I have been teaching and interacting with students and teachers for a couple of years now and have considerable understanding of the present education system and the curriculum modules. As research and awareness is growing in the field of education, considerable efforts have been made around the world to ease a child’s school life. Some of the measures taken by schools (some Indian schools in fact!) are reduced sizes of school bags, thinner and smaller books, interactive teaching methodology – such as use of visual kinesthetic media to teach concepts of science and mathematics, and updated curriculum which includes Harry Potter sequences in English textbooks to appeal to younger generation!
I personally feel, that the education experts are doing their best to understand and apply new modes of teaching methodology to make studying ‘FUN’ and knowledgeable. Gone are the days where learning and studying was the burden placed on a child’s shoulders alone and the parents and teachers would chose to concentrate on other priorities of life. The education board places high emphasis on the quality of education imparted and relentlessly works on adapting better curriculum.
The standard of education is further raised by the amounts of numerous schools that have come up in the neighborhood – increasing the quality and services provided. Many NGOs and corporate companies have started taking keen interest in improving education quality and funding as their CSR responsibility. Off course it will take considerable time for the help to penetrate through the length and breadth of the country, but the situation seems hopeful.
I am not implying that the school students do not face stress. They do. In forms of lot more competitions, honing many hobbies and skills and trying to bring out a ‘unique talent’ in the ‘reality-show’ world that we live in. But this kind of mental stress is brought on by us and is something that we should tackle as parents, caregivers, teachers and education managements. We should impart important life-skills to our children that will help them overcome the mental stressors present in society.
I feel that the stress to educate and learn in comparison to olden days is less. Earlier a young child who had difficulty in understanding a concept could not generally turn to his parents for help. They were uneducated, poorly equipped or too busy to help them. Fortunately parents today can extend helping hands to their children. They are more attuned to the needs of their children. And if that is not the case they have educated neighbors, helpful teachers, and tuition systems to guide them. A lot of online study material has further made it easy to understand and study concepts.
If one carefully sweeps through the textbooks of young children of today’s times and earlier times, one will find more illustrations, colours, textures and even sounds in the books. There are tips and tricks given to students to learn and remember things, and lots of fun and engaging exercises reinforcing the curriculum. The study material has become more-friendly and books are designed keeping young children in mind.
One can argue that the study material is stressful and hence young children are stressed today. But when was studying ever easy? Learning new concepts was and will always remain difficult – as the brain is making new synaptic connections to understand a concept and to integrate its application in future. As the world advances so will the knowledge and the material for study. That’s why the education board is regularly revising curriculum to discard unwanted material from study. Plus children have other avenues to gain knowledge in the area of their interest and do not have to depend on per-chance meetings with experts to explain concepts to them. Many schools are doing away with the examination system, and are encouraging children to participate more in the class. If one has worked with young children one will know that it is easy to assess them based on their class room performance than an examination system. A concept like black-out or freezing during examination would not have even occurred to teachers in earlier times. To understand a child’s world, fortunately we have counselors today!
Schools have become open to the idea of having counselors on board to help and address the needs of students. Students can discuss their issues faced at home, in playgrounds, in classrooms with their teachers, and school counselors. The principals today are more approachable and less punitive. Physical punishments and punitive measure have been or are in the process of being discarded from schools. Growing awareness and legal policies against punishment have deterred many teachers from using corporal punishments in schools. There is also a growing awareness regarding children related sexual-abuse and care is being taken by parents, families, teachers, caregivers, school managements and society in general to avoid such crimes. Unlike olden days where such issues were asked to be buried deep into a child’s psyche! (I agree that such incidents do occur even today, but the positive thing to be noted is that such issues are beginning to get addressed).
As a psychologist and an educationalist I would like to believe that we are making schools a better place for our children, and ‘learning’ a lot more fun. Instead of being pessimistic and going with the general notion that education is stressful today, I would like to be hopeful and optimistic. I have seen the reforms that have taken place in schools these days. I passed out of a school almost 13 years ago (not very long time back!) and have seen the changes that have taken place in the last decade and I believe we are progressing and marching towards success. We are making schools and education systems ‘a better place’ where children are secure and happy. Reasons for parental stress due to education system (such as fee-hike, or general inflation in the country) should not be stated alongside stress young children face in schools. I undoubtedly feel that the education system is improving and will get better with time, and children are studying in a relaxed and stimulating environment today.
Photo courtesy: GlobalPartnership for Education