I would have chosen this title for an article had it been about child labour. But this time I am writing for education, a right for every child. According to 88th amendment of Indian constitution, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, education becomes the right and duty of every child. But now education is becoming a burden to such an extent that it is leading to the breakdown of mental, emotional and physical abilities of a child making us wonder whether we should send children to schools at all.
On the paper, education is about holistic development of a child which facilitates the discovery of a child’s abilities and molding a child into a better individual. But today education is becoming all about manufacture of marks and developing a socially acceptable and money making career. It is like a repacked version of fascist feudalism. Originally, the peasant was dependent on the feudal lord for money and support and to question him/her would be equivalent to questioning God. This time the filial submissiveness is to the system. Less mark means no admission in college, no career and no family life and becoming a nameless, faceless entity in the society. Education is all about copying the successful seniors and choosing the tried and tested way because the decision a 15 or 17 year old student makes about his life would make or break his life.
THE ENTRANCE EXAM MAFIAS
Every major city would have entrance exam coaching centres. For science students it would be for the engineering and medicine branches. Next come, the Chartered Accountant entrances. Not so far, the post graduate degrees in various universities require fetching good ranks in entrance exams as well. And for every entrance exam, we have coaching centres. The famous/infamous coaching institutes at Kota would be nightmare for many students. We got teachers who fly everyday all over India for taking classes. Bank tests and PSC exams have got coaching centres as well.
For schools and entrance coaching centres, students become mere token for marketing. It is important for the institutes to get the best students, grind their noses hard on the stone and conduct tests over tests so that they will get a good rank. Do not mistake this for an altruistic vision for the well being of the student. What they need is name and fame to stand out in the competition. Working for over 15 hours a day, the student is often mislead by the idea that once you get into an IIT, ‘’life is all set.’’ Stories of cheating in IIT entrance exams and IIT suicides became a human rights issue years ago. Coaching institutions even sank to the level that they encouraged students to cheat in exams, and even got the exam question papers in advance. To bluff their concern for students, they would sponsor a few students from poor families in charity while it is nothing but clever investment.
COACHING INSTITUTES AND TUITION CLASSES EVERYWHERE
These days we got coaching for everything. Chartered accountant, NET exams, PSC exams, SSC exams, Post graduate level entrance exam coaching. Soon we might need coaching institutes for coaching centres. In metro cities a child would start coaching for entrance exams at the age of 10, even before he/she has made their mind about their career. What good would this do?
INTERVIEWS FOR SCHOOL KIDS
These days, admission to schools even for a four year old child is complicated. Apart from hefty fees, the students, even the four and five year old kids and their parents have to go through interviews where they have to prove their caliber. This might be bluff for getting more donation and back door admissions through recommendation. Parents work hard to get their kids to the best schools because it can affect their whole future. According to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, this practice is banned, yet there are many private schools who insist on this interview procedure. Getting rejected in interviews is not an easy experience. Will this be okay for a toddler? When we have a country making education compulsory, is it okay to segregate students at this tender age? Should education not be the same at least at preliminary level?
THE PRESSURE OF CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Arts and sports would have been the most cherished memories of student life years back. But that is not the case today. Parents spend money even by borrowing from money lenders for teaching Bharatnatyam and classical dance. Spending hours on practice is not for self fulfillment but for MARKS. Grace marks would be awarded for extracurricular activities and students and parents would go up to any levels for it.
What more comes is the reality shows. School authorizes are all for making their students into celebrities. I remember Geethu Mohandas, a significant movie director in India recalling her days as a child actor – “Once a child becomes a star, the fragile world around them would be broken. Peer pressure would be too much for a child to handle.” Hence, she made sure that the child who starred in her movie was kept away from all the media attention.
But our schools do not follow this policy. If a school gets a board topper, a student celebrity the number of students for KG admission would be tripled. This becomes the trump card for marketing. School fees would be hiked because there would be families dying to teach the kids there. The pressure falls on the next batch of students to keep up the result. Students are marketed by schools and the income of the school would be multiplied in no time. Hence, schools work hard to hold auditions for reality shows and movies so that they would get share of the fame.
I am not tarnishing all the schools, coaching institutions and competitions with the same brush. There are many teachers who work hard to teach the students and secure them good marks. There are teachers who push the students enough and believe in them if they have the potential. There are teachers and parents who have literally made the career and life of the students and encouraged them to do what they love. For them, the only fruition of their efforts would be the success of the students. There are teachers who work extra hours after school to help weaker students. But we cannot ignore the fact that there are some glitches in our education system that make us wonder whether this is education or taxation of students. At least we should keep in mind that education is not marketing or business. Education should not be child labour or manipulation of children.