DECEMBER is nearing the end and parents, having children about to begin schooling, have had a busy time, hopping from school to school, collecting admission forms — hectic weeks for them until they could get the children admitted to schools of repute — big names, impending buildings, mostly, standing like matchboxes.
Admission to the class for initial primary education, or classes leading to primary schooling, especially in cases of schools known to be of kindergarten type, begin this time. But the preparation, both of the prospective students and their parents, or guardians, begin much before, six months or even a year. Guardians start sending their children to pre-primary schools or coaching centres, which cram the young children with more than what they need to qualify for admission, or even more than what they would be learning in the class spanning the whole academic session.
Such an arduous preparation, in which the children are shuttled to and from schools, or coaching centres, with little space to be care-free at least for the preparation year, the parents believe, would stand the children better poised than some others who cannot be prepared this way, for financial inabilities of the guardians or in the absence of ample scope. The situation would create a very homogeneous togetherness of the young children, all coming from similar, if not the same, social and financial backgrounds. This holds back the children from learning how to socialise with children coming from different backgrounds, social and financial.
They stop learning how to react, congenially, when they socialise with someone coming from families either better or worse off. They become handicap in the event. They also stop learning how to react when they socialise with either someone not adequately attentive to study in its academic sense or someone who are more than adequately attentive, often unnecessarily, to study. There are scientists, academician, professionals, artistes, painters, singers and people earning their living by doing various chores that society need. The groups of young children in classes and schools also have similar traits, someone not studious enough but having cultural bent, someone good at games, and someone good at drawing.
The government tried to resolve the problem of this homogeneity, of the financial and social background and of the mental bent, by asking schools to draw lotteries to select students as they begin their schooling. The objective was to get together children from diverse backgrounds in a class, or in a school, so that not only the better prepared children, mostly because of their financial capability, and not only children with intellect better than others are concentrated to certain schools for them to thrive on the success. The schools have the same responsibility of teaching children from all backgrounds as much as the government does. Success banked on better students, as has been the case with many schools of repute, should not strictly be considered success.
It worked to some extent, with children from all backgrounds getting into the school, at least at the first rung of the ladder. But, at the same time, it gave birth to another problem. Guardians started being tempted, even repeatedly, to falsify the date of birth of their children, often paying bribe to birth registration authorities, so that they could take one more chance, or a few more chances, in the draw of the lottery, letting loose an unethical, and unlawful, practice. In addition, it takes away academic years from the children — a child the age of Class II loses a year when the child comes down to Class I again and the more chances taken, in cases of successful admission, the more years lost — and eats away productive years from their lives.
Yet the solution could not cut across the board. With unaided private schools, running beyond the monthly payment order of the government, which mostly get new students through admission tests, the problem of homogeneity and of learning more than they should have done has remained. The problem has also persisted for students willing to get into schools beginning at the second rung of the ladder. As the students do not come under any government regulation until they get into Class V, when the government, not the education board, holds primary-final examinations, countrywide, on the excuses of having a definitive count of how many students complete primary education, hence the Primary Education Completion Examinations, which the government has been planning to dispense with after it extends primary education up to Class VIII, probably in 2018, it is easy for the guardians to send their children to coaching centres, or to have them privately tutored, so that they could aim for class between II and IV in renowned schools.
It is still not very difficult for guardians to procure class completion certificates from any schools in, relatively, outlying areas that could be of help in admission to Class V in renowned schools. In the process, the children are crammed with more than what they need to learn, they are deprived of the school environment, and they are denied the care-free time that they need to understand what learning is and how it, in effect, takes place.
The government decides and prepares the syllabus of the national education and the government — or the education board, general, technical or madrassah — holds the examinations under the national curriculum and it prepares the questions of public examinations, PEC, JSC, SSC or HSC and their equivalents, based on the national curriculum. The national curriculum may have flaws and shortcomings, yet this is what the government wants the students to follow and wants students to learn staying within the bounds of the national curriculum. In a situation, where the government designs the syllabus, publishes the textbooks, holds the examinations, sets the questions and evaluates the answer scripts, why should guardians and teachers, mostly of the coaching centres and unaided private schools, need to force the students to learn what they would be learning the next year, or a year after the next, in the natural course?
Burdening the children with more than what they need to learn does not what their intellect into that of genius. It does not make them more scholarly than others. It does not make them more meritorious. Intellect, genius or merit cannot be honed out. They grow, flourish and develop their own way given the proper environment, which the guardians, schools, society and the government should try to create. Society should understand that if they let the children in the rat race of education, without properly caring for their learning, at the end of the race, only the rat remains. Society also needs to understand that the rat race would remain as long as the system and the process of admission to school will remain discommoding, more so in a situation where the government has failed to create equal, quality educational institutions across the country. With a handful of good schools in a given place, the competition for admission, with its associated malaise, would continue, letting the education system corrupt itself.
Abu Jar M Akkas is deputy editor
at New Age.
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