools and the teachers implement it.

    Emmy...Tough for Moms to give up that pesky habit of theirs!

    Jack...Flattered that you took the time to go through so many of my write-ups. A love synopsis of my posts and will treasure it for a long time.

    P.S....With pleasure

    sajeev...That's a good point and our policy makers need to think out of the box.

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  39. I would say yes to live my school days without he studies and offcoure the bullying i suffered , other then that I had A BEAUTIFUL time druing my school ...
    I often joke that I was the OUTSTANDING student .. cause i was standing out of the class all the time :)

    yes changes need to be made a lot of them the way our kids are burdened is not good but i guess it will take time we still beleive in mugging up and writing and being called a genius which may work sometimes but not alll the time ..

    If i was in UK I can vouch i would have been a brilliant student :)

    hopefully changes will ocme and our curriculum would be based on what a child can achieve rather then what we can FORCE them to Achieve.. fingers crossed ...


    Bikram's

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  40. well conveyed an intriguing anomalies in our education system.
    good take.

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  41. "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
    — Mark Twain

    In India, we must follow a dual system if we are to achieve any success. Go to school but come home and enjoy doing the things that you do best, learn music, read interesting stuff, etc.

    Same can be said about working. Many of our jobs are mundane. Once out of office, do some of the stuff you find interesting.

    Yes it surely means we should lead a dual life if we are to be successful with our current education system and jobs.

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  42. Bikram...If we ignore the "studies" part, all of us had an awesome time in school. And memory has a wonderful ability of filtering out the unpleasant stuff.

    Pramod...Thank you

    Ganu...That's an interesting perspective - if we can't change the system might as well make the most of it. And having varied interests adds spice to your life.

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  43. An awesome write... Loved it... Reminds me of old days when it was hard for my parents to make me sit and study.

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  44. college was lot better than school!! and I remember making a whole page on congress sessions and their dates. thankfully I had a good memory back then.

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  45. I am an engineering student and I know that how greatly our education system sucks , even in the professional courses...

    By the way, here is my IndiVine post. Check it and if you like it then please Promote it too there on IndiVine.

    http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=72607

    Thanks :)

    ReplyDelete

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