Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Exam fever

Quite often these days, I think I am preparing for the X Board Exams! I'm sure a lot of parents might feel the same way, given the kind of pressure our children go through before they clear their school boards. Sad, for it need not be like that.

Tuitions, extra classes, projects, frequent tests notwithstanding, the stress starts for my daughter and her friends at assembly every day when the Principal starts the countdown - "How many more days for the Board exams?" and states the precise number of days left. Can you imagine what it must be like for the students of Class X? And how this stress will only build up through the day? My daughter has chewed off all the nails on her fingers, and her friends are in varying stages of exam-related stress.

When I was doing my X and XI (I was one of the last to do XI before the 10+2 system came into force), there was some pressure on me because I was so bad at Math. I was probably one of the few students in my class who went for tuition. I never told anyone in class that I was! Although we were often told that it was a crucial year, I don't think any of us faced the kind of pressure that children face today. The competition is intense, and if one desires to get into the college or course of one's choice, one has to go through this torture. Is it really worth it? Why do we push our children to the brink, and for what? To get a seat in some engineering or medical college?

For years, we have all been talking about reforms in education, including examinations, but very little has actually been done. We continue to have exams which only test a student's memory (all those lessons crammed at the last moment!) rather than his understanding of the subject. I think it is high time we brought in a whiff of fresh air into this stifling situation.I think it is also imperative because the old ways no longer work,especially for children with so-called "difficulties". Considering that around 10% of our school-going children are said to have some form of learning disability, isn't it time that we took such a step?

For those of us who continue to function within the system, and with a special-needs child(my daughter is dyslexic), it is frustrating to say the least. Even when we manage to get concessions and exemptions from the Board, they set crazy conditions which are almost impossible to fulfill. My daughter has been allowed to have a scribe to write her exams, but....it has to be a child who is younger to her. Now, which self-respecting middle-class Indian parent is going to let his or her child miss class and possibly an exam, to write for my daughter? For months now, we have been running round in circles, and only one child has offered to do so for 2 or 3 papers. Now we have to find another one.No wonder I am so stressed out these days!!